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What’s behind the hybrid surge?

The hybrid cloud market is flourishing. Defined loosely as some combination of cloud and another technology, such as cloud combined with bare metal servers or a combination of public and private, hybrid cloud has moved past the ‘buzzword stage’.

In fact, hybrid cloud adoption is now set to triple over the next few years, according to our recent research, and Gartner predicts that as many as half of enterprises will be using some form of hybrid model by 2017.

So, what's behind the hybrid transformation?

Amongst IT decision makers in Canada, the US and UK, 30 per cent believe that they’ll be running a hybrid cloud model within three years, up from just 10 per cent today. Yet use of on-premise hosting will fall by half, with just 17 per cent of decision makers claiming they’ll still be using the technology in three years, compared with 31 per cent currently using on-premise hosting.

The reason for this is largely down to price. Our research revealed that cost is the most important factor for half of IT decision makers in the markets surveyed. With on-premise hosting often a costly option, hybrid is often seen as a viable, cost-efficient alternative.

Building a cohesive, connected hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud is also developing well from a technical perspective. Federation and interoperability are improving, helping to improve hybrid cloud’s cohesion.

Some recent progress in building more interoperable cloud environments include the entry of Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) into OpenStack, the leading open source cloud platform. SAML enables single sign-on for Web properties, which makes B2B and B2C transactions much easier. Integrating this into OpenStack-powered clouds allows them to more easily federate with other cloud environments, ultimately giving cloud buyers more hybrid options.

Similarly, federation models like OnApp’s have been maturing, enabling service providers to resell excess capacity among each other. Workload automation is still not a fully automated proposition in the OnApp ecosystem, but the continued growth of their federation is a promising sign that different vendors and service providers can work together toward the common goal of more integrated, hybrid cloud services.

As the OnApp and OpenStack federation models evolve and other entrants come into the field emphasising the interoperability of technology and services, it will be a great leap forward in giving consumers a hybrid cloud offering that is robust and diverse.

Hybrid cloud and big data

The growth of big data may also be helping to drive the uptake in hybrid cloud services. We’re beginning to see more instances of big data’s early advocates achieving solid returns on their investment, which will only help boost adoption. This is helped further by a consolidation in the big data software ecosystem as the core platform providers start to snatch up smaller solutions to round out their capabilities for enterprise users.

Hybrid cloud is particularly well suited to data growth because bare metal servers are usually matched up to big data software, which emphasises horizontal scaling and usually doesn’t require specialist technology. Big data organisations still need traditional hosting environments, which need to be integrated with cloud infrastructure through a unified hybrid cloud platform.

In addition, data “gravity” will further drive demand for connected big data solutions, where data grows large enough for the economics to force keeping the data where it is, and doing the processing and analytics in a distributed way.

For example, many companies are collecting vast amounts of data about their customers within the enterprise. They may also want to add additional data sources, such as social media, which exist outside the enterprise. So the ability support hybrid models that can seamlessly connect on-premise data stores with sources that live in the cloud, will drive the federated hybrid cloud model for big data.

Best of both

Ultimately, hybrid cloud represents a flexible, diverse approach that offers businesses many of the benefits of both public and private models.

It uses an on-premise model allowing users the type of immediate access not found in public cloud systems, yet allows its users access to use the public cloud during peaks in demand. Concerns do remain but the versatility it offers its users is driving its growing popularity.

Businesses now have far more choice of hardware, software and services than ever before, so the priorities of IT decision makers have shifted. This is reflected in the changing cloud strategies among IT departments across the UK, US and Canada, who have indicated that hybrid cloud is a far more mature offering than it was just a few years ago.

The growing popularity of hybrid cloud isn’t likely to slow; as it becomes increasingly legitimate among early adopters, other businesses will begin to look into its benefits.

Every CIO and IT decision maker should be thinking about how they can use hybrid cloud and hosting to transform their business, turning IT from a cost centre into another source of revenue.