Is Hybrid Cloud Dead?

IT trends come and go in waves. Those of us who have been around a while have seen the circle turn several times. What about cloud computing? Already there’s public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. Then there’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Some vendors even bandy around terms like Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) and DisasterRecovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). And my friend and colleague Jimmy Vo even offers Roundhouse-as-a-Service (RaaS) for IT pros who have training in mixed martial arts (MMA).

But as I already said, these things seem to come and go. Has the time for hybrid cloud already passed? Or as I argued in a recent issue of our weekly newsletter, is hybrid cloud dead? To think through an answer to this question I decided to interview Symon Perriman, formerly the senior technical evangelist at Microsoft in the areas of virtualization, Windows Server and System Center. Symon and I previously collaborated on a Microsoft Press book titled “Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2.” Since then, Symon has moved on and he now manages Microsoft partner 5nine Software as its vice president of business development, and sports tech startup FanWide as its president and founder. He is also a technical adviser for several enterprise consulting and hardware companies.

Mitch Tulloch: Symon, the move towards hybrid-cloud computing is pretty much dead in the water as far as most enterprises are concerned, isn’t that right?

Symon Perriman

Symon Perriman

Symon Perriman: I disagree, as I believe that hybrid-cloud usage will grow as enterprises become more comfortable with the concept of connecting their datacenter to a public cloud. If you look back at the evolution of cloud-computing platforms, first the industry had to embrace virtualization. Next we adopted private clouds that pool the hardware resources and offer self-service with automation. Public-cloud acceptance was slower as many companies were resistant to trust it, with the major criticism being data sovereignty, as information stored on servers in a different country are subject to their laws.

Organizations are gradually realizing that a hybrid-cloud solution addresses these issues, offering them the best of both worlds — a connected service with unlimited scale in a public cloud, yet with full control by whoever accesses their data when it is located within their own datacenter, or hosted by a domestic service provider.

MT: You said that organizations are “gradually realizing” that hybrid cloud offers them the best of both worlds: the private cloud in their datacenter and the public cloud offered by service providers. It seems to me, however, that this is happening so gradually that the whole idea of hybrid cloud is probably going to lose its attraction before it gains enough traction to happen. Isn’t the reality that many organizations have already begun dipping their toes into public cloud without first migrating their traditional datacenter into private-cloud format? I mean, why even bother with hybrid cloud at all if you can move almost your entire computing infrastructure into Docker on AWS and then fire most of your IT department to save money?

SP: Hybrid-cloud technology is very complex, and still quickly evolving. A stable hardware platform and hybrid-cloud security solutions need to be available before the masses fully embrace it. Microsoft has been leading the way with technologies like Windows Azure Pack (WAP], allowing service providers and private clouds to offer Azure-like services that run on their own hardware. Next year we will see Microsoft Azure Stack (MAS), with several hyper-converged hardware offerings from IHVs running Azure-compatible services for cloud apps.

Another hyperconverged player to watch is HyperGrid [former Gridstore], who have recently announced a HyperConverged Infrastructure-as-a-Service [HCIaaS] offering, essentially allowing businesses to “rent” the hardware from them and only pay for the resources that they are consuming. Security solutions have also been developed to protect these new hybrid platforms, such as 5nine Cloud Security, which protects applications that span across private clouds running Microsoft Hyper-V and service-provider clouds running Windows Azure Pack. I believe that existing organizations will continue to consider hybrid-cloud offerings to keep their services stable and secure, but newly created organizations or applications should consider going straight to the public cloud.

