Gimme Shelter: Working with Hybrid Clouds

40 years of paradigm changes

As it has been for every IT paradigm changer in the last 40 years, the weight of conflicting standards sits heavily on the coattails of hybrid cloud technology. You obviously get to pick the architecture of your private cloud including the OS, hypervisor, APIs and management tools. Someone else, however, gets to pick the architecture of public cloud environments and, until all the choices become interoperable, if you anticipate tapping the public cloud in the future, you need to begin aligning your private environment with the intended public environment.

Your users are going to want to be able to create applications, or move existing applications between the clouds in a hybrid cloud environment, without having to change anything serious like networking, security policies, operational processes or management/monitoring tools.

Some of the promises of cloud computing have been around so long there’s a tendency to assume they must be real. That would be wrong. Take bursting. The concept is huge: the ability to “burst” to a public cloud with your virtual machines (VMs), applications and data and grab whatever you need whenever you need it. Cool!

It is in fact hard to do. You can make arrangements with a partner and specify all the protocols that need to be in place for you to grab resource time from a public cloud, but the reality is so constrained that it makes the term “bursting” seem inappropriate. The reality is more like negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement between a skittish bride and groom. It can be done, but it’s not going to be easy.

There are also pesky laws of physics to consider. Electrons only travel so fast and moving a workload to a public cloud data center over a significant distance can cause latency, poor performance and other adverse side effects. Many of these issues can be addressed with appropriate application design, but they still need to be considered.

There are some open standards like VMware’s vCloud API and Red Hat’s open Deltacloud API as well new entities, i.e., the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the Open Grid Forum (OGF), the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) that have been set up to establish cloud open standards.

As more open standards are established, you will not have to worry that when you check into a public cloud environment you’ll find yourself in a Hotel California from which you can never check out. Agreeing on all those standards is going to take a while, however.

In the meantime, you need to keep one eye on the future, but the other eye focused clearly on where you are today. Becoming aware of and understanding every aspect of your current IT environment is the best guide to developing a comprehensive cloud strategy that will work for you today and give you the easiest access to the blue-sky potential of cloud computing tomorrow.

Don’t be distracted by all the dazzling promises, emerging standards and other baffling changes that swirl constantly around cloud computing technology. The most important consideration — in fact, the only relevant consideration you need to worry about — is what cloud technology means to you.

This is the last article in this six-part series. Thanks for reading. The previous articles were:

Mixed Emotions: A Cloud of Your Own

How to Sculpt a Private Cloud

Get Off My Cloud: Ensuring Security for your Private Cloud

Under My Thumb: Managing Your Private Cloud

The Beast of Burden: Cloud-Enabling Your Applications

Mike Martin is vice president, cloud solution group for Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology solutions and services and is responsible for developing and taking to market the cloud computing strategy for Logicalis. Prior to joining Logicalis in 2006, Mr. Martin spent 10 years at IBM, where he worked in various consultant and sales roles focusing on consolidation and virtualization technologies.