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The forecast for 2014 and beyond is cloud, cloud and more cloud – cloud computing, that is. For a majority of organizations – irrespective of size or vertical market – it’s a matter of “when” not “if” they will initiate a cloud computing deployment.

And ITIC survey data indicates that hybrid clouds will predominate and be the cloud architecture of choice for 64% of businesses. Hybrid cloud solutions offer organizations the best elements of public and private clouds when properly architected, tested, deployed and maintained. The benefits include reduced costs based on a utility-like pay-per-use model, greater scalability, flexibility and greater efficiencies in terms of manageability and business processes.

That said, in order to ensure optimal hybrid cloud performance and maximize Return on Investment (ROI), companies must start with a strong foundation. This includes a robust, reliable, flexible, scalable, manageable and secure infrastructure that provides integration and interoperability among legacy network components and the firm’s public and private clouds. Any hybrid cloud deployment lacking in these aforementioned elements is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Hybrid cloud deployments present immediate and complex management, integration and security challenges. Before commencing any cloud deployment, corporations should review all of the existing and legacy components in their current network environment. This includes: server hardware, virtualization, application workloads, management, WAN and security mechanisms to ascertain which components need to be upgraded and right-sized.

Next, all of the appropriate stakeholders in the organization from the C-level executives down to the IT department must come to a workable consensus on the business drivers, the technology and organizational responsibilities. The business need should always drive the technology decision and not vice versa. It is essential that the stakeholders determine what benefits/goals they hope to achieve with the hybrid cloud and which applications will be placed in the private cloud and which will reside in a public cloud. The latter is especially imperative; the organization must balance the advantage of outsourcing resources and the maintenance of those resources to an outside cloud services provider while still maintaining insight and control over the resources that are no longer under the direct control of their IT departments.

Within the private side of the hybrid cloud, the IT department must possess the necessary expertise and visibility into the infrastructure in order to achieve optimal performance and realize the benefits a hybrid cloud can deliver such as improved performance, increased security and reduced maintenance costs.

Finally, and most importantly the private and public portions of the hybrid cloud must provide a high degree of integration and interoperability, so that both operate in a synergistic manner that enables the private infrastructure to have insight into and utilize the public cloud’s resources to store data or perform specific tasks. A hybrid cloud that lacks the infrastructure to deliver these capabilities is not a true hybrid cloud.

Companies contemplating a hybrid cloud deployment should choose a vendor that has the experience in hardware, virtualization, security, applications, services and security. You will need a cloud services provider that can work in partnership with your organization to help you build and construct a robust, fully developed ecosystem with a strong foundational infrastructure and provide the necessary guidance to assist your firm through all phases of hybrid cloud deployment from design through maintenance.

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