Benefits and challenges of hybrid cloud: Use cases for System z

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By Tarun Chopra, Hartmut Penner and Bob St. John

Moving to a hybrid cloud model can provide a range of benefits—from shifting and reducing costs to driving innovation, increasing flexibility or speeding the deployment of new applications. But moving to hybrid model and deriving those benefits are not without their challenges, individually and collectively. So we’d like to succinctly examine four examples of these benefits and what companies and institutions must address to attain them through cloud deployment.

Economics and elasticity

hybrid cloudOne of the key benefits driving the adoption and success of the cloud computing model is the ability to shift the expenditure model from capital expenses to operating expenses. However, in traditional large enterprises, substantial investments have already been made in IT infrastructure, making it tough and economically undesirable to move from a CAPEX to an OPEX model.

But enterprises running a large number of workloads in a traditional System z environment may still want to explore opportunities to move elements of some applications into a cloud environment to benefit from the elasticity and economics cloud can provide.

A typical three-tiered application comprises the presentation tier consisting of the user interface, the logic tier where the application work is done, and the database tier where data is processed and stored. A typical hybrid cloud use case can be the relocation of the presentation and logic tiers (residing in an on-premises distributed environment) into a cloud—off premises and perhaps in a public cloud—and have them communicate with the database stored and managed within a System z server in the datacenter.

The challenge in setting up this kind of cloud deployment is ensuring you think through the performance, security and management aspects of a hybrid cloud infrastructure. These are all issues and concerns that must be addressed at the planning stage.

Innovation in the cloud

In the future, innovation and application development and deployment will predominantly take shape in cloud environments. Cloud technologies enable a broader audience—including line-of-business executives like CMOs and CSPOs—to gain access to IT resources without having to build an in-house IT environment. New applications and services can be quickly prototyped in cloud environments and then rapidly deployed and measured for success.

But in this new paradigm of services originating in the cloud, it’s important to ensure they co-exist and work well with the existing in-house IT infrastructures. In such a case, the System z server acts as a trusted partner where enterprise trusted data can safely reside while being securely accessed by born-in-the-cloud applications.

Consider a scenario where a large bank has outsourced some of the complementary services like mortgage, insurance or reward points system management to different divisions of the bank or even a trusted outside partner. These complementary services can operate from a public cloud environment as part of the system of engagement with customers while interacting with System z as the trusted system of record.

Various technologies such as z/OS Connect can enable z/OS systems like IMS/CICS to effectively participate in today’s mobile computing platforms. IBM acquisitions of technologies like Fiberlink and Aspera and integration with SoftLayer can enable secure and faster transactions across the hybrid cloud environments.

Flexibility of cloud

In today’s IT enterprise, developers want to quickly prototype an application but have it run on existing IT resources. But that scenario can require that they endure a long procurement and business justification cycle to get access to necessary resources for developing the application, hampering rapid innovation.

By employing a hybrid cloud model, an enterprise can quickly and economically add resources as needed by bursting out of the private enterprise to a public cloud processing and storage capacity.  A cloud-bursting scenario can provide the key benefits of cost savings, maximum utilization of on-premises resources and rapid innovation, but also has its own set of challenges.

With System z serving as the IT backbone for various industries (financial, retail, insurance, healthcare, etc.), a cloud-burst environment must enable an application to interact with on-premises IT infrastructure for access to sensitive data in an enterprise-secure manner. From a cloud-bursting perspective, along with all the existing challenges of managing an on-premises and off-premises computing environment, there is also a key challenge of seamlessly connecting the burst compute capacity into the existing IT infrastructure.

Rapid deployment in cloud

One of the key concerns of sharing content and data across applications and systems in a hybrid cloud is integration, and testing and developing these applications can be a drain on internal IT resources. But developers can actually speed deployment and ensure interoperability by using public cloud environments to quickly prototype, build and test enterprise applications to speed deployment and ensure public-cloud/private cloud interoperability.

Recently, IBM Rational Development team announced cloud-based trial for IBM integrated solution for System z development aimed specifically at addressing these challenges. The solution includes Rational Developer for System z, Rational Team Concert, Rational Development and Test environment for System z and Rational Asset Analyzer, all allowing a cloud-based environment to develop and test z/OS applications.

The ability to test and run z/OS applications in public cloud-based environments can tremendously ease the need to integrate these applications with various cloud services, thus providing early proof-of-concept for system-of-engagement/system-of-record integration.

Our recent white paper, titled “Enterprise Hybrid Computing – System z and SoftLayer,” documents two use cases for hybrid cloud consisting of System z and SoftLayer, highlights use scenarios around economics and innovation in cloud, and provides technical insight into application performance and security in a hybrid computing environment.

Tarun Chopra is Program Director of System z Performance for IBM. You can follow him at @tc20640n

Hartmut Penner is Senior Technical Staff Member, System z Performance, IBM

Bob St. John is Senior Technical Staff Member, System z Performance, IBM

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