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AWS Summit: Hybrid IT a 'proving ground' for cloud-curious enterprises

Many enterprises are embracing cloud by way of hybrid IT architectures. Cloud solutions architect Brian Adler explained at the 2013 AWS Summit.

NEW YORK -- Cloud services were once mistrusted and watched from afar by most enterprises. Not so today. Over time, cloud has proved itself to be a viable delivery model for IT. That's why -- despite lingering concerns -- more enterprises are moving applications and functions to the cloud. Many are doing so by way of hybrid IT architectures, according to Brian Adler, senior cloud solutions architect at Santa Barbara, Calif.-based RightScale, a cloud management company.

At this week's 2013 Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in New York, Adler told a packed room of cloud developers and architects that enterprise interest in hybrid IT architecture is growing. Hybrid IT -- also called "hybrid cloud" -- is an architecture spanning multiple cloud providers, as well as one or more on-premises IT environments.

As cloud has proven to be viable, the cloud options have evolved and the customers have evolved.

Brian Adler,
senior cloud solutions architect, RightScale

"RightScale's first customers were small customers with little to no money for infrastructure," Adler said. "At the time, the only cloud available was AWS. As cloud has proven to be viable, the cloud options have evolved and the customers have evolved. Customers now are at the enterprise level, and they have a whole different set of requirements, rules and regulations. Some are bringing existing data centers with them."

As a result, demand is on the rise for IT architectures that comprise both on-premises and cloud. RightScale -- whose customers include Intercontinental Hotels Group, Zynga and PBS -- has seen an uptick in requests for OpenStack, which enables organizations to create cloud services on standard hardware.

"About 18 months ago, our customers were exclusively asking for CloudStack," Adler said. "Now, requests for OpenStack and CloudStack are on par." In part, that's because enterprises want to get the most out of the hardware they already have -- or to "reuse existing stuff," as Adler put it.

Another reason why hybrid cloud architectures are gaining traction is that many companies just want to "dip a toe in the water" when it comes to cloud, Adler said. While hesitant to move critical functions to the cloud, they're still eager to take advantage of it in some fashion.

Not surprisingly, this is especially true for industries with tough security and compliance requirements, such as financial services and banking.

"Banks and financial organizations are very traditional," said summit attendee Yuval Naveh, chief technology officer at Jersey City, N.J.-based Matrix-Exzac, a global consulting and compliance technology systems integration firm. "They're still using data warehouses, and very few things have been moved to the cloud. They want to move to the cloud, but they're scared of losing or compromising data."

A successful hybrid IT model can buffer such organizations against risk by acting as a "proving ground" for cloud, Adler told his audience at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.

By using cloud for scalable applications with uncertain demand but keeping existing applications running on-premises, enterprises can effectively "test out" the cloud on new applications without moving critical architecture to the cloud.

But Adler cautioned that building a solid hybrid IT architecture is no trivial task. High-stakes considerations include security on the public Internet, latency due to distance from resources, cost, and the complexity of setting up a secure environment.

Another main challenge: expertise. "Not a lot of folks in corporate IT have experience with cloud architecture," Adler noted.

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