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10/21/2010
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Interop: Hybrid Clouds Will Rule

Public clouds and private clouds each offer distinct advantages, which is why businesses are likely to embrace both for the foreseeable future.

One of the hottest debates around cloud computing is whether a public cloud or private cloud is the best solution for most organizations. But, according to a panel of experts who spoke Thursday at the Interop IT Conference and Expo in New York City, the majority of businesses will adopt a hybrid approach to the cloud to get the best of both worlds.

"I'm not going to try and convince you that there is no role for private clouds," said Sean Lynch, product manager for Google's App Engine Service. "It's not our position that public clouds will replace private clouds, it's more about augmentation," said Lynch.

The fact is, the panelists said, most businesses are not ready to hand sensitive or mission critical information over to a public cloud provider—no matter how good its security is—but do want to unburden themselves from managing non-core data and services.

"They consider public clouds more for something they need to do but which isn't at the heart of their business," said Marc-Thomas Schmidt, chief architect, SOA Connectivity, for IBM.

Industry regulations may also force some companies to maintain private clouds for data that is subject to rules—like SOX and SAS 70--about how and where it can be stored. "SWIFT would be a great platform in the cloud," said John Shaw, president and CEO of Nimbo Tech. "But the data is the problem," he said.

"It's more the non-technical things that are roadblocks [to the public cloud]," added Frank Greco, director of technology, Americas, for Kaazing Corp. "I would bet the security at Google or Amazon is better than anything you've got," said Greco, referring to the audience of mostly end-user IT professionals.

Budgetary issues may also prevent some organizations from moving to fully public clouds. While the savings can be considerable given that public clouds represent a shared, on-demand resource, the costs can also be uncertain as pricing is often based on usage. "Big companies don't understand subscription-based pricing," said Greco, a former IT official at now defunct Lehman Bros.

On the other hand, public clouds give individual departments, like sales and marketing, the ability to tap particular online services using their own funds. "There's a benefit to the fact that different business units can take ownership of those cloud budgets," said Lynch. Public and private clouds also represent different line items on the budget. "One is Opex and one is Capex, it's a conversation that has to be had with the CIO and CFO," said Shaw.

Given the pros and cons of each—public clouds offer elasticity and on-demand services and pricing while private clouds benefit those more concerned with control and compliance—it's likely most enterprises will embrace a hybrid approach to this new computing model for the foreseeable future. "No cloud is an island," said IBM's Schmidt.

Interop, hosted by InformationWeek.com publisher UBM Techweb, runs through Oct. 22 at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side.

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