Hybrid Cloud Future? Too Late!

I've noticed a bit of a disturbing pattern of late in my cloud discussions with clients. They have been talking about hybrid cloud in the future tense. If you are planning for hybrid down the road, I have a wake up call for you. Too late, you are already hybrid. 

If your company has even a single SaaS application in use today I can almost gurantee you it's connected to something inside your data center giving you hybrid cloud. So hybrid isn't a future state after you have a private cloud in place and IT Ops chooses to connect that private cloud to a public cloud. Look at it through the lens of a business process or application service which is composed of different components, some cloud-based, some on-premise. From an Infrastructure & Operations perspective, hybrid cloud means a cloud service connected to any other corporate resource (a back office app, your web site, your intranet, another SaaS app you have under contract and yes, even your private cloud). Any of these types of connections presents the same integration impact - whether you established the connection or not.  If you are like the typical enterprise, that answered our Forrsights Q4 2012 Software Survey, then you have more than six SaaS applications in place today (that you know about) so cloud integration is likely well in place today. And about one third of the developers who responded to our Forrsights Q1 2013 Developer Survey said they have already deployed applications to the public cloud. Twenty-five percent also admitted to putting application integrations in place. 

So the real question is how aware are you of these integrations and what are you doing about it? If they are being conducted below your radar, you better add investigating these connections to this week's to-do list. Chances are you don't have a clean consistent enterprise architecture in place for cloud integration. You probably aren't funneling these connections through a standard integration mechanism. So there's a good chance these connections aren't being monitored or managed. There could certainly be security, compliance or data management issues at stake. You should quickly ascertain whether these connections are just read-only (best case). If they are read-write, what fields and data structures are they affecting? Are these connections secure, encrypted and stable? What level of impact are these connections having on the back office systems they are touching? Could performance or availability issues be on the horizon? Are these connections consistent with existing enterprise integration policies, such as canonical data models?

I wouldn't panic over what might be, however. And I certainly wouldn't shut them down. Your first move should be discovery only. Second you should engage the owner of the cloud application about the business need these connections are serving so you can understand the nature of this connection. Only with this information can you determine if this is proper and whether management and monitoring are warranted. And only after you have done a real assessment can you determine if the connection needs to be reconfigured.

Once you have a handle on the current state of your hybrid cloud environment, you should then shift your focus to managing and maintaining this hybrid architecture going forward - because you are just going to become more hybrid from here. This calls for a good enterprise architectural approach. Forrester analyst Stefan Ried, just published a new report that looks deeply into this topic, which he calls, "The Hybrid Integration Challenge." In this report, he recommends fighting hybrid with hybrid - leveraging both on-premise and cloud-based integration technologies to address the challenge. "This is the area where Forrester sees the most innovation at the moment," Ried writes, "We consider integration in the cloud and integration with the cloud as separate criteria."

Informatica was one of the first movers into this space back in 2009 with Informatica Cloud, as was Boomi, acquired by Dell in 2011 and Cast Iron Live, which is part of the IBM SaaS portfolio. This week both Software AG and Tibco joined the market with a real-time, cloud-based integation platforms built from their legacy on-premise solutions. Unlike the services above, both vendors' solutions are more of a platform than an integration service as full integration-centric applications can be built atop these offerings. See Stefan's latest blog post for more on the Software AG announcement (AgileApps Live is based on its acquisition of LongJump). Tibco Cloud Bus is an Amazon Web Services-based integration service based on its BusinessWorks enterprise integration engine but designed for self-service access where most of the integration design work is pre-built based on best practices.

And don't think hybrid is just a cloud problem. As your organization starts to build out more modern application designs integration will only go up. Per the analysis recently completed by Forrester analyst, Jeffrey Hammond, the new model is omni-channel application architectures where discrete applications components talk to each other through RESTful service interfaces -- an API management and integration challenge without having to be in the cloud. Better to be ready for this new normal. 

Stefan Ried contributed to this report.