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The Hybrid Cloud is the Future of IT Infrastructure

The smartest way to play the cloud is to own the base and rent the spike

Last summer a CIO for a high profile ecommerce company told me that the smartest way to play the cloud was to rent the spike. I just read the same thing from Zynga’s Infrastructure CTO Allan Leinwand in Inside Zynga’s Big Move To Private Cloud by InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock:

“We own the base, rent the spike. We want a hybrid operation. We love knowing that shock absorber is there.” – Allan Leinwand

In 2008 when we formed the Infrastructure 2.0 working group, many of the most influential voices were trumpeting a new (8th) layer in the OSI stack as a solution to the critical ability to move workloads between clouds. I remember watching senior executives from Cisco, F5, and others roll their eyes when one of the participants was sketching out what would have been a massive re-architecting of the network as we know it.

Those of us absorbed in the workings of the working group saw the network as strategic to the evolution of the cloud (see Urquhart blog “The network: the final frontier for cloud computing”). Yet the traditional network hardware players could be at risk as private clouds explore x86-centric solutions that avoid the perils of politics (what a senior cloud exec at a recent Gartner conference called the 8th layer), ASIC churn and “packet ping pong complexity” as dedicated physical appliances are under more scrutiny in virtualized environments where networks are terminating inside the hypervisor, in a privileged layer in front of the VMs.

Sensors, shims and hairpins connecting x86 blades with arrays of specialized network appliances are temporary fixes and are as compelling today as the conventional and wasteful data center built to last less than seven years (and only to be replaced by yet another massive 7 year investment). As IT infrastructure becomes more robust and dynamic the facilities need to be designed to address the new demands, including increased power, cooling and density. What I took from my campfire chat with a PayPal exec and the Leinwand interview: innovative companies have found ways to move virtual machines between clouds and that has given them considerable competitive advantages over peer companies trying to shim the network with elaborate schemes or create an eighth layer. They are also using commoditized hardware increasingly to deliver highly custom infrastructures, tightly aligned with their applications and services, that can easily scale.

Looking back, it seems that what was once custom (like the arcane world of ASIC-based network appliances) will go (x86)vanilla and what was once commodity (one design fits all network management software differentiable by release date and requiring ever more complex additional management software) is being increasingly customized by enterprise to enable strategic advantage.

Note my earlier blog about Looking Beyond the Vanilla Data Center, where I argued that the once commodity “one design fits all” data center with fixed modules and vanilla electrical and mechanical design would be under increasing pressure from developers who build highly custom facilities optimized for extreme energy efficiency, scalability and alignment with strategic operational objectives.

Contrary to Carr’s Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage, enterprises are gaining more control over their applications, services and even data center environments thanks to the commoditization of server hardware and the potential of commoditization of network hardware. They are utilizing IT to an even fuller extent to gain competitive advantage.

Consumerization is creeping into IT with as much speed as it has spread to users. That means more choice, more differentiation and more influence over future vendor releases and the design and construction of new data centers.

More Stories By Greg Ness

Gregory Ness is the VP of Marketing of Vidder and has over 30 years of experience in marketing technology, B2B and consumer products and services. Prior to Vidder, he was VP of Marketing at cloud migration pioneer CloudVelox. Before CloudVelox he held marketing leadership positions at Vantage Data Centers, Infoblox (BLOX), BlueLane Technologies (VMW), Redline Networks (JNPR), IntruVert (INTC) and ShoreTel (SHOR). He has a BA from Reed College and an MA from The University of Texas at Austin. He has spoken on virtualization, networking, security and cloud computing topics at numerous conferences including CiscoLive, Interop and Future in Review.

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