The hybrid cloud seems to be what everyone wants to get to. End users seem to like the idea of using a public cloud, like Amazon Web Services for its large scale and low-cost. But they're not willing to put everything up in AWS's cloud, so there are on-premises clouds for mission-critical and extra secure information.

Vendors are jumping into the hybrid cloud game too: One of Microsoft's biggest marketing points over AWS is that it has software that customers can run on their own servers - Windows Systems Center - to build a private cloud that connects to its Azure public cloud to build a hybrid cloud. VMware launched a service with the name hybrid in it - vCloud Hybrid Service - in the past year.

But Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst Lydia Leong says it's not common to see customers "bursting" between public and private clouds, which is what many consider to be a hybrid cloud. Most customers have workloads they run in the public cloud, and maybe some they run on their own existing infrastructure.

And so there's been somewhat of a misconception created in the market: Some customers generally believe that hybrid cloud is about bursting between public and private clouds. Yet not many users really do that.

Leong says hybrid cloud management is not about bursting, instead customers should think about supporting two basic IT environments today: an old one and a new one, what she calls "bi-modal' management. The old environment is typically a company's system of record that is heavily customized to the organization's specific use case and serves a core function for the business. The new IT environment is where the company pursues leading edge projects; applications and software are developed rapidly, with fast iterations and quick launches. And IT has a challenge: "You don't want your old stuff to slow down your new stuff," Leong says. "If you try to blend those two you'll end up doing neither one well."

The pursuit of hybrid

Despite the challenge of managing these two environments, organizations are still going full bore ahead on hybrid cloud, whether they know it or not. New figures from New Hampshire-based analyst Technology Business Research show that nearly 20% of the 1,600 large enterprises IT decision makers recently surveyed reported that they are using two or more cloud services that have been integrated to create a hybrid cloud. TBR estimates there is a $7 billion market for vendors who integrate various disparate cloud platforms together.

The important decision for IT leaders is to consider how fast do they want to embrace these "new" technologies, like hybrid clouds, while still supporting the old legacy ones. IT organizations are faced with this dilemma of needing to own and operate critical legacy infrastructure into the foreseeable future, while at the same time building a brand new org and process structure around cloud based environments, says Mark Thiele, executive vice president of data center technology at Switch, a major cloud and collocation hosting provider. "This 'two IT' system will be necessary because in order for either of the environments to be truly successful they would have to be managed very differently from each other," Thiele says.

That creates somewhat of a schism between an enterprise's legacy IT and new ventures involving cloud and devops, says Bernard Golden, a frequent speaker on cloud issues at various conferences. He says the key to managing this environment is for customers to retain flexibility and choice to decide where those new applications are hosted - either on their own premises or in the cloud. "Customers don't want to be constrained," he says. "They want it to be their choice and not their vendor calling the shots."

Golden says there is an evolution in the hybrid cloud market right now. It's not just about companies like Microsoft, VMware and IBM, which extoll their ability to manage old and new IT, but there are a variety of companies that provide integration services amongst many clouds. Companies like Enstratius - where Golden used to work - which is now Dell Cloud Manager and RightScale do this. Golden currently serves as vice president of Strategy for ActiveState, the maker of a platform as a service (PaaS) for application development, which allows organizations to build an application and then deploy it to various end-points.

So while Leong says that few customers are pursuing a hybrid cloud "bursting" model, other cloud experts say that hybrid cloud is very much real and in the market. Joe Weinman, author of the book "Cloudonomics," says there are many other types of hybrid cloud setups that are prevalent in the market other than just bursting between public and private clouds (see graphic, above). Technology is evolving to make hybrid cloud bursting a reality over time, although there are likely limited use cases for that architecture. "In the meantime there are plenty of other types of hybrid clouds one can envision," Weinman says. "CIOs need to deal with heterogeneous environments, and that's somewhat of a challenge."

We've seen this before

Managing this new model of IT is a challenge for CIOs and IT leaders. The drastic differences between these old systems and new processes mean that there are not many great platforms for managing an organization's entire IT asset portfolio. Companies like IBM, BMC, HP and CA Technologies offer services across the spectrum of IT management, from legacy workloads all the way to cloud management. But these two environments require vastly different skills and management tools. The good news is, Leong says, over time more and more workloads will migrate from the old to the new model.

This idea of IT needing to manage heterogeneous environments really isn't a new concept either. For a long time CIOs have been managing multiple modes within an organization. There was the mainframe to client server transition; Unix to Linux. Now we're seeing a new wave of transitions: PCs to mobile devices and desktop applications to SaaS platforms. Organizations are integrating multiple hypervisor platforms and combining converged infrastructure with customized commodity hardware. While a new model of IT, focused around devops, cloud, mobile, social and big data is a big break from the old way of doing business, Leong it's part of a natural evolution of the IT industry.

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