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October 01, 2010

IT Hybridization: Why You Need a Hybrid Backbone

The question is no longer about whether your organization will adopt the cloud, it’s about when, how fast and how deep.

Enterprises need to prepare for a long transition period in which they will see a hybridization of their IT between private and public components. Whatever the delivery model of their applications, the network will always be at the heart of IT of distributed organizations. Enterprises can now start getting the best of both private and public worlds through unifi ed hybrid networks.

There is nothing impossible for the cloud – every single piece of IT can be put into the cloud from servers to desktops, from security to application delivery. Enterprises will start adopting one or another of those cloud capabilities. Sometimes, this move will happen at a strategic level, such as Valeo, a car equipment manufacturer that moved from Lotus Notes to Google (News - Alert) Apps “to reduce signifi cantly our offi ce infrastructure costs while simultaneously improving user collaboration and productivity.”

Sometimes it will happen at a less visible level, such as the chemical company that switched to a SaaS (News - Alert) application for days off management and got a better, cheaper and more reliable service than with their legacy in-house system.

The cloud is not a revolution, it’s an evolution. Like any kind of evolution, it will be associated with transition periods; and in that case, probably a long one. During this transition period, the older IT model, the private IT model, will need to seamlessly co-exist with the newer cloud model, the public IT model. Enterprises will need the appropriate tools to ensure a seamless coexistence of a combination of public and private components; they will need to think their IT as a hybrid IT; they will need solutions that will now allow them to get the best of both private and public worlds.

So, where to start? IT of a distributed organization can be oversimplifi ed like this: Users across the globe (in branch offi ces, at home or at the hotel) use various devices such as PCs, pads and smartphones, to access through the network to multiple applications running on servers across the globe. Whatever the delivery model, public or private, the network is at the heart of IT.

All international organizations own a virtual private network, typically built around the MPLS technology. The VPN is the perfect tool for secured communications between private IT components. Is it able to support the transition to the hybrid IT?

Not in its actual format, just because it has been optimized for private communications.

Does it make sense to carry the ever-growing public Internet traffic, sometimes business critical, sometimes not – like social networking – through high-quality and pricey MPLS pipes?

The answer is clearly no and this is the reason why leading technology and business analyst fi rms are urging enterprises to adopt hybrid networks.

Hybrid networks, according to Gartner’s (News - Alert) defi nition is the combination of an MPLS VPN with broadband Internet links on which the enterprise is setting-up a secondary, secured but less reliable network using IPSec technology. While hybrid networks exist for years, they are still not widely adopted as they were cumbersome to setup and manage. Until now, there has been no solution available that easily and seamlessly unifi ed MPLS and Internet VPNs into one.

Once unifi ed through next generation solutions such as a heterogeneous infrastructure to deliver on its promises, with hybrid network unifi cation an enterprise no longer have to make a choice between fast or large pipes, between pricey and cheap networks, between business grade or standard grade links. It’s possible to have a fast and XXL network that will cost-effectively serve the needs of all applications in IT, whatever their business criticality and delivery model: private data center, private cloud, public cloud or SaaS. A dynamic, automated, application aware, global and sense and respond approach to WAN selection is what is required to do so. Far from what legacy technologies like policy-based routing, and still largely deployed, are able to do.

Getting immediate benefits from the hybrid IT is the reason why a car equipment manufacturer switched to GoogleApps and to a unified hybrid network at the same time. To the savings and productivity gain achieved with GoogleApps, the company added extra savings and three times the overall capacity increase through their hybrid network. That’s also to achieve savings and productivity improvements that this chemical company switched from a pure MPLS network to a unified MPLS + Internet network.

When it is unified, a hybrid network represents the backbone of an hybrid IT, the one that enterprises will use to seamlessly transition to the new world; at their own pace.

Will everything ultimately collapse into the cloud? Will enterprises definitely turn their head from IT burdens to focus on their core business? Nobody would bet on this happening in a five years’ time frame, but in 10 or 15 years? Remember, there is nothing impossible for the cloud. IT

Thierry Grenot, founder and Chief Technology Officer at Ipanema Technologies, writes the WAN Optimization column for TMCnet. To read more of Thierry’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
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