Inside the hybrid cloud, Part 1: Redefine services and delivery methods

Agility, scalability, and profitability are driving enterprises toward cloud computing. This is a response to the ever-changing economic, financial, and technical developments confronting business entities today. These changes demand new ways of thinking, working, and doing business. The development of the hybrid cloud is based in this new reality. Part 1 of this two-part series looks at the hybrid cloud, the services it makes available, and the new business paradigm it has engendered.

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Grace Walker, IT Consultant, Walker Automated Services

Grace Walker, a partner in Walker Automated Services in Chicago, Illinois, is an IT consultant with a diverse background and broad experience. She has worked in IT as a manager, administrator, programmer, instructor, business analyst, technical analyst, systems analyst, and web developer in various environments, including telecommunications, education, financial services, and software.



22 March 2012

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Successful enterprises, from small and medium-sized enterprises to transnationals, recognize the value of an information system that provides stakeholders with secure access and efficient systems administration. Systems based on cloud technology must include the capacity for quick re-engineering as well as being cost-effective with a positive return on investment. This ensemble of requirements can best be realized with the various commodity IT services that hybrid cloud formations offer.

What is a hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud is the combination of at least one private cloud with at least one public cloud-based infrastructure, producing an environment that provides transparent user access to the hybrid cloud and is capable of dynamic scalability to manage uneven demand. Today's business, economic, and technological realities have made the hybrid cloud model the formation of choice. The hybrid cloud model allows an enterprise to establish the best formation for its business model. It enhances the internal control of applications an enterprise feels should not be outside its firewall while also providing a means to leverage cloud computing when it suits that enterprise's needs.

Figure 1 shows a hybrid cloud. It has three public clouds using the basic Software as a Service (SaaS) model to supplying applications to an enterprise.

Figure 1. Three public clouds used with a private cloud to form a hybrid
Three public clouds used with a private cloud to form a hybrid

Hybrid clouds are most often used as:

  • A partner, where applications reside in the cloud and mission-critical applications remain on site.
  • A proving ground, where the cloud is used for temporary work space.
  • Extra capacity or burst capacity, where the cloud is used for sudden spikes.

Every Component as a Service

The cloud is morphing from an environment that is SaaS driven into an ecosystem where applications are being reduced to their core functionalities and delivered as components. A component is a ready-made, end-to-end, independent piece of business functionality. Every Component as a Service (XaaS), a reference to the numerous and varied service components delivered over the Internet, has become the core concept of hybrid cloud computing. The point of XaaS is to make resources consumable. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. The cloud now provides complete components.
The cloud now provides complete components.

The pool of "as a Service" components is growing rapidly, buttressing the hybrid cloud model. For example, Communication as a Service is seen regularly in today's office. It consists of services like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Unified Communications, including instant messaging, video conferencing, and interactive white boards. Communication as a Service enables faster and more effective communication and collaboration across the enterprise.

Desktop as a Service is also a common sight today. Desktop as a Service is the outsourcing of a virtual desktop infrastructure. In this delivery model, the service provider manages back-end responsibilities for data storage, backup, security, and upgrades.

Based on the hybrid cloud, even core functionality can be managed as a service. Network as a Service is a combination of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings. Using Network as a Service, you can scale up and down based on actual usage. Upfront costs are eliminated, moving expenditures from capital expenditure (CapEx) to operational expenditure (OpEx). Using Network as a Service removes a significant proportion of the anxiety and cost related to infrastructure from power consumption, bandwidth utilization, connectivity issues, and networking problems to scalability, operating systems, and disaster-recovery solutions.

Storage as a Service allows you to rent space, providing cost savings in personnel, hardware, and physical storage space. When you add Database as a Service, which provides on-demand access to a database for storage of application data; Monitoring as a Service, which allows you to remotely monitor and manage networks, applications, and services; plus Security as a Service, which provides identity and access management, core IT services can easily be managed in the hybrid cloud.

You can also develop in the cloud using Development as a Service. Development as a Service provides an integrated development environment that both co-located and remote teams of developers can access to develop, test, and share their code. Enterprise resource planning can also be deployed in the cloud using Enterprise Applications as a Service. Compute as a Service can be used to access virtualized servers to quickly expand compute capacity when needed and scale back when requirements change.

