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Hybrid Cloud Computing: Why the Middle Ground Means Business

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

By 2017, over half of large enterprises will use some form of hybrid cloud computing, according to research firm Gartner. This cloud "middle ground" has become a major factor in IT discussions over the last few years as a viable alternative to purely public or entirely private options; but does walking the line really offer benefits to midsize businesses?

The Debate Is Over

An article from VentureBeat predicts a speedy end to the public vs. private debate thanks to the development of robust hybrid alternatives. Writer Sharon Wagner makes the case for security and workload: By keeping sensitive data behind firewalled private servers, companies do not risk accidental exposure, and by utilizing public resources for peak loads, businesses maximize workload capacity without breaking the bank.

Finding the middle ground seems simple enough, but midsize IT professionals know that the reality is often much more complex. For example, how does a company decide which applications should be deployed to a public cloud and which need to stay behind closed doors? How will users access resources, and how will this use be measured? One advantage to a purely public or totally private system is the lack of any cloud-to-cloud transition points, which can be hard to monitor and even harder to regulate. Of course, cost must also be a part of the hybrid discussion. Midsize companies are often drawn to public clouds thanks to their lower cost footprint — at least up front. What kind of premium comes with going hybrid?

Closing the Distance

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Canonical Ltd. founder Mark Shuttleworth said that "hybrid cloud is without a doubt central to the conversation and thought about the cloud as far as we can tell." When it comes to cost, he argues that if companies can close the gap between cheaper public and most costly private deployments to 20 or 30 percent when rolled into a hybrid, other factors can act as price subsidies. Granular control of data and enhanced local security are good examples: Significantly lowering the risk of a data breach or accidental compromise may be worth spending more on hardware or support.

Bottom line? While much has been made of public options as the de facto cloud standard, midsize companies will never be entirely comfortable trusting their critical data to third-party providers; and while private deployments offer a way to leverage the agility of cloud resources, their cost often makes them midsize nonstarters. It is not unreasonable to speculate, then, that the rise of hybrid cloud computing for the enterprise was inevitable: An evolution of the local data center combined with the revolution of public stacks. For midsize businesses, meanwhile, the cloud middle ground is worth watching; expect to see a sharp increase in end-to-end providers as this market becomes fundamental rather than fallback.

This article was written by Doug Bonderud.

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