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Hybrid clouds: many options, big opportunities

December 3, 2014  |  Written by Digital Realty
By: Damien Spillane, Head of Sales Engineering, Australia

As a growing number of organisations direct more of their IT budgets towards cloud computing architectures, many are realising a hybrid approach will deliver the biggest benefits.

Around the world, the shift towards hybrid cloud usage is gathering pace. According to US-based research firmMarketsandmarkets, the global market for hybrid cloud is expected to grow to US$79.54 billion by 2018.

The task of creating a hybrid cloud infrastructure will be different for every organisation. It involves linking existing, on-premise equipment, applications and data stores with a mix of resources provided by third-party cloud providers.

Options to consider include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers which provide access to raw compute and storage capacity on which a client organisation can install, manage and run applications.

There is also the option to choose Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers. Here, the client organisation is given access to fully managed computing resources delivered from an external data centre that can be used to augment existing in-house capabilities.

A third option is to take advantage of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings where managed applications are delivered and consumed as required. High-profile examples are companies such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft’s Office 365.

The road to a hybrid infrastructure can take many routes. For some organisations it’s a matter of shifting selected, non-mission critical applications to a cloud platform while retaining core systems within an in-house or outsourced data centre.

Meanwhile others opt to take advantage of cloud resources to cope with occasional spikes in demand for storage or processing capacity. Internal systems are augmented with external capabilities on an as-needed basis.

A third alternative is to use a hybrid architecture as an interim step to full cloud adoption. Applications and data are gradually shifted from an in-house facility to an external provider over a set period of time.

For growing numbers of organisations, their architecture is evolving to become a mixture of all these options. By carefully selecting a range of different cloud platforms and providers, they are able to create the dynamic and flexible infrastructure they need to support their day-to-day activities.

In its list of top cloud computing myths, research firm Gartner says the idea that every organisation should have just one cloud vendor is wrong. Gartner states any cloud strategy should be about aligning business goals with potential benefits, and this is likely to involve making use of multiple cloud providers that offer different resources.

Regardless of the mix being used, it is vital for every organisation to understand the capabilities and stability of the IaaS, PaaS and/or SaaS cloud providers they choose. Thorough due diligence must be undertaken to ensure the infrastructure they have built is capable of providing the level and standard of service required.

The data centres from which cloud services are provided must be scalable, resilient and secure. They should also be tier certified and comply with applicable regulatory requirements.

For data centre operators, meeting these requirements will position them well to take advantage of future opportunities. A hybrid cloud (or any cloud for that matter) creates demand for more data centre space and connectivity to support growth. The challenge for operators is to ensure the quality of their underlying data centre infrastructure enables rather than restricts these opportunities.

A hybrid cloud infrastructure can deliver big benefits to an organisation and big opportunities for operators. However, it is critical that proper planning and research is completed before any adoption takes place.

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