MT: I guess my main problem with the hybrid-cloud approach is what you said in your first sentence — that the technology for implementing it is complex and still evolving. Why should an enterprise with a traditional datacenter, one that hasn’t tried to implement a private cloud yet, even consider deploying a hybrid-cloud solution when the technologies for those solutions are constantly changing? For example, a while back I tried to write a series of walkthrough articles on Deploying Windows Azure Pack for, but I found the technology so complex to work with that I had to enlist the help of an expert from the Windows Server team at Microsoft to help me finish it. And I’ve been working with the Windows Server and System Center platforms for years! But now with the upcoming 2016 platform release it looks like Windows Azure Pack is going to eventually be superseded by the upcoming Microsoft Azure Stack, and from what I’ve heard, if organizations want to deploy MAS in a production environment they’ll need to purchase a preconfigured hardware/software bundle from partners Dell or HP instead of rolling their own because roll-your-own MAS setups will only be supported for proof-of-concept (PoC) deployments! So doesn’t this mean that organizations that have already bought into the WAP Kool-Aid and have started deploying it are screwed? They’ll have to shell out big bucks for new systems from Dell/HP and redesign/re-implement everything.

SP: I do not think that the hybrid-cloud movement has passed us already. I think we’re just seeing the start of it. Hybrid cloud is still a bleeding-edge technology, maybe one of the most complex set of integrated solutions that our industry has even seen. It requires combining diverse on-premises servers, networks, storage with third-party cloud infrastructure — that is a lot of discrete systems that need to work synchronously for a stable solution. But I do not think that anyone who joined the IT industry should be afraid of new technologies — we are in the fastest evolving industry in history, so you need to be ready to embrace change or get left behind.

Hybrid cloud providers like Microsoft are also realizing that the “do-it-yourself” approach for Windows Azure Pack introduced a lot of complexity, especially around configuration of nonstandardized hardware, which is why you are starting to see pre-validated solutions like Microsoft Azure Stack and HyperGrid’s HCIaaS offering. I do want clarify the common misperception that MAS is designed to be a replacement for WAP, as they are designed to coexist and support different types of services and applications. WAP requires System Center, and is designed to integrate into an existing Microsoft datacenter to support virtualized workloads. MAS can be a standalone deployment with no dependencies on System Center, and it is optimized for cloud-architected apps that are developed to run on Azure services, though MAS will still support traditional virtualized workloads. Do not wait another year until you can deploy MAS if you are looking for a hybrid-cloud solutions for your virtual machines. Use WAP today, but be ready to ask for help from the experts along the way.

MT: Well you’ve given us lots to think about, thanks! How about if we finish off our interview by having you tell us a bit about how 5nine products and solutions can help organizations deploy or migrate towards a hybrid-cloud environment?

SP: Thanks Mitch. At 5nine Software we develop security and management solutions exclusively for Hyper-V with over 100,000 users, and we are investing heavily in hybrid-cloud solutions with our next wave of releases. I think a testament to Microsoft’s leadership in the hybrid-cloud space is seen from the significant number of VMware users wanting to integrate their on-premises infrastructure with Microsoft Azure. However, for a VMware virtual machine to run on Azure, it first has to be converted into a traditional Hyper-V VM. 5nine Software provides the leading VMware to Hyper-V migration tool, converting VMware VMs to Hyper-V — and soon to Azure — and best of all the 5nine V2V Easy Converter is free.

The other hybrid-cloud challenge that 5nine is addressing is security, as it is tough to ensure consistent firewall or intrusion-detection policies across a distributed service, since all changes and threat detection must be coordinated. 5nine Cloud Security is designed for VMs spanning Hyper-V and Windows Azure Pack, with support for Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Azure Stack coming soon. And no security agents have to be installed inside the VMs, increasing the privacy of tenants. Now that Microsoft and their partners have started focusing on the hybrid cloud, adoption across the industry should follow.

MT: Thanks very much, Symon, for giving us some of your valuable time!

SP: It has been a pleasure, thank you for the opportunity to tell the audience a little more about Microsoft’s hybrid cloud.

For more information about Symon Perriman, visit his website or LinkedIn profile. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Oh yeah, and now there’s HyperConverged Infrastructure-As-A-Service (HCIaaS). Sigh.

Photo credit: FreeRange Stock

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