So far in this blog series, we’ve talked about Hybrid Clouds, some of the benefits that Hybrid architectures can bring to a cloud solution and how these benefits can be realized at Rackspace by using RackConnect™. Last week, we zoomed in on the flexibility hybrid can bring to a small business that may be budget constrained, but still needs to grow at the same time.
I’d like to move in a slightly different direction now and talk about Hybrid Cloud for the enterprise. I recently attended the Cloud Connect conference in Chicago and I’d like to share some interesting insights from the conference, such as how enterprises think about the cloud today, and what’s on deck that will help drive their further use of cloud in the near future.
One of the keynote presenters at Cloud Connect was Scott Bils from Everest Group (his presentation can be found here). He presented a survey of enterprise IT and service providers. One of the key insights from this research was that cost is not the primary driver for cloud adoption for enterprises (in fact, cost was No. 5!). Top line growth is more of the imperative driving usage. It’s the time-to-market value proposition that is key here, and how self-service and automation (key tenants of a cloud) can rapidly shrink deployment times for new applications and new revenue streams for the business. I found this to be a very interesting point because the cost benefit (part from the utility billing and part from economies of scale) is more commonly believed to be the primary adoption driver for the cloud.
However, cloud still has some significant barriers to adoption. Security concerns remain the leading blocker, but a close second is integration of cloud solutions. Here’s my second point: if integration is a blocker, that implies that the adoption of cloud is dependent on it working WITH existing infrastructure and applications; not as a REPLACEMENT for them. In other words, a Hybrid Cloud can help overcome this barrier.
To me, the primary value of a Hybrid Cloud is precisely its ability to integrate different platforms. A Hybrid Cloud could be traditional IT infrastructure, dedicated hosting, private clouds and/or public clouds, within a single site or connecting infrastructure around the globe. The degree to which a hybrid solution succeeds at integration defines its success in accelerating cloud utility for business.
This suggests a couple of conclusions: first, that public cloud is not sufficient as a standalone platform for all use cases. Second, that there must be integration at several points in a solution. Management from a single console is not enough, nor is single sign on. Virtual Machine (VM) portability and network integration don’t solve the entire problem either. Rather, the combination of integrated services define the degree of integration (and by extension, the effectiveness of the hybrid solution).
If a Hybrid Cloud can effectively bridge traditional and cloud based solutions, it will allow enterprises to begin using cloud in a meaningful way (for production workloads) much more rapidly than waiting to move an entire app 100 percent into public cloud. By allowing the flexibility and integration between platforms, applications can be deconstructed into their architectural components (data storage, presentation, distribution, etc.). Then, these components can be matched to where they will be most optimized – some fit cloud use better than others. This almost certainly is a quicker path to cloud than a wholesale rebuild of an app, allowing that time-to-market benefit to accrue and help enterprises really start to drive top line growth through the use of cloud.
So, which options are available now and how can an enterprise leverage them effectively? Certainly there are solutions that help create Hybrid Clouds. There are many products available today that can solve authentication integration, network integration, VM mobility and single-pane-of-glass management. In most cases, though, they are either proprietary or from different vendors, meaning the enterprise must do some of the heavy lifting to bring these together into a comprehensive integration stack and build a complete solution.
At Rackspace, we’ve created RackConnect specifically for integrating dedicated and cloud hosted solutions. It solves for integration of infrastructure management, network integration and centralized security management. We have already seen an impressive adoption by midsized and larger enterprise customers – we know that Hybrid Clouds help enterprises meet their business needs. But today, RackConnect is limited to solutions within a single, Rackspace data center. We aim to change that.
Extending the design tenants of multi-level integration used in RackConnect to allow Hybrid Clouds to reach beyond a single data center can unlock many more use cases; particularly for enterprises that often have substantial critical IT assets that need to be deeply integrated into cloud. Disaster recovery, data replication and geo-distributed applications are all possibilities when cloud can be tied effectively into existing infrastructure. We are working on technologies that will extend the cloud right into the enterprise data center, and we are very excited about how this will help transform enterprise IT into a true business partner. These technologies will potentially enable them to drive revenue faster through the effective use of Hybrid Clouds.
I’ll leave the details of some of these exciting developments for the near future, but I will say that we are starting at the bottom of the architecture – at the network in the cloud.