As more businesses are moving data to the cloud and outside of corporate walls, and more data is being generated via the Internet of Things (IoT), it's turning into a hybrid world.
Not only does data need to be put into context that crosses company and geographical boundaries, making for a distributed infrastructure, but the window of time when the magic must happen is also shrinking.
Data center provider Interxion, IBM, and big data platform Qubole are three very different providers and architects of the hybrid world. All are betting that agility and real-time needs will be a key driver in the transformation to hybrid.
While cost savings is part of the hybrid story (optimizing what workloads go where based on cost), the bigger picture involves optimizing the user experience (maximizing what workloads go where based on provided value). Whether it be an employee with a back-office application, a developer in need of compute resources on the fly, or a consumer on a shopping spree, it all needs to happen in or near real time.
Interxion views itself as building the railroad station hubs of the internet, having built data center infrastructure across Europe in all major metropolitan areas. It acts as an aggregation point for clouds, networks, and content. As a result, a new data center edge is arising, according to Ian McVey, director for enterprise and systems integrators for Interxion. As data and consumption become more distributed, data centers need to be closer to the end user and connections must be secure.
IBM sees hybrid as the foundation for smarter apps, tapping richer data sets. Cloud means certain data is exposable. Its role is helping to connect these data clouds and putting that data in proper context with the right tools, as well as leveraging it in new contexts in order to build smarter applications.
“Everything is becoming hybrid,” said IBM cloud CTO Danny Sabbah. “Businesses are looking at context-based, intelligent applications. They want to create a more personalized experience for clients. But there is a three-to-seven second rule."
Sabbah gives an example of a brick-and-mortar video game store that wants to deliver a targeted experience. “When that client walks in, they want all the screens to fundamentally change based on who walked in and their proclivity to buy something. It needs to happen in three to seven seconds. ”
The company is betting on smart applications with smarter contextualization built on hybrid infrastructure. This is the rationale behind IBM’s recently announced multi-billion dollar Internet of Things investment: it's not the cloud, but the data in that cloud that is important. It was also the rationale for adding Watson functionality into Bluemix so developers could add new Watson-type functionality, and for signing partnerships with The Weather Channel and Twitter so enterprises could tap into those knowledge clouds. An airline can use weather data to optimize its flights and the customer experience, for example.
Finally, Qubole provides a data platform that helps companies leverage smart data sets in public clouds, and CEO Ashish Thusoo says he sees data sharing as a strong emerging use case.
A recent Interxion survey reveals that close to half of enterprises are already employing hybrid cloud, though McVey believes that this is true mainly for static workloads at the present. However, he expects to see dynamic use cases growing.
“Where you build depends on the success,” said Interxion’s McVey. “What happens when someone wants to do real-time? Geolocation? Wants to check against the customer base, check against the store database and send a text message to see if the customer opted in?” asked Ian McVey. “The current solution is so spread out, that by the time you do all the hops, the consumer is down the street. The answer is to colocate some of the assets. We have the mobile carriers, retailer master database, and the platforms of cloud providers for marketing automation in our data centers.”
McVey said that this need extends to smart manufacturing, location-based services, Internet of Things and pretty much all emerging use cases. The world is a hybrid of many clouds, and all the next generation use cases have a time sensitivity, he said.
“One stat I will flag [from the recent hybrid survey]: When asked 'if you could solve network issues, security costs and app performance, how much more of your public workloads would you put into the cloud?' Respondents said they’d double it. There’s a real latent demand for enterprises to solve this network issue.”
Hybrid doesn't only mean connected mixed clouds within an enterprise, it means connected and mixed data clouds. Service providers are building and providing the infrastructure and platform for that to happen.
“We’ve increasingly seen data economies emerge,” said Qubole's Thusoo.“We’re seeing more data providers providing data to other companies. Our cloud platform becomes ideal for companies to share data across the supply chain.”
While the hybrid world is dependent on diverse and fast connectivity, there are many more factors in play. It might look simple for the consumer, but there is a lot going on behind the curtain.
“There is privacy, audibility, and GRC (Governed, Restricted and Compliance) issues,” said IBM’s Sabbah. “In pharma you have HIPAA rules, and there are rules in finance. You need to provide auditability and traceability to every single piece of data. Traceability is extremely important; customers need to be able to generate the right report.”
The need for security and compliance in addition to speed are driving private links and direct connections, according to Interxion.
It’s no secret that everyone across IT infrastructure land is betting on hybrid. While putting the right data in the right cost model and setting up and optimizing IT spend were the initial benefits of hybrid, it's now ultimately about the customer or consumer of that data.
The IT infrastructure industry provides the framework and cogs to make it a reality. Internet of Things generates more meaningful data; and APIs drive a hyper-connected world to provide an optimized experience for individuals in both consumer and business worlds.