The enterprise wish-list for the hybrid cloud

What enterprises like GE, Pfizer and Citigroup want from Amazon, Microsoft and Google

If you know how to drive one car, you know how to drive pretty much any car. The gas pedal is always on the right and brake on the left. Push the turn signal up to go right and down to go left. Whether it’s a Ford or a Toyota, you don’t need to relearn how to drive each car.

Public cloud should be the same way, argues Bob Wysocki, CTO of Digital Infrastructure for General Electric and a member of the Open Networking User Group (ONUG). This week at ONUG’s annual fall meeting in New York a key theme is making it easier for enterprises to use public IaaS cloud services. Earlier this year ONUG created a new Hybrid Cloud Working Group that has created a sort of wish-list of what enterprise customers from GE, Pfizer, Citigroup and Gap would like to see from public cloud vendors to achieve easier usability.

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Integrating workloads across public and private clouds, and among public IaaS clouds is a key area of concern for this group of users. Nelson Tai, senior manager of hosting and connectivity services for Pfizer, says the pharmaceutical company is in the process of migrating non-sensitive applications to the IaaS public cloud, with plans to move more there in the future. Being able to migrate data and applications across clouds would be a “more cohesive design” for the company, he said during a panel discussion on hybrid cloud use cases.

Wysocki, who used the car analogy, says there are cloud brokerage services that allow organizations to deploy resources to various public IaaS clouds. But it is relatively low-level functionality. Layer 2 networking functionality provides physical access to the multiple clouds from a central cloud brokerage facility. But higher-level layer 3 functionality would be a huge advancement for users. Customers would not have to create different networking functions like virtual private networks for each cloud.

Wish list

ONUG’s Hybrid Cloud Working Group released a whitepaper ahead of the conference with tips for how enterprises should adopt hybrid cloud and requests of how working group members would like to see the IaaS vendors improve their platforms. Other items on the wish-list include:

-Common encryption and key management among clouds

Encrypting data going to and stored in the cloud is a common security best practice. ONUG’s Hybrid Cloud Working Group calls for a “common key management approach” to protect data and manage encryption keys to make it easier to do this across providers.

-A common northbound API

Each of the major IaaS cloud providers has its own native cloud management platform for deploying resources. A common API across providers for controlling basic IaaS resources like virtual machines, storage and databases would allow enterprises to create a consolidated customer owned and operated orchestration platform across IaaS clouds.

-Standard policy definition and language

Different products and services have different names across different providers making the tracking and auditing of hybrid clouds difficult. A common language for common services among providers would make tracking and using these services easier.

Reality check

So would public cloud providers ever do this? Nick Lippis, an independent analyst and ONUG board member says ONUG and the Hybrid Cloud working group member companies want public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud to innovate at “higher levels of the stack.” But for core services that are common across all of them, there should be more commonality among the providers. “The enterprise strategy is hybrid cloud,” Lippis says. “What we are saying is this is a strategically important area for large corporations that are using the cloud.”

If cloud providers make their platforms more interoperable, it will open up a wider market for public cloud services, he adds. Common service provisioning across clouds will make public cloud more palatable for a wider group of users who will not feel they’re being locked in by choosing one provider over another. Lippis believes that when customers who have large buying power speak with a unified voice, it’s the best way to achieve these common end user goals.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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