In the world of cloud and virtualization, the buzz word of the day is ‘hybrid’. Everyone wants a hybrid cloud environment because they want to get the benefits of the cloud without relinquishing control of their applications and infrastructure. IT departments want the cost savings along with the agility and elasticity that cloud technologies bring, but they are not comfortable with the complete migration of their applications and data to a managed infrastructure.
Today, there are two primary use cases where companies are putting applications and data into the cloud. The difference between the two cases depends on whether it is an existing application or a new one that is being deployed. In the former, there is legacy infrastructure and support that has to be accounted for while the latter provides a greenfield opportunity to create an ideal infrastructure from the start.
Legacy brings baggage
The migration of an application and its data to the cloud presents a complex problem for businesses to solve. There is already a significant investment in hardware and software for the application to live on. A capital investment has been made to make the application available. Businesses are unwilling to lose that investment without appropriate depreciation or the ability to recoup those costs.
In addition, application delivery SLAs and security policies have been put in place based on the capabilities of the private infrastructure to support the business goals. The IT architecture teams along with the operations staff have invested time and resources to develop designs and procedures to support the application and its infrastructure.
The business needs continuity as part of the cloud migration plan. The application and its data need to be available as they move components to a cloud infrastructure. It is hard to take all of the existing infrastructure and policies and map it onto a new environment without losing any functionality.
The easiest solution is to put the application in the cloud to complement the existing legacy infrastructure. The application is still hosted in the private datacenters while the cloud is designed to provide an outlet for resource availability (elasticity) or adjustments (agility) in a quick and efficient model.
To make this model work, the cloud version of application needs to integrate into the legacy version. In an ideal world, the support, management, and access to the application should not depend on the location of the software. This integration is hard, if not impossible to do properly. While one of the expected benefits of a cloud infrastructure is a cost savings, the hybrid cloud may end up costing more due to the increased complexity and need for both environments to exist concurrently.
There may also be political/personnel reasons to maintain a hybrid environment. The outsourcing of parts of the infrastructure and its support means that there is less need for a robust IT department. The business needs the existing legacy IT support as well as the additional expertise to support the integration of the cloud into this hybrid environment.
If the application is new, then the business has the opportunity to deploy it without the constraints of an existing legacy infrastructure. There is no hardware that has to be repurposed. There are no policies and procedures that need to be adapted. The application and its purpose can be designed around a complete cloud deployment from scratch.
This also means that the IT teams do not have to figure out how to make a cloud deployment integrate with the legacy deployment seamlessly. If the cloud provides the benefits of the legacy infrastructure and adds the benefits of elasticity and agility, then why should there be a desire to deploy a new application in a private legacy environment?
We have seen many organizations take this approach to application deployment. The largest and possibly most influential is the US government. They have developed the Cloud First policy. In a nutshell, Cloud First means that a government agency should look at cloud solutions when deploying an application. Only when the Cloud does not meet the application delivery and security requirements, can the agency look to deploy the application in legacy private infrastructure.
The goals and benefits outlined in the Cloud First policy are compelling enough for any business to desire. Enterprises have similar IT requirements when compared to the government agencies. There is no reason they should look at the cloud in a different light as the government.
Hybrid becomes purebred
If the Cloud First policy is more efficient and a better IT strategy in the long term, why do we have hybrid solutions? The hybrid infrastructure is a transitional environment as businesses migrate their legacy applications towards a cloud solution. As businesses extract the benefits of the cloud portion of their hybrid application delivery environment, they will reduce their dependence on the private infrastructure, eventually eliminating it.
While it is great to hear about the benefits of the hybrid IT environment from everyone, including myself, there is a long-term goal and direction that IT organizations are moving towards. Hybrid environments are necessary, but it is important to remember that they are just a stepping stone towards our final goal of a fully virtualized application delivery infrastructure.