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The future of cloud computing could be the hybrid model

Neil Thomas, cloud computing product manager at Cable&Wireless Worldwide.

 

Date: 17 Oct 2011

Cloud computing has dominated both the news and the business agenda of the last 18 months. Interest in the technology, and more importantly, how best to migrate towards it and maximise the promised benefits, is increasingly at the forefront of the business IT agenda.

With this media dominance in mind it is difficult to believe that there are no enterprises truly operating in the cloud as yet. The majority today are using a virtualised infrastructure, but for the most part enterprises are not mature enough for cloud migration and there is no clear strategy in place.

There remains some confusion around both the true definition of cloud computing and the best route to adoption. While the enterprise and technology press abound with promises of cost savings and increased efficiency, they tend to focus on one of three very different approaches to cloud migration: public, private and hosted apps and solutions. The majority of solutions outlined by technology vendors tend to fit roughly with one of these three.

In actual fact, there is no such thing as the private cloud. By definition the cloud is multi-tenanted. Indeed, private cloud is not a workable concept unless it is within the context of a huge corporation which is large enough to merit building its own private one. The time and cost needed to build it could take up to two years and would be inefficient and overly expensive for all but the largest of enterprises.

There is, however, another way, which combines the best aspects of each of the three approaches and can offer significant advantages to users – the hybrid cloud. Over the past five years we have witnessed a fundamental shift within business IT departments around how they provision technology services. Increasingly, businesses want to focus on the consumption of services rather than funding complex and lengthy infrastructure and IT projects.

According to recent a research paper by Ovum, ongoing security concerns combined with the complexity of unpacking interwoven legacy systems has led to this broad alliance of cloud solutions – the hybrid cloud. We believe that this will be the dominant model for large organisations in the years to come – with systems too complex to move at once in their entirety from traditional infrastructure, but with the benefits of adopting cloud too great to ignore. The important point to realise is that there is no generic blueprint for an umbrella cloud solution. As you would expect with any technology, the individual circumstances of the organisation are paramount.
Taking a hybrid model, migration becomes of strategic importance to facilitate a low-risk adoption of cloud services. This should start with a full audit of applications, addressing users’ availability needs, and a chance for experimentation and testing of non-critical applications to gain confidence before migrating mission-critical applications and infrastructure. One of the most significant benefits of the hybrid approach is that it allows businesses to make the gradual transition to cloud computing in a way that suits them – confirming that IT infrastructure and applications are increasingly being viewed as services to be consumed rather than “owned”.

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution regarding cloud for enterprises. We currently deal with a huge range of customers who all want and need different applications for their business to function more efficiently. Whether the applications required are customer facing, internal, mission-critical, or for disaster recovery, to pigeon-hole an enterprise into one solution is to over-simplify the issue. We offer a cloud proposition tailored to the needs of the enterprise sector. Taking the best from hosted, public and private solutions, a hybrid approach offers a range of choices that open up a whole host of opportunities.

One of the most significant benefits of the hybrid approach is that it allows businesses to make the gradual transition to cloud computing in a way that suits them, providing a strategic path to implementation, which has an impact on the entire organisation without rushing headlong into following the crowd. This allows any business with hesitations about cloud computing to gain confidence through experimentation and testing non-critical applications before migrating their mission-critical applications and infrastructure. I would certainly advocate this approach as the most promising option available to the market today and consequently, the most likely to succeed.

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