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WHAT IS THE HYBRID CLOUD, AND WHY DO I CARE?

By Peter McCallum

I was thinking the other day about the silly terminology we all use in our jobs to set us apart and make us feel special. I think of this as verbal marketecture. In case you aren’t familiar with that term, marketecture is when marketing creates something that looks technical but really may not apply in real life. Just go to a VMworld or any other technical show for a few years in a row. What you will see is the exact same technology, with a few minor additions or improvements, but with an entirely new marketecture layer applied. In some cases, it’s an entirely new word that sounds cool and techy. We all nod sagely and add it to our personal lexicon of words that make us the envy of hipster brunches.

What I love the most about marketecture is when it stumps all of us. Or when we all have a different take on the word and are fighting in a global market to establish the dominance of a term. Take the term “Software-Defined-X” as a perfect example. I think it means, take the hardware out of the picture, and how does the software define your business? Or it could mean, define the hardware through your software. Or it could mean, define your IT with our software. Could mean anything. And in the end, it means absolutely nothing new. It’s just a cool term to help sales people win a date for lunch.

One term I hear more jokes about, and even more discontent, is The Cloud . One thing clear about the cloud is that it’s somewhere else. It’s also run by someone else. Oh, and you rent your use of it. What if I just stick MY stuff somewhere else and rent space and connectivity and power? We used to call that colocation , right? We still do, but if you add services onto that rental agreement, or rent more than just rack and power, it’ll probably be called managed hosting . So what, then, is Hybrid cloud?

This is a fun one, so buckle up. Hybrid cloud is when you mix cloud with your on-premises stuff. Woah. Mind blown. Here’s why this concept is so important right now. Unless your preferred cloud hoster uses some platform you already have, there is a very high chance YOUR stuff won’t easily slide between the cloud and your home datacenter. So the marketecture is making a big deal of technology that once could only speak with itself (silo) and now can replicate to AWS or Azure, for example.

Have you noticed yet, that your EMC storage features only really work with EMC stuff? There are exceptions, sure, but from an operational/cost perspective, it’s pretty much a single-vendor strategy. HP now owns technology up and down the stack, which is good, considering none of their stuff speaks to any other platform. Insert the names Dell, Tintri, NetApp, IBM… WAIT! Before I get sued for libel, slander, or flat-out ignorance, EVERY hardware vendor out there fits this mold. That hybrid marketecture assumes that YES! We can communicate with the cloud, as long as the cloud is using some part of our technology stack. Or, it assumes that since they bought a technology that links with AWS or Azure for backups, that they can actually move your stuff in and out of the cloud. The problem is that if I am selling you hardware, the LAST thing I want you to do is use the cloud. So I give you a crappy ticket to sit in the last row of the airplane, surrounded by teething babies, for your flight to the cloud.

So if my normal hardware vendor is trying, but can’t really do this, it seems I need to find a software product that defines a path to the cloud to integrate my on-premises datacenter to the cloud vendor(s) of my choice and back it with consistent operational practices across any HW or compute platform. While the marketers sharpen their pencils, I’ll help you out: this falls under a new header called “Hybrid Integration” products. We used to call these cloud management platforms, but then how could I sell them into YOUR datacenter, when they are clearly meant for the cloud, which is “somewhere else?” marketecture fail! Hey! That’s cool, and that’s me! I used to be Software-Defined Storage, but now I’m a Hybrid Integration Platform!! (Because I’m so much more than storage!) Heh! See how this works? VMware touts the Software-Defined Datacenter model, but they missed the cloud component. The cloud is a datacenter somewhere, but it is defined by my software? Ha! Words are great.

A client told me the other day that he “already has enterprise agreements with HP, EMC, and NetAPP, so why would I waste your time?” I laugh and say, “because none of their products can solve the problem you have, can they? Otherwise, why would you be talking to me?” What was that problem? Platform migrations, consolidation of resources, people, and datacenters. Cloud initiatives. Enterprise Transformation!! Oh Gartner: Fill my lexicon with garbage and make me SPEND!!! Amen.

Remember that there are a few common themes in all IT projects: Cost reduction vs. optimal spend, simplicity vs. functionality, proprietary integration vs. open-source customization and flexibility, sprawl vs. consolidation, and there is probably something in there about compliance and security vs. agility. You should care very much about vendors and platforms who are now very desperate to maintain your trust and patronage because they have, in effect, been you Vendor-Defined Datacenter provider for years. Make no mistake: VMware didn’t coin the term Software-Defined for the use of you and I. It’s Theirs. Marketers have pens AND swords there!! The cloud is not a description for YOUR datacenter if you staff it, run it, pay for it, and design it – even if you can connect to iti from somewhere else. So here are a few thoughts of guidance for entering into the hybrid cloud universe:

  1. Can you change HW vendors or platforms within a reasonable amount of time while maintaining operational control and integrity of your data?
  2. Can you choose a public or private cloud platform to use, and move to a new one with minimal disruption in a reasonable amount of time on a moment’s notice?
  3. Can you reduce your staff today and still maintain operational control of your datacenter through automation, consistent operations across platforms, without reliance on multiple specialty skillsets?
  4. Can you tell me today the per server or per GB cost for your datacenter and each component, to truly know where to spend your money and resources?
  5. Can you tell me in one console where problems are within your datacenter, all locations, and all cloud resources at a moment’s notice?

There is a real reason I chose these five factors. First, your HW vendors are struggling to find market share. Look at the mergers and acquisitions and the insecurity of the landscape. There is a fair to good chance you will be looking to jump vendor platforms within the next few years. What happens if ALL of your processes and skills are tied to ONE vendor’s products? There is also a very good chance you will be testing the cloud for specific workloads, if you are not today. How are you monitoring and managing all of that together? How do you know what your corporate credit card is getting charged for all those AWS instances you have out there? We all know companies are trying to do more with less. How can I be flexible in my relatively expensive IT staff if I rely on specialty skillsets tied to single vendors? How do I architect for freedom? How do I quantify the cost of my technical decisions? How can I relate what I’m doing to business terms and impact? If I don’t know what I’m spending or how I’m using things across ALL of my IT real-estate, how can I make a better budget and align spending to business value? It’s NOT in your HW vendor’s best interest for you to know this!! If 70% of my expensive VMAX storage is used for test/dev/archive, how could I make better use of resource? Finally, how do I gather information and relate it to meaningful business data across any storage, network, location, hypervisor, OS, container, application?

All of this can be done today, but you have to think differently to find it. You have to want to know. You have to find innovative products that break out of traditional silos and act like your very best employee would. You need an agnostic Hybrid Integration Platform that does not care what brand of anything is under it but cares very much about what brand of IT you want to have.

However, it is important to remember that Hybrid Integration Platform is a marketecture term, and will be put on like a set of clothing by many vendors assuring you that they will unlock the door to unlimited freedom, and unprecedented mobility across platforms, across clouds, and across the universe!!! (Insert echoing font here…) Just like you would test anything, test your Hybrid Integration. Look at all the point products you own and determine how they really integrate, operationally, with the cloud and what the hook is that traps you. Most importantly, determine if that trap is a comfortable one? Or if you need a better trap!

Want to hear more from Pete McCallum? Tune in to his live Webinar on March 7th at 10 am ET. Watch live or on demand. https://falconstor.com/page/633/brighttalk-upcoming-on-demand-webinars

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