Cloud Wars 2017: a Guide to Hybrid Cloud

Here’s what the leading cloud providers have on offer for enterprises building hybrid clouds.

Bill Kleyman

November 28, 2017

14 Min Read
The cloud pavilion of Amazon Web Services at the 2016 CeBIT tech fair in Hanover, Germany
The cloud pavilion of Amazon Web Services at the 2016 CeBIT tech fair in Hanover, GermanySean Gallup/Getty Images

Experts agree that hybrid cloud will be the dominant model of computing at least for the foreseeable future. Organizations actively seek out capabilities from their cloud providers which allow them to distribute data, improve performance, and control costs.

Sure, many companies choose to go full public cloud. However, the vast majority of enterprises are now working with hybrid. “Digital disruption is real,” says Ritu Jyoti, research director, IDC's Storage team. “According to Innosight, 75% of S&P 500 will be replaced by 2027. To survive, companies need to embrace and accelerate DX [digital transformation]. Leading digital organizations are exploiting data insights to deliver personalized value services, optimize customer experience, explore new opportunities, and reduce the overall cost of doing business. The world's most admired and best-run businesses use IT for their competitive advantage. The groundbreaking agility, flexibility, and power of cloud computing has businesses exploring ways to adopt cloud functionality and economics. Hybrid cloud/multi-cloud deployments are becoming the new norm."

Gartner agrees and recently said that by 2020, 90 percent of organizations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management capabilities. "As the demand for agility and flexibility grows, organizations will shift toward more industrialized, less-tailored options," said DD Mishra, research director at Gartner. "Organizations that adopt hybrid infrastructure will optimize costs and increase efficiency. However, it increases the complexity of selecting the right toolset to deliver end-to-end services in a multi-sourced environment."

Related:You Can Now Spin Up VMware Servers in Amazon Data Centers

As Gartner points out, cloud compute services are expected to grow from $23.3 billion in 2016 to reach $68.4 billion in 2020. Spending on colocation and hosting is also expected to increase, from $53.9 billion in 2016 to $74.5 billion in 2020. Numerous reports will go on to state that AWS, Azure, and Google are paving the way when it comes to IaaS and other cloud services.

But what about hybrid cloud? Are they still the leaders in that world? What about IBM and Oracle? What about other data center leaders like Rackspace and even CenturyLink? Do they become “cloud-fodder,” or are they real competitors when it comes to hybrid?

Aside from understanding public cloud capabilities, organizations need to know how they can connect their valuable resources to a hybrid cloud ecosystem. That means they have to understand what all major partners can actually offer. Here’s an overview:

Related:Google and Cisco Signed the Papers, and Now Starts the Heavy Lifting

Amazon Web Services

AWS is not only a great public cloud provider, they’re also a great hybrid cloud ecosystem. Numerous large organizations already leverage AWS for their hybrid cloud capabilities. Making it even stronger are partnerships with VMware, Intel, Microsoft, SAP, and others to allow you to run your existing enterprise applications on AWS with full support and high performance. With this in mind, let’s quickly break down the AWS hybrid capability structure. First of all, we’ve got data integration. AWS offers a range of storage and database services that can work together with your on-premises applications to store data reliably and securely. According to Amazon, they’ve designed an architecture with improved control, reliability, and availability for 99.999999999% durability and secure encryption. A few of the specific solutions which help create hybrid cloud capabilities include AWS Storage Gateway, Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, and AWS Snowball (a solution which allows you to transfer massive amounts of data in and out of the AWS cloud).

From there, AWS also offers integrated networking with a couple of very important tools. Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) allows you to provision a logically isolated section of the AWS Cloud. From there you can launch AWS resources in a virtual network that you define. The other important one is AWS Direct Connect. AWS Direct Connect lets you establish private connectivity between AWS and your data center, office, or colocation environment. This helps reduce your network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and provide a more consistent network experience than internet-based connections. Some of their AWS Direct Connect Partners include AT&T, Cisco, Level3, XO Communications, and Equinix.

Finally, for your hybrid cloud needs, there’s also lots of Integrated Identity and Access possibilities. Basically, you can create a single identity and access architecture and manage AWS users, groups, and permissions to allow and deny access to AWS resources at extremely fine level of detail. You’ll get access to AWS IAM as well as Directory Services. Partners here include Trend Micro, Gemalto, Okta, Imperva, Splunk, and others.

Finally, let’s touch on APIs, DevOps, integration, and the edge. First of all, there’s a deep level of integration with VMware and AWS. Scaling between these two platforms has been made much easier by the direct partnership between the two companies. From there, AWS is driven by robust APIs that allow for a wide variety of monitoring and management tools designed for easy integration. According to Amazon, this includes support for common tools from vendors like Microsoft, VMware, BMC Software, Okta, RightScale, Eucalyptus, CA, Xceedium, Symantec, Racemi, and Dell.

