9 Key Trends in Hybrid Cloud Computing

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All three forms of cloud computing – public, private, and hybrid – have undergone considerable evolution since the concepts first gained the attention of IT years ago. Hybrid cloud is the overwhelming favorite form of the cloud, with 88% of firms surveyed rating it as important or critical to their business.

The lightning-fast evolution of hybrid cloud means the conventional wisdom of a year or two back is already obsolete. So we asked several industry analysts where they saw the hybrid cloud headed in 2016 and got some interesting answers.

1) 2016 might be the year that we get hybrid cloud to actually work.

By its very nature, hybrid cloud relies on private cloud, which has proven elusive for most enterprises. The fact is that the public cloud – Amazon, Google, Microsoft – have had much more investment and a longer head start. The private cloud has hamstrung the hybrid cloud's growth and usability.

There hasn't been as much investment in the private cloud because by its very nature, the private cloud means keeping and investing in your own data center. And many public cloud providers are pushing enterprises to reduce or eliminate their data center spending all together.

However, this year will see the private cloud start to catch up thanks to advances in OpenStack and Microsoft's Azure Stack, which is basically a private cloud in a box. The tools, infrastructures, and architectures to support hybrid cloud are also becoming much more robust.

2) Containers, microservices, and unikernels will bolster the hybrid cloud.

These are all cloud native technologies and will all be more or less mainstream by the end of 2016, analysts predict. They are maturing rapidly and serving as a viable alternative to virtual machines, which require more resources.

More importantly, they work in an on-premises scenario as well as an off-premises scenario. Containerization and orchestration allow rapid scale up, scale out, and service migration between public and private cloud, making it even easier to move your services around.

3) Data and relevance take center stage

The cloud, in all its forms, has been in growth mode. That makes it a technology story. But with the cloud shifting into maturity, data and relevance become more important, according to the consultancy Avoa. At first, the cloud and Big Data were all about sucking up as much data as possible. Then they worried about what to do with it.

In 2016, organizations will hone their craft in how data is collected and used. There is still much progress to be made in the technological and cultural aspects that must be dealt with. But 2016 should bring a renewed focus on the importance of data from all aspects and finding the most relevant information, not just lots of it.

4) Cloud services move beyond just on-demand workloads

AWS got its start as a place where a programmer/developer could spin up a VM real quick, get some work done, and get off. That's the essence of on-demand use, and given how much it can cost to leave those services constantly running, there is almost a disincentive to keep them running 24/7.

However, IT organizations are starting to act as service brokers to provide all manner of IT services to their in-house users. This can be anything from in-house IT services, public cloud infrastructure providers, platform-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service.

They will increasingly recognize the value of tools like cloud management platforms to provide consistent policy-based management over many of these different services. And they will see the value of technology such as containers to enhance portability. However, cloud service brokering in the sense of rapidly moving workloads between clouds for price arbitrage and related reasons will continue to be a non-starter.

5) Service providers become cloud service providers

Up to now, buying cloud services has been a direct sale model. The user was frequently the buyer of AWS EC2 services, either through officially recognized channels at work or through Shadow IT. But as cloud services become more comprehensive, and the menu of services more confusing, more and more people are turning to resellers and services providers to act as the purchaser of IT services for them.

A recent survey by 2nd Watch, a Seattle-based cloud services provider, found nearly 85 percent of IT executives in the United States would be willing to pay a small premium to buy public cloud from a channel partner if it were to make it less complex. And about four out of every five within that 85 percent would shell out an extra 15 percent or more, the survey found. One in three executives surveyed said they could use the help in buying, using, and managing public cloud services.

6) IoT and cloud is to 2016 what mobile and cloud was to 2012

IoT is gaining mindshare and, more importantly, it's moving from test beds to real use cases. The cloud is a vital part for IoT due to its distributed nature, and for industrial IoT, where machinery and heavy equipment talk to back-end systems, a hybrid cloud will be most natural driver because the connection, data collection, and processing will happen in a hybrid cloud environment, due to perceived benefits of the private cloud side, like security and privacy.

7) The NIST definition of the cloud begins to break down

In 2011, the National Institute of Standards and Technology published "The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing" (PDF) that became the standard definitions of private, public, and hybrid cloud terms and as-a-service models.

Over time, though, the definitions have changed. IaaS has become much more complex, supporting things like OpenStack, Swift for object storage and Neutron networking. PaaS seems to be fading out because there's little that separates it from traditional middleware application development. And SaaS, which was just apps accessed through a browser, is losing steam because with so many cloud APIs for apps and services, you can access them through anything, not just a browser.

8) Analytics becomes more important

Analytics will be a huge growth opportunity for hybrid cloud because the high volume of data used in analytics is well suited to cloud, with its advantages of large scale and elasticity. For some forms of analytics, like highly sensitive data, then the private cloud will still rule. But the private cloud is part of the hybrid cloud, so either way, hybrid cloud wins.

9) Security takes on a new urgency

As hybrid cloud grows in 2016 and adds all kinds of new technologies, like IoT and containers, this just adds more vulnerable surface areas for data breaches. Add to it the tendency to rush into a new technology and then secure it later, which happens all the time, along with inexperienced technologists who don't think to secure the system – and you have a recipe for disaster.

When new technologies come out, management discipline almost always lags and we think about securing the technology later. Containers are a good example. You can download all kinds of sample containers from Docker, but do you know where it came from? Docker had to go back and add security verifications after it started letting people download and run containers without any idea what was really in it.

Mobile technologies like Path and Snapchat had major security problems a few years back as the smartphone market was taking off. It's inevitable that a new technology will be exploited by the bad guys. So security researchers will have their hands full trying to secure these new technologies. Probably after they get deployed.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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