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Hybrid theory

Hybrid theory 

Enterprises are learning to embrace the cloud computing phenomenon, as it makes mobile file sharing and storage easier, in addition to its collaborative and productivity-enhancing abilities. The hybrid cloud has recently enjoyed a spike in popularity, as it provides users with a good combination of public and private cloud capabilities.

The private sector and IT channel have also taken notice of what the cloud can offer them for the management of their affairs. They are just two examples of the many industries that have joined the cloud revolution.

As Michael Kerr, director of channels for EMC Canada explains, hybrid cloud adoption provides many benefits. But despite that, there are still some myths about its abilities.

IT in Canada: Why has the public sector become more interested in the cloud?
Kerr: The parallels are very clear that computing is shifting, and we ignore it at our peril. Much like the old mainframe days, whether we liked it or not, the user community moved us into distributed computing for a variety of reasons.

We’re seeing the same shift now. The user community is moving us to a more mobile environment where if they don’t deliver an application in days, rather than months, they will no longer be competitive, and they cannot afford for the traditional IT infrastructure to deliver it for them, and that’s (resulted in) the rise of shadow IT. We see the shift to shadow IT, where the budgets are spent outside of the IT budget, on the rise in Canada.

ITIC: What are the five myths of the hybrid cloud?
MK: The first myth is “I already have a private cloud infrastructure; therefore, it’s all you need.” The answer is perhaps not because the definition of a hybrid cloud is elements of the private infrastructure combined with a public infrastructure, and the marrying of the two. It’s always going to be a balance, and depending on your workload, the business or industry you’re in, the percentage of your workload that works in one versus the other will vary.

The second myth is “I can’t put anything in the cloud because everyone is going to have access to it.” That is also probably not true in the sense that there are some very secure public environments out there where you need an encryption key, and all the cloud service is storing is encrypted data. They themselves can’t see the data. We have a product called Mozy that simply stores encrypted backup information; the key is owned by the end user. The facility that it’s stored on is a very high-security data centre floor, and (the data) is stored on the public cloud. Regardless of what level you’re on in the Mozy group, the data cannot be unencrypted.

The third myth is “Can you store everything in the public cloud?” This is not true either. Different computing environments will handle different workloads and characteristics of business problem-solving. Even today, there are still mainframes in many of our large enterprise accounts, and for a good reason. There are still a number of legacy applications or very large workloads that require that type of environment.

The fourth myth is “If I move everything to the cloud, I lose control of all the data.” The answer is that’s entirely up to the parameters you set. If left to its own devices, it could be true, in the sense that if you let the cloud provider manage it all for you. But with due diligence and proper mechanisms surrounding that, you can either isolate your data into an environment that’s entirely under your control, much like the parallels of colocation, where people would store their particular environments and unlock caged environments. Or, you could elect to put it into a shared environment on a consolidated compute system, so you have the choice within the cloud.

The last myth is “That may work for insurance or banking, but it may not work for manufacturing or healthcare because the data is too secure.” There’s no question that you have to be awfully observant and considerate of the data that you’re putting in the cloud, but there’s always going to be some data that lends itself to its non-criticality. The parallel I draw there is how many companies today still maintain a payroll division, where you have people generating paychecks? That whole industry is successfully outsourced so that you have outsourced payroll which, at one time, we would have considered as the most confidential information, and they do a very good job. The same thing is true of the hybrid cloud; it’s going to find a place. Over time, we believe all industries will be affected.

ITIC: Why is it important for IT departments within the private sector to have a proper hybrid cloud strategy in place?
MK: The departments are now exercising control over their budgets, and what we see is some of the IT departments are seeing their budgets getting reduced.

There are two pressures on IT. The first is there is always pressure on IT to be viewed as a cost centre, so it’s a case of doing more with less. The second is when (executives) decide that they’re going to find a new application to compete with a mobile application from our nearest competitor, we go to IT and they try to marshal together the resources and come back with an estimate of two months.

The (executives) say that’s too late, so they go online and find the answer to the problem within five minutes. With a credit card or PO, the next day, (the application) is up and running and can at least address their immediate business needs. That describes the scenario that’s happening every day, everywhere. And unless the IT departments within our business transform themselves so they can produce a well-run, GUI-like interface to computing for their whole company, they will become less relevant because the end users are not waiting.

ITIC: What are the benefits of a hybrid cloud infrastructure?
MK: The benefits are that you can take advantage of technologies that you may otherwise need to overinvest in. For example, if I have a large storage locker, rather than building an addition to my house and adding on multiple sheds for things I may need in the future, the same holds true for a storage locker. I can more material that’s not relevant, or perhaps not needed at the moment into a storage locker, preventing me from building one.

That analogy is true in the cloud environment. There may already be environments that are secure and are ready-made to store and use information in that environment, rather than building it further. If I have a data centre that’s reached its capacity, rather than going out and putting the budget together to add new floor space, it may be more efficient to utilize something that’s off-site and in a cloud environment instead of standing up everything myself.

This is why we’re seeing a rise (in interest), and that’s why everyone should be considering the cloud. The key here is the word “hybrid.” You don’t want to do it in isolation; you still want to be able to embrace it and look at it as a collective, not as isolated pieces.

ITIC: How can the channel address concerns about hybrid cloud technology?
MK: Most of our value-added resellers cut their teeth on helping our clients move to the distributed environment. They started off by selling PCs, but over time, they became the integrators of the technology. We’re seeing the same transition today with our VARs. They’re changing their business models and are becoming cloud advisory.

The first step is that they will help our clients understand their current environments so that they can determine what applications or workloads work best in the cloud environment. They will then assist our clients and advise them on the right clouds to choose because they’re not equal and cloud is not cloud. It’s not a panacea for all; cloud environments are different, as we know. They (the VARs) then act as an integrator of offerings rather than technologies, and this is where we see our partners transforming to, with our help.

ITIC: What does the future hold for the hybrid cloud environment?
MK: I think it’s going to continue to evolve. It’s in the first quadrant of its evolution, and more recently, we’re starting to see it take hold of the psyche of our customers. Five years ago, when you would hold a cloud discussion, people were not very interested, and would continue on with their work.

When you talk about cloud today, it’s not as quickly dismissed. The challenge now is figuring out how to make it work in their business. I think it’s here to stay until the next evolution of computing comes into play, but I don’t see it as any kind of passing fad. I think it’s going to be engrained in the operational environments of our customers for quite a while to come.

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