Structure 2010: Is There a Hybrid Cloud in Your Future?

There are public clouds like Amazon’s (s amzn) EC2, and private clouds run by many large institutions that exist behind firewalls, but some networking and storage experts believe that the big opportunity for infrastructure companies and service providers in the future will be in finding ways of blending the private and public, or creating bridges between the two. As Michael Crandell, CEO of RightScale, told the GigaOM Structure conference, there are already hybrids in existence, to the extent that some companies have some of their operations in clouds outside the corporate firewall, but others that are in private clouds within the enterprise. What needs to be further developed now, he said, are ways of helping those two things work together so that companies can take advantage of both.

EMC (s emc) vice-president Tom Roloff said that a lot of large companies have started to see the benefits of cloud computing, and so are experimenting with private clouds internally, but will likely expand beyond those to use public clouds as well once they get comfortable with them. “It’s a multiyear journey in some cases,” he said. “I think we have a ways to go.” Roloff said that in the future he expects there will be hundreds of public clouds, but also tens of thousands of private clouds.

What’s happening in many cases, said Terremark’s manager of cloud services, Randy Rowland, is that a lot of Fortune 1,000 companies are using cloud services of some kind “but it didn’t come in through IT.” Instead, it started with a business unit or application developers, and then the IT department had to take over and decide to shut it down or find a way to manage it. “I think that’s where a lot of the growth for cloud computing is going to come from,” he said, when companies decide to manage the cloud services they find parts of their business using, and start to see the benefits.

Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, said he hopes that the industry will begin to develop common APIs that work across both public and private clouds and allow applications developers to make use of both seamlessly, and that he believes Amazon’s API could become the basis of such a standard, in the same way that IBM’s (s ibm) personal computer became the standard that allowed the PC industry to grow. “We think Amazon is an absolutely dominant player,” he said. Other panelists disagreed, however, saying they hoped there would be competing providers rather than a single standard.

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