In fact, entire business processes can be in the cloud using Business Process as a Service. Processes such as invoicing can be provided as a service, creating agile and flexible enterprise architectures suitable for the realities of today's global civilization and commerce.

To ensure that your product or service receives maximum exposure, you can also access Marketing as a Service. Over the past two decades, the standard marketing model has undergone a major shift because of a dramatic increase in the type and number of media channels a business must use to reach its potential customers. Using Marketing as a Service ensures that the appropriate channel or channels are used to inform the market.


Transformations: IT as a Service

Moving to the cloud requires a transformation in architecture as well as in the way organizations do business and manage operations. It is the requirements of these transformations that are driving a new approach to information technology: IT as a Service.

IT as a Service is designed to optimize the production and consumption of services in line with the requirements of the business. It is a business-centered approach that concentrates on business outcomes, being competitive in the marketplace, operational efficiency, and rapid response. IT as a Service leverages the virtualized infrastructure made available by the cloud plus 24x7 access to provide efficient, business-focused IT.

When using IT as a Service, a partnership is forged between IT and the business. IT becomes a facilitator of the business process, making decisions in collaboration with the business to provide the most effective and efficient service possible to enhance the business and increase profitability. See Figure 3.

Figure 3. IT as a Service creates a business-centered partnership.
IT as a Service creates a business-centered partnership.

Every device 24x7 as a delivery method

The delivery of information is no longer restricted to the desktop: Information can be delivered via smart phones, laptops, Apple iPad, netbooks, and tablets, as well. The Internet and related systems have facilitated the immense growth and impact of digital on-demand transactions.

Imagine a team that communicates via cloud technology using distinct device forms. Because the team members are globally dispersed, it is inconvenient to arrange physical meetings. Their weekly meetings—and any extraordinary meetings—are completely digitized, each participant having his or her own particular preference for device use. The team leader uses a virtual desktop. If he is running late, he uses his smart phone to connect with his colleagues. Another team member sits in her favorite coffee shop and uses her laptop. Yet another connects via tablet or sometimes his netbook. Despite the diversity of devices, the team can easily share videos, code, documents, test results, or anything else that can be represented digitally. The team has Mobile as a Service provided to them, which is the provisioning of services that facilitates the exchange of mobile-based data, images, sound, or any other contemporary form offered on the public information market.


Ubiquitous services, ubiquitous delivery: the convergence

There is a growing number of invisible computers embedded in our homes, offices, and vehicles. We see and interact with these computers without ever thinking about them. The growing phenomenon of ubiquitous computing places microprocessors in everyday objects, giving them the ability to communicate. Ubiquitous computing is based on the convergence of advanced electronics, wireless technologies, and the Internet. Smart products that communicate unobtrusively can be connected to the Internet, allowing easy retrieval of the data they generate.

An example of ubiquitous computing is the meters used in utilities such as gas and electricity. These "smart meters" have replaced much of the human-to-human exchange in the transactions involved and have become the means of communicating between the service utilizer and the service provider.

The pervasive and innovatively disruptive impact of these technologies and methods are at the center of the global information and communications technology renaissance. All the methods, techniques, technologies, and systems are harbingers—and at the same time hallmarks—of the digital enterprise era that is just beginning to dawn. They herald an age of connectivity that will facilitate information exchange on a scale and scope that previously could only be dreamed of. The stochastic and volatile character of the modern enterprise environment combined with the speed of change in technical and political economic spheres can only be properly managed with the requisite variety corresponding to the demands characteristic of the contemporary global socioeconomic and technological systems.


Great opportunity implies great risk

There are many benefits to the hybrid cloud, but change—even positive change—always brings new and often unexpected risks. For example, in the hybrid cloud, you don't really know where your data is. Mapping and managing a hybrid cloud presents issues akin to those seen in supply chain management. What is the reality of your supply chain? That reality defines the playing field, and in this instance, it is understanding and managing that reality that is absolutely fundamental.

Quality management is also a concern. As the subscriber, you cannot dictate the reality of the maintenance and scheduling of necessary corrections or fixes, but they will certainly affect you and your operation. What contingency plans has the provider put in place? Is the provider financially sound? What if business realities require that you change providers? You don't want to lock yourself into an architecture that is difficult to migrate. After all, this is not your house: You are renting an apartment, and you may find moving necessary.

