When Will My Data Center Grow Up To Be a “Private Cloud?”

In continuing to further the notion that hybrid cloud deployments consist of any two or more clouds (public/private, on/off-premises, single/multi-tenant), I’ve heard a few voices raised in objection.  The argument goes like this:

  1. A “cloud”  is a compute infrastructure with characteristics of elasticity, resource sharing, rapid deployment, end user empowerment, and many others, depending on whom you ask.
  2. My organization’s data center is, by definition, not a cloud because it doesn’t exhibit all of those “cloudy” characteristics.
  3. Yet, I am in the process of connecting my data center to the public cloud in various ways, even if it is simple SaaS integrations.
  4. Therefore, I am doing hybrid.
  5. Therefore, hybrid must be something other than two or more clouds working together.

At this point there is a smug widening of the eyes and nostrils at having made such a Spock-like argument worthy of causing malicious androids to self-destruct.

My response? I have several:

  1. Your organization’s data center is on a journey to becoming more cloud-like every day. It may lack some of the attributes at the moment, but it will be more capable in the future.  I suspect virtualization, for example, was not in your data center 10 years ago, but it is today. Rapid deployment is a natural outgrowth of that. End-user self-service is just a matter of time.
  2. Terms like hybrid cloud and even cloud computing are the latest fashionable ones we use to talk about distributed computing technology.  Look at the literature from 30 years ago: Researchers envisioned a “distributed operating system” that had characteristics of location transparency, distributed resource sharing, resource pooling, etc..  We’re still on that journey, and some of the key technologies to enable the fulfillment of that dream have only recently appeared and are rapidly transforming IT.
  3. Hybrid is important because of the “two-or-more” aspect of the definition.  The fact that those endpoints are also “clouds” is not nearly as important.  The degree of “cloudiness” is sure to vary among them. Furthermore, there may be much more profound differences, such as service model (IaaS/PaaS/SaaS) – none of which should exclude them from participation in a hybrid composite cloud.

Perhaps you can construct other comebacks, but the main point is this:

It is more important that we develop flexible hybrid technologies that can connect any two compute endpoints on the Internet, regardless of proximity, tenancy, ownership, management model, or degree of “cloudiness.”  The goal is to build integrated systems that deliver on the full promise of distributed computing in-the-large.

If we begin to think of hybrid as “private-to-public” or “not-a-cloud -to-a-cloud” we may make assumptions which limit the application of those technologies in other settings where the assumptions do not hold.


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