Best of both
Cloud technology is today recognised as a 'mega trend', joining social media, mobile devices and big data in having a significant impact on the way organisations will conduct business in future, irrespective of their market sector or global location.
According to research firm IDG, within the next two years, over half of the capital allocated to IT budgets will be spent on cloud computing. Worldwide cloud spending will approach $100 billion by 2016.
While many industry watchers have viewed cloud technology as either the province of private clouds or public clouds, today the idea of a third option - a converged infrastructure with the benefits of both public clouds and private clouds - is gaining momentum.
Previously, the public cloud - considered ideal for data storage and archiving - was seen as the 'holy grail' of cloud technology, allowing organisations to deploy cost-effective and scalable services without the need for a sizable capital investment. However, it wasn't long before security and privacy concerns linked to these multi-tenanted environments surfaced.
Private clouds then appeared to be the most feasible solution for companies facing data protection issues. Protagonists pointed to the technology's ability to virtualise and customise an in-house environment, adding more memory, storage or processing power as needed.
A perfect mixture
Now hybrid clouds - previously thought of as a no-man's land between public and private clouds - are increasingly seen as the ultimate goal of cloud technology. No longer providing a bridge to a public cloud, the hybrid cloud is seen as the final destination in itself, delivering the best of what public and private clouds have to offer.
The merger between public and private clouds is, in part, thanks to the partnerships being formed between users and cloud service providers in which resources are pooled, and - for the first time - managed in-house and externally.
The hybrid cloud is seen as the final destination in itself.
Hybrid cloud management represents one of the most important technological advances at vendor level in recent times. Management tools will generate US$3.6 billion in global business by 2016 and $4.4 billion a year later, according to IDG.
These tools are key to tracking the locations of data and identifying servers, IP addresses and a host of other resources vital to a hybrid cloud's efficiency.
Already, collaboration and content management systems are available that address multi-cloud environments (multiple public and private clouds) in which a broad range of cloud applications are represented, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
These systems also provide seamless operation across all platforms, including cloud application programming interfaces (APIs) and hypervisors or virtual machine managers (VMMs).
Significantly, they allow organisations to store private data locally in a private cloud (or clouds) under the strictest security, giving decision-makers tight control over mission-critical assets, while taking advantage of the low cost of public cloud resources - that would otherwise be financially prohibitive to own - for other applications.
The development of these systems is a clear indication of the growing maturity of cloud technology. Against this backdrop, the viability of hybrid cloud technology is sure to drive massive interest from public and private companies, as well as service providers and software vendors. Some industry watchers expect hybrid cloud technology to increase in uptake by around 30% per annum until 2017.
One of the key benefits of hybrid cloud technology is flexibility. Cloud infrastructures can be built and tailored to suit a variety of specific corporate requirements.
In the not-too-distant future, hybrid cloud technology will accommodate 'workload portability', a concept linked to an evolving computing environment, where changes in the workload and the needs of staff members are dynamically accommodated. Here, applications will be sourced by specific architecture to optimise the best mix of public and private cloud environments.
Finally, for larger companies, the technology will also offer cost benefits when it comes to disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity planning.
For example, the infrastructure available from public cloud service providers has the potential to reduce the equipment needed to run a dedicated DR site - or even the need for the site.
At the same time, a private cloud-based infrastructure can deliver robust replicating capabilities at local or primary sites. Management, under a hybrid cloud umbrella, will optimise both environments and facilitate significant cost savings - plus the delivery of other benefits such as increased flexibility, scalability and better bandwidth optimisation.
Companies should consider moving towards application architectures that are designed to migrate towards hybrid cloud environments, without delay.