When moving to the cloud, dependency becomes a huge concern. During the planning phase of your move, a full inventory of applications and systems that should be moved together must be compiled. You must determine whether there are any special hardware, operating system, or middleware requirements. Every component of the infrastructure must be analyzed and dependencies documented. This means a clear comprehension of the nature of the coupling and interactivity between applications. This information facilitates optimal management and control of dependencies and the structure and behavior of the given communication patterns.

Cloud security is another major concern. Your data is the elemental factor in all of IT, so secure data is an absolute fundamental pillar of hybrid computing. Enterprise data must be protected at all times, whether the data is in transit or at rest. Hybrid clouds have to account for the variety inherent in the cloud alliance. The cloud providers must ensure that everything is running and functioning correctly. This approach was a part of the drive to develop autonomous computing. That is, computing that would self-inspect and respond to irregularity in system functionality.

Security issues include:

  • No control over data; security and maintenance are entrusted to your service provider;
  • The physical location of data is unknown;
  • Compliance—how will it affect the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements no. 16 (SSAE 16), or Payment Card Industry (PCI), for example; and
  • No control over backups; increased risk of data loss.

To cope with the cloud, an enterprise must expand and enhance its security framework to embrace more robust, yet adaptable governance, risk, and compliance policies.

Bandwidth is another major concern when moving to the cloud. If the cloud is going to work for your enterprise, you must be able to access your data quickly enough to manage your business. When you move your data and computing away from users, it increases the bandwidth between the users and the data. Remember too that when it comes to data moving to the cloud, bandwidth is usually an augment to rather than a replacement of the existing data centers, which means that more often than not, an enterprise will increase bandwidth rather than reduce it when a project moves to the cloud.

Carrier-in-Carrier (CnC) facilitates increased value in bandwidth processing. This increase is achieved by applying a lower code or modulation rate to approximate the desired spectral manipulation. Using CnC, you can achieve high spectral performance with a more powerful bandwidth regime. This regime allows you to deploy lower calibrated bandwidth and general power to achieve your business goals, ensuring proper and prompt service. This manipulation regime makes it possible to deploy the bandwidth as circumstances demand, thus allowing for greater control of OpEx costs associated with the process plus greater and more efficient production from your current use of transponder assets in addition to the CapEx savings.

In the end, when moving to the cloud, it is proper planning for deployment and use that determines everything. Upfront planning is the key to profitability and commercial success in the cloud.

Service level agreement

A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract creating and elaborating the terms of the agreement between the cloud service provider and the agency purchasing the hybrid cloud services. Its purpose is to ensure that the contract between the enterprise and the service provider is properly executed at all times. The SLA determines the nature of the agreed-upon services between the parties. The SLA is also the vehicle for monitoring and maintenance of the contract; therefore, the SLA provides an ongoing vehicle to assure the fulfillment of the agreed-upon level of quality of service for the duration of the contract.

The SLA is absolutely essential in the process. It determines how your hybrid cloud will be implemented, managed, and secured.

Broker

As an enterprise moves into a more complex hybrid cloud configuration, the role of the cloud service broker emerges as an essential aspect of the cloud computing strategy. Enabling, delivering, and managing hybrid cloud services—especially the apex form of hybrid, the federated cloud—requires the right mix of IT and related services. Working with such an array of vendors and service types requires the engagement of a professional who actually knows his or her way around the business of IT on demand. With a competent cloud brokerage service in your corner, the probability of attaining the desired results increases significantly. A broker will help an enterprise reduce cost and expenses as well as pre-position its system to perform in the most secure and stable manner possible. The broker knows the terrain of cloud computing, so you do not have to allocate time coming up to speed in the wild world of hybrid cloud computing.


Conclusion

There are many ways to enhance your business model using the hybrid cloud, XaaS, and IT as a Service. This brief overview provides only a sampling of what is actually available today.

The implementation of the vast number of available services can be a daunting task, which has led to an enhancement of the hybrid cloud: the federated cloud. Federated clouds help you manage the consumption of the "as a Service" components. Now that we have a foundation, we will move on to the federated cloud—the highest form of hybrid cloud—in the next installment of this series. The federated cloud helps to bring order out of the confusion that may develop with all the services available in the cloud.

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