Lastly, AWS has taken a very proactive approach to edge systems and has two very cool offerings to consider. First, we have AWS Greengrass. With this solution, you’re able to extend AWS to devices so they can act locally on the data they generate, while still using the cloud for management, analytics, and durable storage. Then, we have Snowball Edge, a solution which allows for the movement of very large amounts of data. This service allows you to effectively move this data into and out of AWS, as a temporary storage tier for large local datasets, or to support independent local workloads in remote locations.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft and their hybrid cloud teams have been real busy. First of all, if you haven’t caught up on Azure Stack and the corresponding hybrid services, I absolutely recommend that you read up on it. Basically, as Microsoft points out, Azure Stack serves as an extension of Azure. Organizations can leverage Azure Stack for edge and disconnected scenarios, like, as Microsoft illustrates, a ship out at sea where the network might not be reliable, or a factory floor where you might need low latency to your embedded automation systems for production. Here’s the other cool part: know that complicated SQL infrastructure you have? Well, Azure Stack makes managing it much easier. Migrate a complex SQL server based application to Azure with zero downtime. You can build and deploy at cloud speed with a fully-managed Azure SQL Database or scale your analytics in Azure SQL Data Warehouse. You can also take advantage of the many pre-configured VMs in the marketplace.

The beauty of working with the Microsoft cloud ecosystem is the level of integration you’ll be enjoying. For example, Azure Active Directory allows for a single sign-on experience across on-premises and cloud apps from virtually anywhere. From there, you can provide single sign-on access to applications running on any cloud. This includes apps like Office 365, Workday, Drop Box, and Salesforce.

Circling back to Azure Stack, you get the opportunity to create a seamless Microsoft-enabled hybrid cloud extension. Basically, it is one set of tools, common DevOps solutions, and even access to a broad range of open source tools like Docker-integrated containers, Cloud Foundry, and others. Most of all, it gives you the ability to run Azure services, on-premises or within your colocation partner’s data center. To that extent, I’d recommend you leverage ExpressRoute.

Much like AWS, Microsoft’s ExpressRoute lets you create private connections between Azure data centers and infrastructure on your premises or in a colocation environment. As Microsoft points out, ExpressRoute connections don't go over the public internet, and they offer more reliability, faster speeds, and lower latencies than typical internet connections. With this type of architecture, you can establish connections to Azure at an ExpressRoute location, such as an Exchange provider facility, or directly connect to Azure from your existing WAN network, such as a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) VPN, provided by a network service provider.

This allows you to create a powerful hybrid architecture for storage, backup, and recovery, as well as the ability to directly extend your data center and build hybrid capabilities. Finally, you’ll never be short of ExpressRoute partners. The list includes AT&T, Comcast Business, CoreSite, Dimension Data, Equinix, Level3, Telefonica, Verizon, and others.

Google Cloud Platform

It comes as no surprise that Google has approached hybrid cloud differently. Specifically, they’ve partnered with a few organizations to make hybrid a lot easier. This also probably means that Google sees hybrid cloud as an intermediary step to full public cloud. I’m sure many analysts may disagree with this notion. However, Google’s goal right now is to simplify hybrid cloud interaction, management, and deployment.  

In June, Google announced a partnership with Nutanix and took in several hybrid cloud initiatives. This includes easing hybrid operations by automating provisioning and lifecycle management of applications across Nutanix and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) using the Nutanix Calm solution. Furthermore, they’re bringing the Nutanix Xi Cloud Services directly to GCP. This helps enable disaster recovery and allows for seamless extension of on-premises resources into GCP. Another function would be to allow the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS to be supported for hybrid Kubernetes environments running Google Container Engine in the cloud and a Kubernetes cluster on Nutanix on-premises. There’s even more collaboration happening around IoT and edge use-cases.

Recently, Cisco got into the GCP framework as well. In October, Cisco and Google Cloud announced a partnership to deliver a hybrid cloud solution that helps customers maximize their investments across cloud and on-premises environments. "This joint solution from Google and Cisco facilitates an easy and incremental approach to tapping the benefits of the Cloud. This is what we hear customers asking for," said Diane Greene, CEO, Google Cloud.

So, what does this actually mean for a data center that’s got lots of Cisco gear? According to Cisco, the joint Cisco and Google Cloud hybrid solution helps developers leverage managed Kubernetes, GCP Service Catalog, Cisco networking and security, and Istio authentication and service mesh monitoring. Enterprise app developers can securely access cloud APIs, and cloud developers can securely access enterprise APIs and on-premises resources. All of this will also include orchestration and management, advanced networking capabilities, security, visibility and control, service management, API management, and developer tools.

Here's the bad news for all of you Cisco data center owners. You might have to wait a bit. The solution will be available to a limited number of customers during the first part of 2018, with planned general availability later in the year.

Oracle Cloud

Oracle has done a good job taking a step closer to the customer when it comes to hybrid cloud offerings. If you’re an Oracle customer, working with one of their newer solutions might make sense. Oracle’s ‘Cloud at Customer’ offering allows you to leverage Oracle Cloud services in your data center, fully managed by Oracle, so that you can take advantage of the agility, innovation and subscription-based pricing of Oracle Cloud while meeting data-residency requirements. From there, you have DevOps integration with the same set of tools for development as well as a consistent user experience. Cloud at Customer allows Oracle-centric data centers to be built on the same Oracle Cloud software and management stack for a consistent user experience with Oracle Cloud. Most of all, this enables the ability to easily move Oracle workloads between private and public clouds, based on business requirements.

