What is Hybrid Cloud Washing?

connected_cloudsAt the AWS summit in London last week, Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com characterized hybrid cloud infrastructure as an interim rather than as a final phase for enterprise cloud computing. In Vogel’s view, the full promise of cloud computing can only be realized when an organization is running 100% of its workloads in the public cloud. Given AWS’ business model and market leadership in the IaaS space, these comments are not surprising. What I thought was more interesting, however, were the statements made by AWS’ UK head evangelist, Ian Massingham.

Massingham accused traditional IT vendors of “cloud washing.” For the uninitiated, cloud washing is an attempt by vendors to rebrand an old service with the term “cloud” in it. So essentially it’s a way to hoodwink or brainwash IT buyers into thinking that a given vendor's offering is a form of cloud computing, storage, etc. I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence of this in recent years; you can’t pick up a product brochure or look through a vendor’s website without seeing the term “cloud” liberally sprinkled throughout it. And IT buyers seem to be responding to this washing effect; according to a recent ESG survey, 66% of respondents indicated that they would spend more on cloud-related solutions than in any other technology area. 

Massingham’s larger contention, however, is that you can’t buy a hybrid cloud. Meaning there are no vendors that can give you a pre-packaged solution that provides an “out-of-the-box” hybrid cloud computing experience. To quote Massingham from Computerweekly.com:

“You’re going to have your cloud services and other delivery models, and someone has to integrate those together. But there is nobody who is going to have a hybrid cloud service or product you can buy.”

To put this in its proper perspective, we first have to consider what exactly constitutes a hybrid cloud. From an AWS vantage point, it means running some portion (preferably most) of your business workloads in the public cloud. Using this definition, Massingham's above assertion is correct. It takes a fair amount of coordination and integration to implement a hybrid cloud environment today; there are no plug-and-play solutions. That might, however, be starting to change.

VMware’s vSan and EVO:RAIL/RACK hyper converged storage offerings, in conjunction with vCloud Air, starts to look very much like a pre-packaged hybrid cloud solution. VMware has yet to come out with a single SKU that incorporates all of these elements but the essential components are all there - on-premises virtualized compute, networking, and storage resources that can be married to public cloud resources (vCloud Air, Rackspace, etc.) and managed from a single interface.

To be fair, the vast majority of data center environments are not “green field”; most have existing compute, storage, and networking resources that would still need a heavy dose of integration to fully leverage all that hybrid cloud computing has to offer. But VMware’s approach could still prove to be compelling to many organizations as a way to more easily consume and onboard into hybrid cloud computing infrastructure. And given the ubiquity of the ESX hypervisor platform, and the veritable phalanx of VMware partners now offering EVO:RAIL as a solution, we’re likely to see quite the battle ensue between these two industry juggernauts.

Insight on trends in converged infrastructure