About half of large enterprises will have adopted a hybrid cloud computing model in the next four years, according to analyst firm Gartner.
The findings show an appetite among enterprises for cloud services that combine public cloud scalability and private datacentre security principles.
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According to a Gartner special report on the outlook for cloud, hybrid cloud computing implementation will gather pace as private cloud matures.
Hybrid cloud today is at the same level of adoption that private cloud was three years ago -- actual deployments are low, but aspirations are high, said Gartner.
But in the last three years, private cloud computing has moved from an aspiration to a tentative reality for nearly half of large enterprises, said the report. Hybrid cloud is taking the same maturity path and will become a reality in 50% of enterprises by 2017, it found.
A hybrid cloud is an IT environment where some resources are managed in-house and others are provided externally. For example, an organisation might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon S3, for archived data but maintain in-house storage for sensitive customer data.
The hybrid IT approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities. A hybrid cloud set-up will also help enterprises mitigate some other public cloud risks such as unplanned outages.
Gartner’s insights on hybrid cloud roadmap echoes similar findings to recent Vanson Bourne research. It found the limitations of using public cloud as a one-size-fits-all service are becoming more apparent, causing many enterprises to adopt a hybrid cloud infrastructure instead.
The Gartner report also explores the maturity in private cloud models.
According to it, private cloud adoption has matured and hybrid cloud is next on enterprise IT’s agenda. Its study found that nearly half of large enterprises have already deployed a private cloud service and only 11% have no plans to do so through 2014. While actual hybrid cloud computing deployments are rare, nearly three-quarters of large enterprises said they expect to have hybrid deployments by 2015.
When it comes to drivers of private cloud computing, while cost is always an important consideration, a business case for private cloud cannot rely on lower costs as the primary justification, said Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman.
"Virtualisation reduces capital expenses, and standards and automation reduce operational expenses," said Bittman. "But taking the next step of adding usage metrics, self-service offerings and automated provisioning requires investment in technologies. With this in mind, the driving factor for going that next step should primarily be agility."
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He said IT needs to understand where agility could make a difference in current services, understand what new services would be useful if provided with agility.
Bittman said technology is not a major issue for those enterprises that are looking to adopt cloud services.
The technologies to deliver cloud services may be relatively immature and enterprise IT may need to customise some cloud tools to meet their needs but “much more difficult are the transformational adjustments needed to use the technology”, he said.
“An ingrained IT culture focused on technical expertise doesn't fit a fully automated, self-service model that requires a service-oriented, team approach.”
Choosing the right technology to deploy cloud services is crucial, the added Bittman.
While pilot projects will tend to start small, with limited functionality, it's important to choose a technology foundation that offers room for expansion — both in terms of functionality richness, and in terms of hybrid cloud interoperability for the future, he said.
Another alternative is to choose a technology that provides a rapid return on investment, two years for example, with the possibility of changing the technology in the future.
"Vendors are promoting private cloud computing as 'the next thing' for infrastructure and operations — and it is, but only for the right services," said Bittman.
"Private cloud is a specific style of computing that will leverage virtualisation, but is not appropriate for all services. While the majority of midsize and large enterprises will build and deploy private cloud services over the next few years, private cloud will only be used for specific, appropriate services," he warned.