Analyzing today's hybrid cloud architectures

Bill Claybrook, Contributor

In part one of our tutorial on hybrid cloud, we discussed the benefits and risks of a hybrid cloud environment. In part two, we'll analyze the prominent hybrid cloud offerings and how best to adopt this popular cloud service.

At this point, just about everyone claims to provide private or public cloud offerings. There are fewer vendors, however, that profess to offer hybrid cloud. Take a look at these clouds and see if they meet hybrid computing's challenges.

Note: These services are relatively new and haven't had much use in real enterprise environments.

Eucalyptus Systems -- with partner RightScale -- has a hybrid cloud based on the Eucalyptus platform. It is designed to be API-compatible with Amazon EC2. Virtual images created using Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition 2.0 can be migrated over to Amazon’s public cloud; they can also be downloaded from Amazon EC2 and run on your private Eucalyptus cloud platform. RightScale tools are used to manage it all. This option meets some portions of the hybrid cloud challenge, primarily because Eucalyptus and Amazon EC2 support the same cloud API; however, management and monitoring tools differ in the two cloud environments.

VMware is marrying private clouds created using the vCloud API with its vCloud Express public clouds (which also use the vCloud API). Unlike many of the other hybrid clouds, both the public and private clouds involved will be created by VMware. This approach can pose complications, as the IT department becomes fully locked in to VMware and any partners that support vCloud Express-based public clouds.

Nimbula provides the capability to manage both private and public clouds with its Nimbula Director offering. Nimbula's service allows for the migration of existing private cloud applications to the public cloud using an API that permits the management of all cloud resources. Nimbula Director also supports controlled access to Amazon EC2. This hybrid cloud option is reasonable and very similar to what Eucalyptus has to offer.

Finally, CloudSwitch has developed a hybrid cloud that allows application migration to a public cloud (such as Terremark's vCloud Express-based service) without having to change integration, networking and security policies or the way you monitor and manage applications. A tool in the form of a downloadable virtual appliance will be deployed in the private cloud, along with a virtual machine runs on behalf of the appliance in the public cloud. The virtual appliance and the appliance instance act as local control points and provide a secure data path to bridge network connectivity. As a result, applications running in the public cloud remain tightly integrated with internal processes and can be managed as if they are running locally in the private cloud. With respect to functionality, CloudSwitch comes the closest to satisfying any hybrid cloud challenges.

Tips for hopping into the hybrid cloud
For many enterprises, hybrid can be the best cloud option. But there are a lot of things to consider and a lot of questions to ask any vendor that is selling you on a hybrid cloud offering.

A hybrid cloud is typically offered in one of two ways: a vendor has a private cloud and forms a partnership with a public cloud provider, or a public cloud provider forms a partnership with a vendor that provides private cloud platforms. There are exceptions -- Terremark has a private cloud and a hybrid cloud. But generally, these vendors likely have different cloud APIs and different management, which results in integration issues that must be overcome to create a finely tuned hybrid cloud environment.

Cloud vendors always stress how easy it is to move to their hybrid environments; be careful.

Bill Claybrook

Cloud vendors almost always stress how easy it is to move to their hybrid environments; be careful. Before signing up to implement a hybrid cloud, talk to the people (primarily the public cloud folk) who are involved in providing your new cloud option. Shake their hands, find out who they are, what their qualifications and skill sets are and how they are organized with respect to problem resolutions. When an application goes down in the middle of the night, find out who to contact. And don’t forget to ask important questions about performance and latency.

Moving to a hybrid cloud environment -- even if you have already been using public clouds and/or private clouds -- is a big step. While you've been warned about being locked in to your private cloud vendor before, being locked into a hybrid cloud is almost a certainty. This is because of the total lack of open standards around cloud computing beyond OVF.

Unraveling yourself from one hybrid environment and moving to another is not something that you will want to undertake. Before you accept the claims made by hybrid cloud vendors, ensure that their offering will satisfy your requirements by talking to their reference customers.

If you have a private cloud and want to move to a hybrid cloud environment, there are some good alternatives for you to consider:

  1. Find a vendor such as CloudSwitch that can abstract platforms, hypervisors, and APIs out of the picture.
  2. Find a public cloud provider that supports your private cloud API so that migrating virtual images back and forth is easier than if the APIs differ.
  3. Find a cloud vendor such as VMware that has the same cloud stack and cloud API for both the private cloud and public cloud.
  4. Find a third party that has software that can be tailored to migrate virtual images between your private cloud and the public cloud.

The lack of cloud interoperability is a big hybrid cloud issue. Look toward cloud vendors that have both large numbers of partners and cloud APIs that might be candidates for ratification as open standards for clouds. Several private clouds support the Amazon EC2 API, and VMware uses its vCloud API in both its private and public clouds.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bill Claybrook is a marketing research analyst with more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, with the last 10 years in Linux and open source. From 1999 to 2004, Bill was Research Director of Linux and Open Source, at Aberdeen Group in Boston. He resigned his competitive analyst/Linux product marketing position at Novell in June 2009 after spending over four and a half years at the company. He is now president of New River Marketing Research in Concord, Mass. He holds a doctorate in computer science.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Hybrid cloud management tools and strategies or view the full guide: How to manage cloud resources from the data center

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