The Emergence of the Hybrid Cloud

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you certainly know that the cloud has been a major technological push by almost all of the major IT vendors. No doubt this move is in part fueled by the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. But it has also been growing partly in response to the challenging economic conditions of the past several years. At its essence, cloud technology promises to save organizations money by allowing them to buy only the level of IT services that they need without the added expense of the IT infrastructure required to run it.

However, while there’s little doubt that cloud will be an important IT technology going forward, it’s also clear that businesses have not been stumbling all over themselves to buy into the technology. A number of hurdles and considerations such as security, performance, and the need to change applications have stopped many businesses from moving to the early cloud technologies. That said, it’s also certain that cloud technology has been evolving rapidly.

At the recent Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2012 in Las Vegas, it became clear that the newest evolution of cloud technology is the hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud combines the public cloud with your own private cloud infrastructure. For example, you might implement your database services on a private cloud that’s running on your own internal infrastructure in conjunction with an application layer that’s running on a public cloud infrastructure.

Using this type of hybrid cloud infrastructure over a pure public cloud or private cloud infrastructure offers some significant advantages. The application workload has the potential for the most volatility, and running the application layer on the public cloud infrastructure enables the application front end to be easily scaled up and down to meet changing demands. The back-end database workload tends to be more predictable, and running the database tier on your own private cloud infrastructure lets you have complete control over your company’s data.

Under this scenario, security and backups are completely with the control of your organization. Further, in many countries, regulatory requirements mandate that the businesses data remain within the boundaries of that country. Keeping the database on premise allows the organization to have complete control over where the data is located. That’s not case if the data were stored in the public cloud where each individual company or client has no control over the cloud vendor’s infrastructure and where their storage is located.

One example of a technology that can help implement this type of hybrid cloud model can be found in the HP Database Consolidation Appliance. The HP Database Consolidation Appliance is a private cloud infrastructure that is specially designed to support multiple virtualized database workloads. The appliance functions as a private cloud for your data tier, enabling both high performance through its optimized internal storage and networking configurations as well as high availability through its built-in Failover Clustering services. This type of database private cloud can then be used to support applications running either in the public cloud or on your on on-premise infrastructure.

The hybrid cloud has its considerations as well. Probably the biggest concern is the last-mile problem. The network connection between the private cloud infrastructure and public cloud represents a potential single point of failure and, as such, requires redundancy to ensure that your public cloud applications can connect to your private cloud database resources.

Managing multiple clouds and multiple cloud technologies adds complexity and requires management tools that can span both technologies. Today, this typically means that you’ll need to use private and public cloud technologies that come from the same vendor. For example, with the previous HP Database Appliance example, you would need to use Microsoft System Center to manage the database private cloud as well as the public cloud application running in Windows Azure.

Cloud technologies are quickly evolving, and new cloud implementations such as the hybrid cloud are emerging to address the problems and limitations that were found in the early cloud implementations. The hybrid cloud solves a lot of the problems that hindered the adoption of early cloud technologies by combining the best attributes of the public cloud and the private cloud. The public cloud brings built-in scalability and availability to the table; the private cloud allows you to have complete control over your own corporate data.
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