Data Centers

Why the hybrid IT control plane is destined for the public cloud

Small and large vendors alike are offering a cloud control plane via SaaS offerings. This creates an interesting approach to hybrid IT.

It's becoming more and more clear that the public cloud will not kill the private data center any time soon. Former CIO and consultant Tim Crawford pointed to the fully loaded cost of private data centers versus that of the public cloud as one of the key reasons most of enterprise IT hasn't go all-in on public cloud.

According to Crawford, public cloud is four times the cost of a private data center. However, public cloud is growing at an undeniable clip. The balance points to a world where hybrid IT dominates the operating model of most enterprise IT operations. As a result, I've watched a product trend emerge where IT moves the data center control plan to a SaaS model. Here are three example strategies that further illustrate this hybrid model.

1. Skyport Systems

Maybe the most notable of examples is a small startup out of Silicon Valley, Skyport Systems. On service, Skyport looks like any other hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) vendor. Digging a little deeper, it's obvious Skyport considers itself not only a secure HCI vendor but a secure IT platform. Skyport representatives predict most enterprises will create net new applications in the public cloud. For the remaining applications, though, operations teams require a way to securely connect mature data center applications to the cloud.

Skyport looks to provide a cloud control plane for their on-premises HCI solution. With the management software delivered as SaaS, IT teams focus on managing applications instead of infrastructure. The concept isn't very different from Microsoft's Azure Stack.

2. HPE New Hybrid IT Stack

HPE has had its share of starts and stops in both public and hybrid cloud. At one time, HPE ranked as the no. 1 contributor to OpenStack, but most of its OpenStack team has been transferred to another community contributor. However, HPE hasn't lost its desire to penetrate the hybrid IT space. At HPE Discover 2017 in Las Vegas, HPE unveiled their New Hybrid IT Stack as evidence of this.

SEE: CIO roadmap: What's next for hybrid cloud? (Tech Pro Research)

New Hybrid IT Stack, which will be available as a cloud offering, renews the concept of multi-cloud orchestration. Like many IT vendors, HPE believes customers desire a single point to operate their public and private clouds. One of the critical lessons from HPE's OpenStack experience remains—operating a cloud is hard.

HPE isn't the only large vendor with a similar vision. NetApp and Dell EMC have also announced similar approaches. Watching how each vendor differentiates or executes on their vision will be interesting.

3. Platform9

I've written about Platform9 previously. The company has advertised a model of installing agents on existing infrastructure. Platform9 then overlays a private cloud atop of that infrastructure.

The company is now advertising the ability to build an OpenStack or Kubernetes-powered cloud across both public and private infrastructure. And its seeing additional competition by companies such as Nirmata, which focus on the developer experience by delivering as a complete PaaS leveraging Kubernetes on any combination of public and private infrastructure.

The major vendors and startups all seem to agree that cloud is hard enough that customers will want to outsource management as a SaaS offering. We are in the very early days of hybrid IT, and many of these companies are in both education and learning mode. They are trying to simultaneously educate the industry while determining what the industry wants in hybrid IT. This learning and education will continue taking place as vendors learn how to make money from the cloud control plane.

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Image: iStockphoto/agnormark

About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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