Public Cloud Computing services are growing fast despite the fact that a lot of people do not fully trust them. Just look at the number of launched Amazon EC2 instances in the datacenter US East 1 region (Courtesy of Jack of All Clouds). In 2008, the highest peak reached 20K instances, at the end of 2010 customers launched up to 140k instances, an increase with a factor of 7!

And Amazon is not the only dog in town. According to the same measurements, the Rackspace Cloud Servers have to serve up just as much instances per day. Translation to us hardware nuts: many people are hiring a virtual server instead of buying a physical one. 

But if you are reading this, you are probably working at a company which has already invested quite a bit of money and time in deploying their own infrastructure. That company is probably paying you for your server expertise. Making use of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a lot cheaper than buying and administering too many servers just to be able to handle any bursty peak of traffic. But once you run 24/7 services on IaaS, the Amazon prices go up significantly (paying a reservation fee etc.) and it remains to be seen if making use of a public cloud is really cheaper than running your applications in your own dataroom. So combining the best of both worlds seems like a very good idea. 

Even back when I visited VMworld Europe in Cannes in 2008, we were promised by VMware that "Hybrid datacenters" or "hybrid clouds" were just around the corner. The Hybrid Cloud would ideally let you transfer cloud workload  between your own datacenter and a public clouds like Amazon EC2 and the Terremark (now part of Verizon) Enterprise Cloud.

In 2010, the best you could get was a download/upload option. There were still quite a few hurdles to take as you could read in our article: "Hybrid Clouds: are we there yet? ".

The excellent concept of hybrid cloud started to materialize when VMware launched their vCloud Connector  back in February 2011. The VMware vCloud Connector is a free plug-in that allows you to deploy and transfer virtual machines (VMs) from your own vSphere based datacenter to a datacenter that runs the vCloud Director.

The 1.0 version, was a virtual appliance which was rather slow and unreliable when moving VMs around. Just a few days ago, VMware has announced the 1.5 version which seems to be quite a bit faster, more reliable (checkpoint & restart) and is agent based. We will try it out soon. Citrix is also on the Hybrid cloud bandwagon with the Netscaler Cloud Bridge.

We asked a few hosting providers how they felt about the VMware version of hybrid cloud and the reactions were mixed. Several people told us that this would make offering a Service Level Agreement quite complex or even impossible. It is after all quite hard to offer a good SLA when your uptime is also dependent on the internet connection between the customer's datacenter and the hosting provider's datacenter. Your thoughts?

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  • Zoomer - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - link

    Are you kidding? Rackspace has been in this business even back when Amazon was bleeding tons of cash trying to sell books over the internet.
  • alpha754293 - Monday, September 19, 2011 - link

    In some ways, cloud computing or hybrid cloud computing is kind of irrelevant for technical and high performance computing.

    The biggest limiting factor is the time it takes to move the data around.

    A small simulation that I run on a somewhat regular basis takes between 10-15 seconds to run on our local cluster, and generates around 2 GB of data.

    The time it would take for me to just move the data back and forth makes it unfeasible.

    And that's considered EXTRA small.

    Other bigger projects normally take 9 days for us to run. I don't even want to try to guess how much data those runs generates, but suffice it to will be a lot. Possibly into the hundreds of GB. And if a company can afford the high speed link, they probably can most likely afford to acquire the systems in-house.
  • sbindal - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - link

    "It is after all quite hard to offer a good SLA when your uptime is also dependent on the internet connection between the customer's datacenter and the hosting provider's datacenter. Your thoughts?"

    Johan, first off, great post. I think you've hit the nail on the head that users of public IaaS need to consider cost efficiencies and hardware reuse via private IaaS. With regard to your comment above, here at RightScale (disclaimer, where I work), we often see customers investigating hybrid cloud. A key reason for this is that these 'enterprisey' customers have multiple datacenters with large hardware footprints which can be utilized in the same manner as public IaaS with higher levels of compliance / security / cost control / etc. If they have multiple datacenters though, the SLA between their datacenters becomes just as challenging as it would be between a public provider and any one of their own datacenters.

    In the end, I think that it's a valid concern to iterate on and try to solve. But, can it really be solved 100%? I'm not convinced. And yet, I believe that the hybrid approach has real merit, in particular with bursting (I need more resources and it takes time for me to procure) and geographic bias (I want to launch a service in a new country). I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on whether the benefits outweigh the concerns.

    Thanks and look forward to more!

    (Note, I work at RightScale)
  • evabrian - Thursday, October 27, 2011 - link

    A hybrid cloud is a Cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally. For example, an organization might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for archived data but continue to maintain in-house storage for operational customer data. Ideally, the hybrid 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. This type of hybrid cloud is also referred to as hybrid IT.

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