Hybrid: Mixing Myth and Reality

IT, and especially IT vendors, have a curious relationship with language. We tend to hijack existing words and terms and then adapt their meaning for our own selfish needs. The meaning of these adopted words usually starts pretty fluidly and ambiguously—take “cloud” or “SDN” for example. It takes a while for everyone to settle on a common meaning, during which time vendors tend to misuse the word to align their existing solutions with this new perceived market driver (see cloudwashing).
”Hybrid” is another case in point. Hybrid has started popping up everywhere from analyst reports and industry surveys to manufacturers’ product naming, especially as an adjective and most often in front of “cloud.” But we’re also seeing it liberally scattered in front of “application,” “infrastructure,” and “IT.”
What exactly does hybrid mean? I’m not sure that’s entirely clear yet. But since it seems inevitable we’re going to be (mis)using it for some time to come, it’s probably time to lay out some definitions. I’ll start with a simple one: Hybrid: “My s**t’s all over the place.”
And, “hybrid cloud”? The most common definition I’ve seen is this: “Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.” (Taken from the definition on techtarget.com)
Looking around at various case studies, reports, and anecdotes, I’d politely suggest that this definition does not represent the majority of enterprise IT. It’s true that many organizations are using a mix of on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of orchestration or workload mobility between the two. Sure, there are outliers at either end of the scale, from organizations with a large staff of engineers who have architected true hybrid applications, and can move workloads around as necessary, to enterprises that manage every application in house. I’d say that most organizations are dealing with a mix of separate environments and deploying applications in the most appropriate location, and then (mostly) leaving them there. That’s more of a dual or multi-location strategy and aligns with the bimodal IT model that Gartner has been describing for a number of years.
But, a true hybrid model offers clear advantages. Using the same processes to manage and deploy applications across the spectrum of possible locations is operationally efficient and good for business agility. Being able to move workloads from one location to another based on demand, availability, or cost is even better.
So what will it take for the average organization to get there?
Firstly, orchestration engines and cloud platforms must become more robust and accessible to mid-sized organizations—along with more standardized deployments across larger organizations. This will come as the pioneers of hybrid cloud begin to move into production deployments and establish the “right” way to architect and manage complex, multi-location architectures.
Secondly, the surrounding application services need to be standardized across all these locations. What do I mean by that? Well, when I move an application, I need to know that security services, such as web application firewalls, for instance, are available wherever I chose to deploy. I need the confidence that the right security policy can be enabled uniformly. I don’t want my location choice to be restricted unnecessarily, nor do I want the additional complexity of managing multiple tools. The same goes for services like access and identity, or performance monitoring. These types of services need to be seamless, no matter where I deploy.
Fortunately, there is a “hybrid” solution to this second problem. Tools will need to get better at implementing standard policies across different infrastructures, providing the same services but built from different components. Secondly, vendors who sell these application services (in whatever form factor or platform) need to build and demonstrate the ubiquity of these services wherever their customers need them.
If we can solve these two problems, the transition to true hybrid cloud and beyond will be accelerated, and organizations will reap the business benefits of IT agility and operational efficiency more quickly.
Disclaimer: This article was written by a guest contributor in his/her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CloudWedge.com.