How to plan now for hybrid cloud management

There's no question that cloud computing will be the trend to alter organizations' infrastructure the most over the next few years, especially as firms transition from basic server virtualization to the private cloud. But today these environments are still relatively immature, acting as two distinct entities; applications are deployed in one or the other. But private cloud will not be the end of the road for cloud computing. Over the next three years, leading edge IT shops will start blurring the boundaries between public and private IaaS environments, so that applications can move between them based on immediate needs and economics-known as hybrid cloud. Enterprise architects can begin planning for this now by creating a road map that lays out the necessary capabilities for a hybrid cloud and using these to evaluate the capabilities provided by today's vendors and products.

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As hybrid cloud matures, capabilities will be built into a variety of product offerings, including virtualization platforms, system management suites, and add-on management tools. How each organization implements these capabilities will depend on several factors including your strategic vendors, existing IT investments, and the suitability of each vendors products and future road map. At Forrester, we see three possible scenarios for where hybrid cloud capabilities will be located in future infrastructure architecture:

Scenario 1: Virtualization Platforms Become The Core. Today, virtualization platforms from companies like VMware and Microsoft are paired with management tools to run virtual infrastructures for tasks like provisioning, configuration, capacity planning, chargeback, and monitoring for virtual systems. The ability to manage hybrid cloud environments is just now becoming a function of these platforms, with early versions focusing on a narrow group of public cloud services based on the same platforms.

Virtualization platform vendors will transition from virtualization management to suites capable of managing an entire hybrid cloud environment, requiring a greater focus on managing physical infrastructure through built-in capabilities or integration with unified infrastructure offerings like the HP Matrix or Cisco UCS Manager. Enterprise architecture professionals should monitor the ability of virtualization suites to manage a cloud environment in its entirety, including physical infrastructure. This includes asking vendors to provide road maps for supporting major cloud APIs other than their own.

Scenario 2: System Management Suites Extend To Cloud. Traditional system management suites are beginning to evolve their capabilities to manage a hybrid cloud environment. Some systems vendors now pre-integrate system management suites with server, network, and storage platforms, called unified or converged infrastructure.

These vendors will continue to progress by adding hybrid capabilities to their tools, allowing businesses to upgrade existing management capabilities or build new hybrid cloud environments from the ground up. EA professionals should watch management vendors' progress in adapting their platforms to cloud environments, checking if their systems management tools can provide integration of hybrid cloud capabilities across their traditional management tools.

Scenario 3: Third-Party Cloud Tools Excel In Specific Areas. Although third-party cloud tools can help build private clouds and assist with the management of public cloud infrastructure, multiple products are necessary in order to design a hybrid cloud with all the required capabilities. This process is further complicated by the overlapping capabilities of each product.

As cloud management progresses, most vendors will be consolidated into either virtualization platform or system management vendors. EA professionals should continuously check to make sure the organization's architecture is aligned with strategic platforms by paying close attention to the market traction of tools as well as partnerships with platform vendors and cloud service providers.

While the path to hybrid cloud management is still unclear, these three scenarios suggest early decisions that may have to be made in order to begin adapting management infrastructure to cloud management. In particular, which of these three scenarios most closely matches your existing service management strategy, and whether it will drive the capabilities you require.

Today, EA professionals should prepare computing environments for the destination of hybrid cloud infrastructure by focusing on the basics for a private cloud. This entails developing a long-term vision for how components will integrate, streamlining the current system management environment, and moving to image-based management, while monitoring the progress of cloud API development.

Galen Schreck is Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, serving Enterprise Architecture professionals. He will be speaking at Forrester's IT Forum, May 25-27 in Las Vegas.

Read more about cloud computing in CIO's Cloud Computing Drilldown.

This story, "How to plan now for hybrid cloud management" was originally published by CIO.

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