We’ve written extensively about the benefits of hybrid clouds, since it’s a core part of our founding vision at CloudSwitch. For most of this past year, the cloud market has been focused on defining the differences between public and private clouds and weighing the costs and benefits. Slowly the conversation has shifted to what we believe is the central axiom of cloud: it’s not all or nothing on-premise or in an external cloud; it’s the ability to federate across multiple pools of resources, matching application workloads to their most appropriate infrastructure environments.
To reiterate some key thoughts we’ve written about in the past, the idea of hybrid clouds encompasses several use cases:
- Using multiple clouds for different applications to match business needs. For example, Amazon or Rackspace could be used for applications that need large horizontal scale, and Savvis, Terremark or BlueLock for applications that need stronger SLAs and higher security. An internal cloud is another federation option for applications that need to live behind the corporate firewall.
- Allocating different elements of an application to different environments, whether internal or external. For example, the compute tiers of an application could run in a cloud while accessing data stored internally as a security precaution (“application stretching”).
- Moving an application to meet requirements at different stages in its lifecycle, whether between public clouds or back to the data center. For example, Amazon or Terremark's vCloud Express could be used for development, and when the application is ready for production it could move to Terremark's Enterprise Cloud or similar clouds. This is also important as applications move towards the end of their lifecycle, where they can be moved to lower-cost cloud infrastructure as their importance and duty-cycle patterns diminish.
CloudSwitch customers and prospects are clear that hybrid clouds are the way to go. Here are some examples of recent conversations:
“It’s going to take our internal IT group more than 18 months to build a private cloud; in the meantime we can use the public clouds now for on-demand capacity and scalability.” – VP of Business IT group at a large Wall Street firm
“We’re highly virtualized and we see external clouds as pools of virtualized resources that are available as extensions of our internal infrastructure.” – IT Director at a large healthcare company
“We have compliance data that will never leave our firewall but we like the idea of scaling out the computing resources in the cloud for peak periods.” – VP of Informatics at a large pharma
We’ve also been tracking some validation from more official sources on the growth of public clouds and the hybrid model. For example, a recent study by SandHill Group surveyed more than 500 IT executives and indicated that the biggest growth in cloud computing will be in hybrid clouds (from 13% now to 43% in three years). Another survey by Evans Data finds an even higher adoption rate among IT developers, suggesting that the hybrid cloud model is set to dominate the coming IT landscape.
It’s also interesting to see the importance of the hybrid model taking hold among industry insiders with many different perspectives. We saw this at VMworld 2010, where there was tremendous interest in hybrid clouds, from Paul Maritz’s keynote predicting a hybrid cloud future through many sessions and product announcements. Veteran cloud watcher James Urquhart points out that the hybrid approach lets you hedge your bets in cloud computing, using technology that allows you to decouple the application from the underlying infrastructure and move it to the right environment so you don’t get locked in. And even private cloud advocates acknowledge that hybrid has an essential role, where public cloud platforms serve as extensions of private cloud deployments.
It’s gratifying to see the CloudSwitch founding vision gain broad industry acceptance, with the hybrid model as key enabler for cloud computing. It’s even more satisfying to seeing the vision coming to life as more and more customers leverage our technology to run their applications effortlessly in the right environment, whether an internal data center, private cloud, or public cloud. Enterprise users and their companies are the real winners.