Hybrid cloud has benefits, but complexity slows movement, panelists say

DALLAS--Hybrid cloud can offer a number of benefits for a large enterprise--including the ability to offload nonessential functions like managing e-mail--but security and a loss of control over private data means uptick is slower than expected.

During the "Simplifying the Cloud for Enterprise-Class Customers" panel at TIA 2015, a group of panelists outlined how they are approaching the hybrid cloud opportunity.

NTT Communications, a global player focused on serving multinational corporations, has set an ambitious plan for its cloud services set. Leveraging the assets it purchased from Virtela in 2013, the service provider will extend its software-defined networking (SDN)-based cloud services portfolio with plans to make it available in 17 of its global data centers by the end of this year.

Joe Corvaia, VP of sales engineering for NTT, said that although interest in hybrid cloud is growing, adoption depends on the particular market and customer.

"The level of adoption of the cloud area certainly differs by market size and company," Corvaia said. "There are a lot of pointed deployments of cloud infrastructure so maybe there's some that sit on Amazon and some that sits on Microsoft Azure and really the big initiative is how do we collapse and consolidate those architectures and how do we put the workload in the right cloud."

Corvaia added that due to all of the questions about the right process of what applications should go into the cloud, NTT's large business customers are being careful about implementing hybrid solutions.

"Candidly, movement is slow because it's complex, and one of the reasons its complex is because it's somewhat still a disconnected environment," Corvaia said. "Right now the network is the common element, but the network is the physical infrastructure with the ports and plugs and it does not have the software definitions that we have been talking about today."

Vendors are also responding to the hybrid cloud opportunity with a host of pointed products that can accommodate various cloud iterations, including hybrid clouds.

One of those vendors is Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC). During this year's Mobile World Congress, Ericsson introduced its HDS 8000 (Hyperscale Datacenter System). By using a policy-driven PaaS, the company now supports a hybrid approach across multiple clouds, enabling global enterprise to take advantage of public cloud, on-premise private cloud, and industry cloud infrastructure. 

Akhil Gokul, senior engagement manager for Ericsson, said that while the customers want to move to hybrid cloud, security remains a key challenge.

"When we look at hybrid cloud, our notion is it requires a hybrid cloud operating system so when you deploy something in a public cloud environment and you have assets in a private cloud, you need to seamlessly orchestrate work across both the clouds," Gokul said. "When you do that you need an OS layer that will help developers on the enterprise side to look at multiple cloud environments as one compute model."  

Cisco and Juniper are making similar moves.

For Cisco, data center services continue to be one of its strongest growing sections. During its fiscal third quarter, data center evenues rose 21 percent.  

Chris Rivera, managing director, CTO systems engineering and architectures, Americas service and web providers for Cisco, said that they are developing a concept called "Intercloud" that will help bridge the various cloud implementations that an enterprise could deploy.

"There are many clouds out there with many technologies and we realized that a number of hybrid cloud environments for enterprises will exist for a very long time, so Cisco introduced the Intercloud concept," Rivera said. "The idea behind Intercloud is to have standards-based interconnections that work on a common framework for security and policy to be able to allow workload across different technologies and different clouds."  

Likewise, Juniper agreed that while security and providing policy across multiple cloud domains is key, the other issue is educating an entire enterprise about how to use and implement cloud services.

"We're seeing the similar trend towards hybrid cloud and the economics of public cloud are phenomenal, but then there are issues like security and complexity and those are very real issues," said Paul Obsitnik, VP, service provider marketing for Juniper Networks. "The third area I would throw in is organizational."

Obsitnik added that in a conversation with one CIO that decided to adopt a public cloud solution from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the CIO actually saw his company's cloud service expense escalate.

"I was talking to a CIO and he said that when they started going down the Amazon Web Services path they expected to save a lot of money, but the first couple of bills he got were tremendously more expensive than what he was paying before because his developers were just renting the machines and not doing any work," Obsitnik said. "It can be more expensive to leverage the public cloud so you need to look at what is your work process, behavior and how can you most effectively leverage it."

Despite the challenges for hybrid cloud, momentum is growing within the service provider community.

A recent Infonetics report revealed that 82 percent of service providers surveyed said they plan on offering a hybrid cloud as a service (CaaS) by next year.

Still, enterprise customers have indicated to their service provider customers that security remains a key concern for business customers purchasing cloud services.

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