In 2014, Gartner ranked the hybrid model as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends of the year, and 451 research expects 25% of applications to be deployed using a hybrid model by 2015’s end. To say hybrid is “trending” would be an understatement. Recognizing the opportunity in this increased interest, infrastructure providers are rushing to define what “hybrid” means and basing offerings on their own interpretations, each with its own limitations. This can be challenging for channel partners as they attempt to navigate this new landscape and determine which hybrid solutions will best meet customers’ changing needs.
For example, many experts, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), focus exclusively on the cloud when describing hybrid environments. NIST defines a “hybrid cloud” as a combination of public, private and community clouds “bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability.” While this definition is sufficient when describing a combination of disparate clouds, it doesn’t address common scenarios for managing and moving applications across both cloud and non-cloud infrastructure environments.
Hybridization is often also defined as a mixture of on-premise and hosted cloud, but this too is inadequate—the importance of the demarcation line between on and off-premise infrastructure is diminishing. Logical and physical networks and other infrastructure elements, like WAN acceleration appliances, firewalls, storage gateways and application-delivery controllers, are routinely extended across companies’ on-premise data centers and third-party sites to improve network performance, security and ease of use.
Still others describe hosting and cloud platforms connected via unmanaged network links as a hybrid environment. These links don’t typically enforce network transparency across environments and can make it difficult for users to provision, manage and monitor machines identically in both their legacy and interconnected, third-party cloud environments.
The need for a standard definition of hybridization is becoming increasingly clear, and partners need to be involved to help customers make sense of the growing number of approaches.
Hybrid is as Hybrid Does
While many of the technologies that link disparate infrastructure environments still have limitations, there are certain elements partners can look for when assessing a provider’s ability to deploy fully functional hybridized solutions today. These include:
- Flexible service offerings that can meet a full range of application requirements, spanning public, private and even bare-metal cloud, as well as managed hosting and colocation services. The location of the “execution venue” – on-premise or off – isn’t significant. What is important is the ability to easily access the best service or execution venue without sacrificing performance, which is critical for many applications.
- A unified network fabric for deploying compute, storage and networking services across environments. Hybrid network topologies must enable workload mobility while linking abstracted cloud environments with legacy infrastructures. A unified network can allow workloads operating in different hosting environments to share the same network infrastructure elements while maintaining persistent connections to quickly move workloads across hosting environments and never compromising the level of security required.
- A single-pane-of-glass interface lets customers or partners easily manage an entire IT infrastructure across servers, storage or other resources through a centralized portal. A single point of contact eliminates the need to deal with multiple service providers, and a single bill allows customers to see the details of exactly which resources are used for which applications, making it easier to manage costs across the relevant groups within an organization.
By getting familiar with the characteristics that establish a provider’s ability to deploy true hybridized environments, we can ensure you choose a solution that meets all of your application needs, both today and in the future.
It’s important to note that since different workloads require different environments working together to perform at their optimal performance levels, your will require an infrastructure provider that allows you to hybridize. Many, if not most pure-play Cloud providers and traditional hosting providers simply lack the hybridization capabilities to allow you to effectively leverage these different solutions together.