Hybrid Clouds Offer Flexibility?and Challenges

The deployment of hybrid cloud environments is on the rise, with organizations looking to take advantage of the flexibility provided by this mixed environment of private and public clouds. The strategy offers enterprises some clear potential benefits—as well as challenges.

The term “hybrid cloud” can mean different things to different people, analysts say. Vendors have tossed around the phrase so much that there are multiple meanings of hybrid environments.

“At its most basic, hybrid cloud could be the integrated management of two or more cloud environments,” says Ed Anderson, research vice president of cloud services at Gartner. “In its most complex form, hybrid cloud could be an environment where applications run across multiple cloud systems, integrating application logic and data as needed.”

Hybrid cloud applications “could also dynamically subscribe to and release different application components, which are hosted as cloud services, providing an adaptive and dynamic application environment,” he adds.

Having a hybrid cloud environment is an end goal for many cloud-using organizations, says Benjamin McGrath, research analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC). Hybrid represents a mature cloud strategy, he says, and organizations with a hybrid cloud strategy are generally more advanced in terms of how their employees use technology.

The hybrid strategy can come with a variety of challenges that companies will need to address if they’re to be successful with this type of IT environment. One of the biggest hurdles is determining how to manage IT resources—particularly a unified service catalog and the ability to define cloud management policies and service-level agreements (SLAs), McGrath says.

Addressing Hybrid Challenges

The hybrid cloud issues and challenges Gartner sees most organizations facing today include the migration of data from one cloud environment to another; the integration of data or application logic across cloud environments; technology incompatibilities among cloud platforms; and the management of applications and data across different cloud environments.

Despite these and other challenges, the use of hybrid clouds is increasing, according to industry research. Market research firm Markets and Markets, in a report “Hybrid Cloud Market by Solution—Global Forecast to 2019,” forecasts that the hybrid cloud market will grow from $25.28 billion in 2014 to $84.67 billion in 2019, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27%.

Most organizations are implementing hybrid clouds so they can use both private and public clouds simultaneously, the report says. About half (48%) of the organizations surveyed for the study said they were planning to adopt hybrid cloud services in the near future.

Hybrid Cloud Gets Good Grades

One organization that relies on a hybrid cloud environment is Marist College, which uses it both for internal use and for hosting services that it provides for a fee to other institutions, including other colleges, as well as public and private school districts.

The college relies on its own private cloud to run all of its student services, as well as its library systems and learning management systems.

Marist leverages public cloud services in part to obtain expertise that it lacks in-house and which would be costly to acquire, says Bill Thirsk, vice president of IT and CIO. For example, Marist is using a cloud service operated by the U.S. Department of Education’s (DoE’s) financial services department to run complex calculations related to federal financial aid for its students.