There are 2 dimensions that have meaning when discussing cloud solutions and the terms public, private, and hybrid contains too many overlaps and ambiguity. Is a cloud private if it is hosted? Is a cloud public because I access it over the internet and does that mean my corporate data center accessed via VPN is public? Worse, the term Hybrid Cloud gets bounced around so many different ways that is no longer relevant at all. I could have SAP ERP and SuccessFactors or SAP ERP production in a corporate data center and the non-production SAP ERP systems on a IaaS cloud provider such as IBM’s SmartCloud IaaS or it could mean I do some ERP functions on SAP ERP on premise and some using SAP Business-by-Design (BbyD) or on NetSuite ERP. In the end, it only means is I’m using more than one type of solution.
There are meaningful dimensions to describing cloud solutions. The two (2) dimensions that matter are: 1) location, and 2) separation.
First is location. Where is the solution residing? Is it on my premise, site or facility that I own or at least consider part of my corporate network of locations. Alternatively, is it away from the bulk of my IT assets such that I need a WAN to access it. For clients with highly distributed data centers this becomes a moot point since everything connects over the WAN; however, most clients have consolidated their corporate application and data centers into just a few locations. IBM runs its corporate business in just a few data centers with SAP in just 2 of them globally.
Second is separation. What separates the resources. Are the solution resources separated by physical boundaries such as server, application, or database or is the solution separated by layers of software?
The trend is clearly towards SaaS where location is off premise and all the infrastructure and application components of the solution are software separated. In a SaaS solution, it is clear you are using the SaaS providers data center of choice and not your own. You also are accepting that the secured division of servers, network, and storage. Even more importantly, you are accepting that your data in flight (within the application) and at rest is kept secured and separated from others including your competitor. I have seen numerous cases where direct competitors use the same SaaS solution. In fact, most SaaS providers count on competitors using their application to scale since you can’t build a SaaS business on single client. Clearly, we do believe in software separation has come of age.
Software divided applications and infrastructure is becoming a the rule. If you want to take the software divided and secured environment on premise, IBM calls it Software Defined Environment (SDE) (). Another major player, VMware, calls it Software Defined Data Center (SDDC). Regardless, each is an attempt to virtualize the infrastructure for more effective use of all assets. This is good for both cost savings and for agility. Deploying virtual infrastructure is far faster than physical. Often clients think the value of the business case is in the cost savings, but ultimately it is found in the agility that translate into real application and business value.
So, next time someone comes to you with a hosted semi-private cloud infrastructure offering with hybrid capabilities, just ask them 2 questions. Where is the solution residing? What is separating the infrastructure and applications? Concise answers will reveal a lot about the solution and you’ll have more time to do something beautiful like grow your hybrid tea roses and find PEACE.