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Top IT trends 2017: hybrid cloud

The following hybrid cloud trends are insightful predictions by Pierre Semaan ─ VP, Service Product Development, End-user Computing & Collaboration Portfolios and John Andrews, Chief Product Officer ─ Group Services.

Trend 1: Cloud workloads are being automated above the orchestration layer

Until now, cloud services have concentrated on automating the orchestration layer. But client needs evolve, and our clients are increasingly looking at automation above the orchestration layer. They want to automate the whole application deployment process across any cloud infrastructure.

Having an automated framework for deploying an application in the cloud speeds up both initial deployment and ongoing DevOps integration. This not only makes application management easier, but it also accelerates delivery of the application owner’s business objectives.

But finding an integration point that will support platform-independent strategies is a real concern.

Some clients have looked to OpenStack for an answer but quickly learned that in and of itself, it doesn’t really deliver these objectives. Due to the unique implementations allowed by OpenStack, it doesn’t facilitate cross-provider implementations with a single set of application programming interfaces (APIs). So clients are forced to implement provider specific scripts and toolsets, defeating their objective of moving towards a common API.

Finding an integration point that will support platform-independent strategies is a real concern

So organisations have started looking for an integration point above the orchestration layer that allows for automated deployments across multi-vendor platforms.

The tools that can help

Some are using abstracted DevOps toolsets like the LibCloud libraries which can ostensibly be used to deploy in other environments without creating additional API libraries of their own. This lets you pick your cloud environment based on business requirements (e.g. geography and SLA) and leaves the door open to leverage other clouds for future deployments. It also reduces the risk of vendor lock in.

It’s important, though, to get to know the mechanisms behind toolsets such as LibCloud, Terraform, Ansible, StackStorm, Chef, and Puppet, that differentiate them from one another, to see which best addresses the real business requirements of the application.

Self-service provisioning and automation to support public cloud-, private cloud-, and hybrid cloud-based development teams is becoming required — not optional. Organisations that have been slow to embrace self-service will find their development teams falling behind.

Programmable networks are also powerful enablers of hybrid cloud, allowing you to roll out new operational site much more quickly. Previously, you’d buy equipment, configure it somewhere, take it to the new site, and you’d need a highly skilled engineer to install it.

Now with generic programmable equipment and cloud applications, you can templatise the way you do it. You can take a fairly simple device, put the intelligence in the cloud and use a lower level engineer to install the equipment and the branch software, all in the cloud.

Trend 2: Organisations are turning to managed services to assure application performance in hybrid clouds

Everyone wants a consistent application experience, regardless of what infrastructure sits underneath the workload. Companies are increasingly using hybrid cloud as a managed service platform to achieve this.

Automated, software-driven managed services are able to provide features that organisations find highly desirable

As cloud adoption continues to rise, the industry is moving beyond simple self-service portals for provisioning infrastructure to managed services platforms that are completely software based.

Software-driven

These automated, software-driven managed services are able to provide features that organisations find highly desirable, such as:

  • consistent SLAs regardless of workload deployment model, across public, private, and vendor clouds, or on your own premises
  • seamless workload portability and automated migration
  • governance, risk, and compliance assurance across the user base and deployment model
  • privacy by design

With these kinds of benefit on offer, if you haven’t yet looked into availing yourself of automated managed services that are delivered on a hybrid cloud platform, don’t get too far into 2017 before doing so.

Trend 3: Container tools are becoming the new platform-as-a-service

When Docker was introduced in 2013, virtualisation started moving from the level of the machine to the level of the application.

An open-source project that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers, Docker makes applications much more portable across hybrid cloud and on-premise infrastructures.

In combination with Kubernetes, the open-source container cluster manager originally designed by Google, it’s quickly replacing Heroku cloud platform-as-a-service offerings in the market.

Adoption patterns

In 2017 we’ll see more widespread adoption of containers, but the transition to a fully containerised world will take few more years. Initially, we’ll see traction in using Kubernetes as a deployment model for more complex workloads.

In 2017 we’ll see more widespread adoption of containers, but the transition to a fully containerised world will take few more years

Because support for Docker is variable across public cloud platforms, organisations are likely to resist jumping to Docker on multi-cloud. They’ll probably stick to using it on a single cloud platform, and achieve hybridisation in combination with their on-premise stack.

When adopting Docker and Kubernetes (or similar variants), organisations should make sure they have a clear strategy around image management, network access and security patching, service discovery, and container monitoring.

Trend 4: Network function virtualisation becomes the path to hybrid cloud nirvana

Nirvana in hybrid cloud is where one part of a service is run in your own data centre, a second part is on public cloud provider A, and the remaining part is in public cloud provider B. You’re free to determine where you want any element of the service to run based on performance, availability, privacy, or cost.

One of major reasons why we haven’t achieved this ideal state yet is that the network elements in these hybrid domains have to be stitched together.

At first, the answer was thought to lie in software-defined networking (SDN). Some enterprises attempted to use SDN to unite their hybrid cloud environments, but found out that SDN is very complex. This remains a hurdle that most enterprises have yet to overcome.

Enter network function virtualisation

By contrast, related but subtly different network function virtualisation (NFV) promises to be a much easier way of networking together hybrid cloud and hybrid IT environments. NFV is the process of moving services such as firewalls, load balancing, and intrusion prevention systems, away from dedicated hardware into a virtualised environment, for example as virtual appliances.

Network function virtualisation (NFV) promises to be a much easier way of networking together hybrid cloud and hybrid IT environments

One of NFV’s advantages is that the virtual networking and security appliances it employs allow you to maintain control of things like IP addressing schemes, DNS, and routing choices as you stitch the network together. They allow you to treat the cloud as an extension of your own network, one that uses the networking technologies, tools, and vendors you’re familiar with.

That’s why we’ll see a lot more interest in NFV when cloud-enabling existing networks, and for new networks to be architected with hybrid cloud in mind.

Trend 5: NFV is also becoming the preferred enabler of containerisation

Container networking is different from traditional networking. Containers are very dynamic and short-lived, giving rise to a lot of unpredictable traffic flow.

When a container is started, it needs to be registered in some directory; when it’s ‘killed’, we need to let everyone know

When a container is started, it needs to be registered in some directory; when it’s ‘killed’, we need to let everyone know. This is done through a service discovery layer and processes that run on the console, using tools like CoreOS or Apache ZooKeeper.

Identity and communications

The Kubernetes networking model requires that containers can communicate with network nodes and one another directly, and that a container sees itself as the same IP that others see it as. In Kubernetes, the IP address scope is a pod: all containers within a pod share the same IP address and have to use the localhost construct to communicate with one another.

There are a number of ways of approaching these containerisation networking challenges: from Docker networking options, to container-centric options, to SDN, and NFV.

However, if we accept that a greenfield Docker deployment is less likely than a hybrid deployment, then it boils down to simple proposition: if the container is to run alongside existing VM implementations, the NFV approach is most likely to be able to successfully address containerisation networking challenges.

We believe technology is the key that unlocks potential for businesses, and for the world, in ways we’re only beginning to comprehend. By applying our capabilities in hybrid cloud, digital infrastructure, workspaces for tomorrow, and cybersecurity, we look forward to continuing to help our clients accelerate their journeys to become digital businesses in 2017.


Find out more about other top trends in 2017


Digital business

Digital infrastructure

Workspaces for tomorrow

Cybersecurity

Comments/What do you think?

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