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Hybrid Cloud Computing: Is it Organic or GMO (Generally Made-up Over-complication)?

It’s already hard enough to understand what people mean when they talk about cloud computing.  Now cloud computing vendors and IT industry analysts are talking about “hybrid” cloud computing.  Is this some new trend that’s happening organically in the market, or is it “Generally Made-up Over-complication” by pundits and vendors?  

Clouds in New York in time for Interop

Clouds converge on New York in time for the Interop conference


These vendors and analysts don’t even mean the same thing when using the term “hybrid.” They can be referring to at least one of three different concepts:

  1. IT infrastructures made up of on premise and cloud deployments.
  2. Multi-cloud deployments , especially multiple Software as a Service or platform as a service clouds.
  3. IT strategy that makes use of multiple cloud deployment approaches.

While this multitude of meanings makes comprehension more difficult than necessary, I assert that all of the above are valid observations about how the cloud computing market is evolving for customers. It’s worth your time to understand these trends because they have implications about how you may want to approach cloud computing in your company.  It’s a topic that SAP will be talking about a lot at this week’s Interop conference in New York. Let’s take a quick look at each of these concepts.

Hybrid IT Infrastructures of on premise and cloud deployments

In this concept, analyst and vendors are talking about customers who are weaving together solutions that combine deployments that involve both legacy on premise systems and software services in the cloud. This is more than simply including SaaS point solutions in your IT mix – it’s actually combining them in some integrated fashion.  This is a strong medium term trend, and we are seeing a lot of customers who expect their IT platforms to morph this direction as they evolve to the cloud. These customers want to gain efficiency and agility from leveraging the cloud, while still enjoying significant business value from their on premise enterprise systems.

T departments expect to evolve a hybrid cloud and on-premise IT infrastructure

Results of recent poll showing enterprise IT departments expect to evolve a hybrid cloud and on-premise IT infrastructure in the medium term. 

A couple use cases where this concept is employed by SAP customers includes:

1)      Incorporating Software as a Service add-ons that are designed to integrate with on premise SAP Business Suite such as the SAP Customer OnDemand solution and SAP Sales and Operations Planning.

2)      Leveraging public cloud Infrastructure as a Services such as Amazon Web Services to clone testing and training sandbox systems from on premise production systems.

My colleague Jeff Anders, Director of Solution Management at SAP, will be discussing the latter use case and related topics about evolving from an on-premise IT practice to a cloud-centered IT practice in a couple of talks at the Interop New York Enterprise Cloud Summit:

Hybrid IT infrastructures of multiple cloud services

Another concept commonly called “hybrid cloud” is from IT industry analysts raising concerns that customers need interoperability and portability between cloud environments from  different service providers. This would apply to use cases such as:

1) Business departments purchasing SaaS offerings from different vendors, leading to siloing of business processes and information in different clouds

2) SaaS developers not wanting to be locked into a single providers’ platform as a service

In the siloed cloud case, two approaches seem to be developing in the market. First is an integration cloud approach from vendors such as Dell Boomi. Second are extension applications that automatically provide multiple integrated services. A few examples of these integration applications can be seen with SAP Partners that service SAP Business ByDesign:

In the SaaS developer case, many of these ISVs are more interested in being the software developer and not a service provider which is why they leverage another parties platform as a service. At the same time, they do not want to be beholden to this single service provider.  Reasons for this can include wanting to be able to market to multiple vendor customer bases and to mitigate their lack of control over the servers.

For those ISVs that want cloud independence, developing with industry standard languages and frameworks such as Java are important to ensure portability between stacks. Standards for portability of environments are also evolving. One initiative that SAP is working with is TOSCA which supports trends such as software defined networking and storage. This work essentially lets a newly installed service define its own cloud “stack.: Another approach is the development of an industry standard cloud computing infrastructure, such as OpenStack, as primarily championed by cloud vendor RackSpace.

For end customers, Platform as a Service portability also needs to be considered. Most customers will likely acquire multiple PaaS providers. This is simply due to the fact that different platform services are better for different kinds of tasks. While I wouldn’t consider portability to be the biggest issue for end customers, ones’ custom investment should be proportional to the value of business supported by the service. Also, remember to think like a nomad and don’t become too locked into a service. You never know when you might have to migrate off.

My colleague Benjamin Wesson, VP of Product Management at SAP, is taking part in a panel session discussing cloud applications and Platform as a Service on Monday, October 1, from 2:30 to 3:00PM.   

A Hybrid IT Strategy leveraging multiple approaches to cloud computing

This is my personal definition of hybrid cloud computing. Most of SAP’s customers are already employing a hybrid approach with the business ordering SaaS services while IT is looking to migrate on-premise servers to virtualized instances or to public or private cloud services. The question is whether this is being done in a coordinated fashion.

Cloud computing benefits

Interplay between cloud computing benefits and usage

Diagram (c) 2012 SAP AG. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License

In a hybrid IT cloud strategy, IT and the business would leverage multiple cloud approaches to achieve the primary benefits of cloud computing: efficiency, agility, and innovation.  Doing this effectively requires a more cooperative yet decentralized relationship between the business and IT. IT will involve itself with modernizing on premise systems that are still providing value with cloud technology, and will serve more of a consulting and standards setting role to the business. The business will take more responsibility for adding on new business capabilities through procuring software as a service, according to standards set and with procurement assistance provided by IT.

I will be speaking more about this topic in my session “Fostering Business Innovation with a Hybrid Approach to Cloud Computing”, on Thursday, Oct 4 at  2:55.   

Learning more about SAP and Cloud Computing

If you would like to learn how cloud computing solutions from SAP can help you achieve business efficiency, agility, and foster innovation, I encourage you to check out one of the sessions above, drop by the SAP booth – Booth #717 – in the Cloud & Virtualization Zone at the Interop Expo, or check out the following helpful links:

Finally, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @GregChase. I will be tweet casting all during the Interop conference, and about cloud computing topics in general.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Interesting article on hybrids.

      Put in in perspective of our SAP pre-integrated offering for hybrids:


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      As you can see, this kind of integration between on premise and SaaS is going to be important for the next couple of years. There's rarely a good business case to take down existing systems such as an up to date ERP system. There's a lot of good reasons to leverage cloud to add on new functionality. Out of the, er, cloud integration is what makes this doable.