What is Hybrid Cloud?

Posted by ownCloud GmbH – 18. November 2015

Hybrid cloud means a lot of things to a lot of people, particularly when it relates to Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS). Overall though, hybrid generally means choice. You can mix and match what you need for your specific use case. If you asked me to define hybrid, my favorite definition is probably Gartner’s, as they are usually pretty accurate, do a lot of research and have a wide view of the market:

Why is it my favorite? Primarily because they missed the mark with this definition.

Why is the only way to have a hybrid EFSS to have the control plane hosted in a vendor cloud? What about vendors where the control plane is on site, and storage is mixed on site or in the cloud? Is this not also hybrid cloud? Or if you decide to host your own control plane in a non-vendor cloud, is this not also hybrid? I posit that they both are, and that the true definition of hybrid cloud EFSS is simply the combination of public, private or on site cloud resources working together to provide Enterprise File Sync and Share.

Right. Got it. Who Cares?

One might then ask the question who cares. This is a semantic difference, not really a big deal.

To those that think this, I respectfully disagree – it matters a lot in the choices you can make to support your requirements. If your control plane is in the cloud accessing data on site, this has all sorts of challenges. First is authentication and access via an appliance, connector, or on site gateway. This can lead to interesting new security challenges. Ok, you can invest in new security hardware to make it work, but you need to make that investment. Or you need to invest in just the storage they can access on site, which is usually a limited range of option. Then you have integrated logging, intrusion detection, monitoring, and backup. If it is hosted, who is taking care of all of this? Your vendor, you, or a mix of the two – leveraging whose processes? Then one has to ask who has the control over the encryption keys and ultimately the files. Then we talk about how you integrate with existing infrastructure and investments and quite a bit more, and one might come to the conclusion that you really don’t have a lot of choice in any of this, it is all vendor driven.

If, on the other hand, you have your control plane on site – a lot of this is just plain easier. No new infrastructure or hardware is needed, just a bunch of virtual machines. Authentication is simpler leveraging AD, LDAP, SAML or something similar. Existing security mechanisms can be leveraged, like intrusion detection, DLP and more. Existing infrastructure can be used, and existing procedures and staff can be used. And, of course, you can mix and match storage in the cloud with storage on site as appropriate, using object stores, block storage or whatever you choose. This is definitely hybrid cloud EFSS, it is just delivered so that you can tailor to you – THAT is choice.

Why are you talking about this?

I am excited by the release of ownCloud 8.2, and the new encryption capabilities that we support now make it practical to deliver hybrid cloud EFSS from a control plane installed and managed by you. The control plane can be on site, in the cloud or wherever you choose to put it. You can then connect it to whatever storage you wish – object stores and filesystems in the cloud, on site or both – with no vendor lock in of any kind. The new encryption capabilities in ownCloud 8.2 allow admins to configure encryption with keys for the entire system, or on a per user basis – whatever you decide. In the end, this is about giving you options and letting you choose the right approach for you.

In fairness to Gartner, most vendors do deliver hybrid cloud EFSS precisely the way Gartner defines hybrid. And these vendors do require you to use their platform – you are locked into their control plane, some subset of your on-site storage, and their cloud storage. You have no choice. But isn’t the point of hybrid cloud choice? The choice to mix and match what you need, how you need it, managed how you want? It is time to rethink how we talk about hybrid cloud EFSS, expand what we mean by choice, and start taking on some of the harder enterprise integration problems – we know, because that is what we do every day.

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