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Challenges of implementing a truly hybrid cloud

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There is no denying it: companies are either moving to the cloud or thinking about it. But the choices are many and most companies are still experimenting on what will work best for them.

Questions are being asked: Will the cloud integrate properly with traditional IT? Will we succeed in keeping control of our workloads, data, and costs? What are the long-term benefits of the cloud? Those are huge questions yet to be answered.

Currently, when you decide to move to the cloud, there are so many options available to you that you could call it the cloud jungle! And, you will probably choose a different option for each of your workloads. For instance, you will want to host your SAP workload on a public cloud such as IBM SmartCloud Enterprise Plus, but keep your Big Data workloads on-premise on one of your own private clouds.

Right? Really? Sure you will not be disappointed by this on the long run? Don’t you want to be able to move your SAP workload from SmartCloud Enterprise Plus to your private Cloud when you see fit? Don’t you want to dynamically add new resources to SAP to meet actual demand? Don’t you want to keep an eye on what’s happening in your clouds and hopefully take the right decisions at the right time?

This is where the hybrid cloud concept comes in handy, to address this problem of integrating public clouds, traditional IT and private clouds together. The ultimate goal is to enable cloud to be a real differentiator in the long run.

Dynamic workloads

The first challenge of implementing a truly hybrid cloud is to bring elasticity. By elasticity, I mean two things:

  • Elasticity within the cloud, which is the ability to provision dynamically new virtual machines when the need arises
  • Elasticity between clouds, which is the ability to migrate workloads between private and public clouds

The difficulties here are multiple. The most important one is probably that clouds need to communicate in a standardized way. For instance, APIs are still evolving rapidly and there are not a lot of available open standards to move workloads from one cloud to another. Even if Open Virtualization Format (OVF) is a good start, it is clearly not enough. This is the technical challenge.

A System of dynamic workloads

The second challenge is to manage all those workloads hosted on a large variety of public or private clouds or even on traditional IT. The goal is to have a centralized view of the whole IT that enables control and decision-making!

It’s all about control and management here:

  • Control over who is requesting resources, moving a workload, or accessing the management portals of public cloud providers: This control means that it should be possible to trace the identity of a user across the whole IT by leveraging identity federation techniques. It should also be possible to audit and control the actions of a user through processes enforced by approval workflows. To do that, all the cloud functionalities should be made available within a single enterprise portal. Those portals are currently emerging. For instance, Tivoli Service Automation Manager with the Hybrid Cloud Integrator can now provide a portal that enables provisioning on a private cloud and also on a public clouds such as IBM SmartCloud Enterprise or Amazon EC2.
  • Control of the IT in terms of performance monitoring and security compliance: The challenge is to keep a consistent view of the whole IT and enforce appropriate security rules defined at an enterprise level. This challenge is not easy because many resources are becoming “on demand.” However, there is also a huge opportunity: Cloud often brings standardization and it’s possible to build on this standardization to spread best practices in the IT.
  • Cost management and optimization: The key to success here is probably to enable the rebilling of IT resources to actual consumers. The challenge is to make everyone in the company financially accountable for the use of IT services. After this first step, processes will evolve and reporting capabilities will be added to the cloud management stack to help auditing and analysis.

To make control and management work, many internal processes will have to be redefined. For this reason I see this management challenge as one of the most interesting to face, not only for IT but for the entire company.

A system of dynamic workloads rightly sourced

After management is in place, choosing, among a certain number of qualified vendors, where a certain workload should be executed at a certain period in time is possible.

Depending on the cost, functionality, performance, and security, the choice will be made. This means that efficient reporting and analysis tools will have to be implemented within the cloud. Those will be key to support new and more efficient sourcing processes.

This is the sourcing challenge.

As you can see, implementing a truly hybrid cloud is still a challenging work in progress. Although interoperability and open standards are key technical challenges for the next few years to come, we must never lose focus on management and sourcing.

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