Hybrid: The Scrabble proof point

It always seems to me that like the Gold Rush Miners of the 19th Century, IT practitioners are always looking for the pot of gold or the killer application that will define or justify their efforts, investment or focus.

Maybe it’s an urban myth but it is said that the only people who really made money out of the gold rush of that time were the people who supplied the picks and shovels, effectively the infrastructure. That got me thinking that maybe the killer application for cloud is errr cloud, or more specifically hybrid cloud.

I have to say when the concepts of cloud first became mainstream, I had a hard time getting my head around the concept of a hybrid cloud. Not so much the idea of a bridge between the world of private and public but specifically how do you really build something that provides that seamless bridge between two often separately owned and controlled environments.

I also questioned the value of a hybrid cloud environment.

Interestingly and yes, slightly flippantly referring back to the tile of the blog, if you spell out the words ‘Private’, ‘Public’ and ‘Hybrid’ in Scrabble tiles, it turns out that private and public score 12 each, whilst Hybrid scores 14. The additional value in a Hybrid model was always there maybe it just needed realising.

It could be argued that those who built a private cloud environment and has access to a public cloud offer and who then manually moved workloads between the two were operating, in essence, a hybrid cloud. The reality is however there has always been a technology gap, an enabling piece of the jigsaw that would fully automate the link between private and public to a point where the two literally appear as one.

Enter Software Defined Networking.

Network Virtualisation, in the shape of both SDN and NFV (Network Functions Virtualisation) are collectively the biggest disruption to the networking and IT space in our lifetime. Over time, they will bring together the worlds of ‘IP and IT’ in a manner that has simply not existed previously and in doing so, not only will they transform the business model of IT service delivery but will also open up new service opportunities. hybrid cloud is one of those new service opportunities.

The elephant in the room that prevented the hybrid model becoming more prevalent earlier in the lifecycle of cloud was the network. Whilst apps, servers and storage developed a more automated orchestration framework that allowed true workload mobility, the network remained relatively static and manual.

What Software defined networking has done is to integrate the network into the same automated orchestration framework as the apps, servers and storage that now allows for seamless workload mobility both within a data centre but also, crucially, between them.

Security and data sovereignty notwithstanding, the hybrid cloud is now open for business and with it comes a number of potential new use cases such as seamless cloud bursting, new models of disaster recovery and much greater control of application mobility and location than has ever existed. Bringing security and data sovereignty back into the picture, the freedom of having the ability to seamlessly control where workloads are best run combined with the ability to locate storage and data appropriately is a flexibility ‘win win’ for most IT departments.

Looking to the near term future, the much discussed Internet of Things will, in my opinion, massively ramp the need for seamless hybrid cloud environments. The amount of data generated from literally billions of devices will require a Big Data model the likes of which it’s hard to imagine the scale of today.

That can only happen in a truly distributed but controlled delivery environment.

Maybe, just maybe, the timing for both SDN and hybrid cloud could not have been better.

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