Numerous organizations which are running Oracle workloads today are looking for ways to extend their hybrid cloud capabilities. Oracle Cloud at Customer is built on open industry standards including Oracle Linux and the Xen hypervisor, which then allows you to leverage Oracle Cloud Services. This includes messaging, integration, database, and NoSQL, which are all used as building blocks for cloud-native applications. If you’re an Oracle shop, there are some significant benefits to working with this type of architecture. This includes meeting requirements around latency, performance, availability, data sovereignty, residency, and even compliance.


With the acquisition of Datapipe, Rackspace has become an even bigger data center partner with advanced capabilities. To support emerging requirements around public, private, single-tenant, and hybrid scenarios, Rackspace designed a hybrid cloud with multi-cloud flexibility. This allows customers to connect into dedicated bare metal environments and into the private and public clouds of your choice — such as AWS, Microsoft, OpenStack, and VMware. This type of architecture can then scale with a pay-as-you-go model into a variety of public cloud vendors.

Leveraging RackConnect Global, you can integrate AWS, Microsoft, OpenStack or VMware cloud to traditional dedicated servers, for a best-fit hybrid solution. This model can be ideal for simple multi-cloud scenarios, all the way to advanced enterprise hybrid cloud requirements.

As I mentioned a bit earlier, the integration with Datapipe makes Rackspace a very interesting hybrid cloud partner to examine. Not only can you leverage a global cloud ecosystem by integrating with vendors like AWS, GCP, Azure, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, VMware, you can also enable a highly available, private network connectivity between Rackspace and your other data centers. Rackspace offers several connectivity provider locations and a few connectivity options as well.


There have been some interesting developments behind the IBM Cloud development doors. Introduced in November, IBM Cloud Private focuses on private data centers looking for a painless way to move into the cloud. It's designed to speed integration of public and private clouds through use of containers, microservices, and API's. Delivered as a pre-packaged solution, IBM Cloud Private delivers a single platform located behind your own firewall. From there, customers can their own on-premises software portfolio or, integrate next-generation data and software optimized for cloud. Built on open source frameworks, like containers, Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry, IBM Cloud Private offers flexibility, control, security and easy integration with public cloud.

The cool part is that this integrates with IBM Power Systems servers (which are build to support hybrid cloud, new apps, and data analytics), LinuxONE, IBM hybrid cloud storage, and even the IBM Z mainframes. From there, you’ll be able to leverage a variety of tools and services including IBM DevOps, Cloud Automation Manager, and even hybrid cloud management.

Here’s another interesting one: Cyxtera. As reported here on DCK, private equity firms Medina Capital and BC Partners closed the $2.15 billion acquisition of CenturyLink data centers and, in parallel, announced the launch of Cyxtera, transferring control of the data center portfolio and the four Medina-owned security and analytics companies (Brainspace, Cryptzone, Catbird, and Easy Solutions) to the new firm. Total value of the assets is $2.8 billion.

In doing more research, I found that organizations like Cyxtera are taking the cloud, data center, and hybrid approach from a different – and very important – perspective. That is, security. This model doesn’t just focus on an IP address. Rather, it’s an identity-centric model that grants access to applications and systems based on who you are, not simply your desk. From there, the security architecture becomes context-aware to shape and shift based on user location, requirements, and the app itself.

Plus, when integrated with their security and analytics solutions, their hybrid cloud architecture starts to offer things like policy-based deep analytics with machine learning, massively scalable (50+ data centers) in a decentralized architecture, and integration with other cloud vendors like AWS and Azure. This type of model helps progress the concept of a hybrid cloud and allows the focus to fall on security. This means leveraging everything from investigative analytics to total fraud protection – all delivered from your hybrid cloud provider.

Final Thoughts for Your Hybrid Cloud Journey

Let’s make this clear: No cloud or hybrid cloud architecture is truly the same.

This also holds true for your business. This means that it’s always critical to understand your use-case before you move into a hybrid cloud architecture. If you’re a heavy Microsoft shop leveraging a variety of services already (O365 for example), working with the Azure hybrid cloud architecture will probably make more sense that to move to an IBM Cloud Private platform.

The point is that various data center and cloud providers are now offering unique, and even use-case specific hybrid cloud solutions. So, don’t just jump onto a public cloud bandwagon (unless it makes good business sense, of course) before you evaluate all of the players out there and what they can offer. On that note, our list of hybrid cloud providers can be a whole lot longer. However, the point of this list is to understand all of the different use-cases and solutions some of the leaders are already providing.

Looking ahead, hybrid cloud solutions will dominate the overall cloud landscape. As you navigate the waters, make sure to include business as well as technical requirements into your overall map. The tight alignment between corporate strategy and IT capability will help you enable greater competitive advantages. All of this amplified by a good hybrid cloud solution.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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