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How to go hybrid

If hybrid clouds are the new frontier, how will enterprises get there?

By , Network World
February 22, 2012 03:00 PM ET

Network World - When online marketing firm Hubspot started in 2006, the company's IT needs were not very taxing, but they expanded quickly as the company realized success.

Hubspot - which provides software for businesses to coordinate their online marketing efforts - started with a private cloud for its front-end web hosting. Soon though, CIO Jim O'Neill realized he would need additional computing power for the company's web analytics programs and "big data" storage needs.

The public cloud was a natural fit. "We really wanted the flexibility to scale up into a larger capacity when we needed it," he said.

But the cloud environments had to work together, so O'Neill began the task of creating a hybrid cloud, which draws on the resources of both the public and the private clouds. For Hubspot, the hybrid cloud meant having the peace of mind of keeping important web hosting functions in its private cloud and the flexibility to use public cloud resources when needed.

The industry consensus, according to experts, is that most enterprises will eventually end up with hybrid cloud environments. But that's easier said than done. "It takes careful planning," O'Neill says.

READ: Forget Public Cloud or Private Cloud, It's All About Hyper-Hybrid 

BACKGROUND: Enterprise cloud services archive 

A study conducted at Gartner's 2011 Data Center Conference in December showed that 78% of 2,500 attendees surveyed said they plan to build private cloud services by 2014. "We believe that the vast majority of private clouds will migrate or evolve into a hybrid model," says Gartner researcher Thomas Bittman. "We're telling clients to design and build their private clouds with hybrid in mind."

The problem is there are no standards for interoperability between public and private clouds. So when enterprises go to integrate their clouds they face many challenges.

Hubspot's O'Neill, for example, says the company had to resolve IP domain naming issues. When the company went to add public cloud support, O'Neill had to coordinate which IP addresses would be hosted by the company and which would be under the public vendor's control. It took about a month of working with Amazon and Rackspace, the firm's public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) vendors, he says, but eventually the hybrid cloud was created.

While there are no standards for integrating clouds, Bittman says there are four "centers of gravity" for typical hybrid cloud environments, each of which have pros and cons in terms of facilitating the effort.

One of the centers is based on the dominant private cloud vendor, VMware, whose products enable enterprises to build an array of private clouds.

By its own accounting, VMware is a mainstay for more than 80% of private clouds today, and while VMware does not offer public cloud services itself, it has a network of 94 partners that customers can work with to create hybrid environments.

That's the upside. On the downside, it can be hard to integrate public cloud services from suppliers that are not VMware-centric, and Bittman says some enterprises fear building their whole integrated cloud environment around tools from one supplier.

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