It is quite obvious and supported by many studies that hybrid cloud solutions offer greater freedom than on-premise models or public cloud computing. However, does the hybrid cloud even exist in reality already? Have you been able to this date to seamlessly move your private cloud, public cloud, and co-location data and to combine, scale and compare all data in real time? This comfort has previously not been available to anyone. Rather, the mere migration of data from public to private environments and vice versa occasionally required several weeks. A genuine hybrid cloud infrastructure on the other hand offers companies freedom of choice on a previously unknown scale – i.e. multi-cloud sourcing.
As opposed to environments that only combine public and private cloud services, multi-source models offer the advantage of allowing companies to choose among various cloud providers and to freely use the data of the individual services and the on-premise infrastructure. The offers of the large “hyperscalers” Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM SoftLayer and Microsoft Azure are particularly popular sources of such highly agile cloud environments. What distinguishes these “big three” and other providers such as VMware and vCloud Air? Moreover, how do companies decide which provider is best suited for their specific purposes? Or, to use imagery, if electricity were yellow, what would be the color of the cloud?
As opposed to the large electricity utility companies who offer more or less the same type of electricity, each of the four large hyperscalers developed its own definition of the cloud. This approach can be more accurately compared to the complex methods of electricity generation (atomic, solar, water and wind) that vary in terms of output, availabilty, scalability, stability, and price. The key distinguishing features of the hyperscalers can be divided inot the three categories: offer variety, performance classes, and workload specific target groups. As can be seen in figure 1, when it comes to their offer range, AWS and Microsoft Azure offer the entire cloud stack from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), while the portfolios of IBM SoftLayer and VMware vCloud Air mainly focus on IaaS and occasionally also PaaS,. However, the individual components also differ. For example, the IaaS offer of VMware vCloud Air is available in a variety of different performance classes, while AWS places higher emphasis on agile infrastructure services. To go back to the color analogy – the comprehensive scope of the cloud market most closely resembles the color variety of a rainbow.
Such great variety entails both opportunities and challenges. It goes without saying that the integration of different cloud providers and resource management within a multi-cloud environment is more complex than working with a single provider. Yet the drawbacks of this are clearly outweighed by the benefits such as avoidance of vendor lock-in, full data mobility, and control, as well as cost advantages in terms of flexibilty and scalability coupled with relatively limited costs. What is more, in the long run it will not be enough to select a single supplier to fulfill the requirements of current classical and agile IT infrastructures. Instead of comparing colors, companies should simply define individual hues for themselves. This will provide them with a service that offers all the advantages of the hybrid cloud without the disadvantages of today’s most widely available models.