Disclosure: I am an EMC Elect member.
EMC's new Enterprise Hybrid Cloud leverages the company's converged infrastructure solutions VSPEX and Vblock to create on-premises infrastructure and to partner with public cloud providers. EMC claims its hybrid cloud offering can be deployed in as little as four weeks. The implementation includes the network, storage, and server capacity needed to host up to 10,000 virtual machines (VMs), as well as the services needed to integrate with public cloud providers.
Interoperability and workflows
There's not much point in a hybrid cloud offering without integrating with a public cloud provider. What's available day one from EMC is a solution based on offerings from its federation of companies, which include VMware and Pivotal. The initial option for public cloud providers is limited to EMC Cloud providers and VMware vCloud Air providers. EMC announced future support for Microsoft- and OpenStack-based clouds.
One of the primary values of cloud solutions is the ability to offer self-service capability to the IT infrastructure and to platforms. In the initial version, EMC leverages VMware automation platform vRealize Orchestrator (formerly known as vCenter Orchestrator) for creating workflows. By leveraging its expertise in vRealize Orchestrator, EMC provides powerful self-service templates out of the gate. Some of the initial workflow use cases combined services such as EMC's software defined storage platform ViPR and storage replication to create self-service disaster recovery services.
There are open questions about future integration with Microsoft- and OpenStack-based clouds. Some customers may frown upon using any part of the VMware stack, which includes the vRealize Orchestration platform. Also, it's unclear if EMC plans on leveraging native Microsoft and OpenStack orchestration for the two new flavors of its solution.
Hybrid cloud is difficult
The EMC offering shows how difficult building a hybrid cloud is for an enterprise with a non-heterogeneous environment; relatively complex workflows are needed to provide services such as disaster recovery. In the case of the EMC solution, a cloud administrator can leverage a Vblock that has a RecoverPoint appliance to orchestrate all of the moving parts for setting up data replication to another Vblock at an EMC Cloud provider. Cloud administrators can call EMC support and get end-to-end support if they run into an issue setting up all of the workflows needed.
Applying the same use case to an OpenStack- or Microsoft-based hybrid cloud isn't as straightforward. While the orchestration of the on-premises infrastructure may be the same, the integration with the cloud provider will not be the same. It's critically important for EMC and other hybrid cloud infrastructure providers to develop deep relationships with public cloud providers. The relationship complexities also highlight the need for an open standard between cloud environments; the long-term hope is that OpenStack provides a neutral platform that allows a common set of instructions between on-premises infrastructures and public cloud environments.
Hybrid clouds are not as simple as buying a pre-engineered solution and plugging them into a public cloud provider. EMC's Hybrid Cloud is an interesting attempt to bring together complex technology and services to give a jumpstart to hybrid cloud.
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 Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.