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Is Hybrid Cloudy With Chance Of Failure? InformationWeek Video

Netflix's former cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft and other cloud experts weigh in on the realities of hybrid cloud.

When I first started covering virtualization as a reporter, I heard the same story repeatedly from smart CIOs: Virtualization helped me stop being the "no" person and start being the "yes" person. Virtualization helped IT provision and point technology resources to address specific business requests in days, not weeks. Then cloud computing accelerated things to a whole other level.

Early proponents of public cloud services continue to argue that going with a hybrid approach, mixing private and public cloud workloads, will just slow enterprises down. You'd better go all-in with Amazon or other public cloud services, or you're kidding yourself. Hybrid cloud isn't cloudy enough. It's cloudy with a chance of failure, this argument goes.

Just last week, Amazon and VMware had a fresh tussle on this topic, after Amazon unveiled tools designed to serve as a public cloud onramp for VMware customer workloads. (See Charles Babcock's related story here.) VMware CTO Chris Wolf quickly struck back at the Amazon marketing push, writing a blog saying that what Amazon offers isn't true hybrid cloud management. Wolf argued that basing your cloud strategy on one public cloud vendor will have you playing a risky game of Jenga when you need to move workloads for security, regulatory compliance, or cost reasons.

Who's right? Wolf and the CIOs who are starting with a hybrid cloud approach, or the CIOs going all-in on public cloud? At our InformationWeek Conference in April, we heard divergent opinions from cloud experts.

Netflix made one of the biggest, earliest bets on the public cloud, going all-in with Amazon. Netflix's former cloud strategy architect, Adrian Cockcroft, now a technology fellow at Battery Ventures, minces no words on this topic: Hybrid isn't a long-term strategy.

The early complexity of managing data centers, and the myriad products and services from varying vendors that went into them, caused Netflix IT more headaches than cloud service providers did, Cockroft says.

"It's much better to have everything in one place," he says in the video clip below.

Netflix's much-analyzed cloud journey would have been an IT cultural challenge of epic proportions at, say, an established manufacturing company. Developers represented the absolute core of the Netflix culture, paving the way for Cockcroft to "remove the friction from product development." Development and business operations decisions effectively merged, in a process that minimized process and maximized trust, he told the InformationWeek Conference attendees.

Most CIOs haven't had the opportunity to redesign their companies' IT process and business process to that extent. And unless you're talking about startups, most CIOs won't have that chance soon.

There are plenty of other cloud chances to take. Sandra Kurtzig, CEO and co-founder of cloud-based ERP startup Kenandy, says cloud is all about speed. View the video clip directly below.

The cloud model also lets small companies acquire the software and IT infrastructure that only the biggest companies used to have. Any company can now tap into best-of-breed cloud services, Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie notes in the clip below.

Cockcroft will always be justifiably passionate about his belief in the process he created and the bet he made on the public cloud. But while cloud industry gurus debate how cloudy is cloudy enough, don't let anyone tell you that it's not valuable to go from Dr. No to Dr. Know.

Can the trendy tech strategy of DevOps really bring peace between developers and IT operations -- and deliver faster, more reliable app creation and delivery? Also in the DevOps Challenge issue of InformationWeek: Execs charting digital business strategies can't afford to take Internet connectivity for granted.

Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
6/11/2014 | 11:16:04 AM
Re: Was Netflix a unicorn?
A key point to keep in mind is that we are also looking at the current state of affairs. Years ago, Netflix suffered a large outage around Christmas that might have been reduced had they used a hybrid cloud approach.  Ofcourse, hindsight is 20/20 and there were many factors that we could argue either way, but the key point is that you still are at the mercy of the cloud provider if you are using a single-provider versus a hybrid approach.  Both have pros and cons, it really depends on risk tolerance, in-house skillsets, and the type of relationship you have with your provider.  If you are a key customer, there's a good chance that you will probably have reduced risk than other smaller customers might face due to the way these services are set up to support large vs smaller customers.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/9/2014 | 4:16:19 PM
Was Netflix a unicorn?
Many people have suggested to Adrian Cockcroft that Netflix was a special case and all-cloud is not suitable for enterprises except for the Netflixes of the world. But he rejected that notion. Netflix is not a unicorn, he says. Any company can benefit from increased agililty and speed to market when it moves the bulk of its computing into the cloud.
User Rank: Author
6/9/2014 | 12:24:42 PM
Re: All Cloud
Agreed, Chris. One thing that struck me is that Cockcroft generated an amazing amount of trust with everyone around him -- or else none of the process redesign would have worked. Some people who work in organizations without a significant level of trust may have difficulty relating to his situation.
User Rank: Author
6/9/2014 | 12:14:45 PM
All Cloud
Adrian Cockcroft's perspective had a lot of people at the IW Conference talking and debating after his session. People tended to be directionally in agreement -- more cloud, the need to move faster -- but not ready to embrace his all cloud sentiment. Cockcroft challenged the audience to not do "undifferentiated heavy lifting."
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