How to combine your clouds

How can a hybrid cloud be created, and do Middle Eastern enterprises have the skills to do it?

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How to combine your clouds
By  Tom Paye Published  July 23, 2014

It has been hailed as the future of cloud computing — an answer to concerns over security on one hand and scalability on the other — and, if the leading vendors are to be believed, it will change the face of enterprise networking. The trend we are talking about here is, of course, hybrid cloud – an amalgamation of both private and public cloud technologies that, in theory, will allow enterprises to leverage cloud-based technologies in extraordinarily specific ways so that they can be tailored to business needs.

As Jeroen Schlosser, managing director of Equinix MENA, explains, “The most important advantage of hybrid cloud is the flexibility to use whatever model makes the most sense for any given application.”

But despite the promise that hybrid cloud holds, it’s another thing entirely to put the theory into practice. Of course, every IT manager would love to leverage the best of both public and private cloud, but given the emerging nature of hybrid cloud, there’s precious little information to go on when it comes to actually building one. The Middle East, in particular, is only just warming up to the idea of public cloud – and it’s still a taboo subject in verticals such as banking and finance.

That said, the region has shown a reasonably strong interest in private cloud, creating what are essentially fully virtualised infrastructures and using cloud-like capabilities for their own networks. Highly secure, these environments have been favoured by government organisations and large enterprises, though, again, they are not without their drawbacks.

Public vs. private vs. hybrid

Before working out the drawbacks of various types of cloud, and whether hybrid cloud is really all that it’s cracked up to be, it is worth spending some time on where exactly the hybrid cloud fits into the cloud landscape. Schlosser provides a run-down of the benefits and limitations associated with public cloud.

“It’s understandable that many think of the cloud as synonymous with the public cloud. Public clouds are great for application development and scientific data processing. They are owned and operated by third-party service providers. Customers benefit from economies of scale because infrastructure costs are spread across all users, thus allowing each individual client to operate on a low-cost, pay-as-you-go model. Another advantage of public cloud infrastructures is that they are typically larger in scale than an in-house enterprise cloud, which provides clients with seamless, on-demand scalability. Yet it’s usually the lack of support services following an outage that leads CIOs to realise that they need more than the public cloud,” he says.

Naturally, private clouds are different entirely. Instead of being hosted by a telco or cloud service provider, private cloud services are hosted within the organisation’s own data centre, or at least in rented data centre space accessible only by the end-user organisation.

“Private clouds are clouds which are run in-house or on-premise with no sharing with anybody outside. So you have a cloud environment set up in your own IT organisation and it is shared only within the organisation. No-one from outside can access it or can run applications on it. It is completely within your own data centre and completely in your control, and you can have whatever security systems you want and manage and monitor the way you want,” explains Biswajeet Mahapatra, research director at Gartner.

In either scenario, an enterprise can set utilise technologies such as platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS). The difference is simply on where the services — and data — are hosted, and indeed who is ultimately responsible for the quality of those services.

Hybrid cloud, then, does just what it says on the tin. Sudheer Subramanian, senior IT solutions director at Huawei Enterprise Middle East, says that the hybrid cloud can easily be defined as a single data centre that offers both public and private cloud.

“So a company is able to go to a cloud service provider where they will be able to help manage your apps in either the public or private cloud, depending on the business requirement and sensitivity of data and apps,” he says.

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