The Hybrid Data Center: The Best of Virtual and Physical Computing Worlds

As more applications and data make their way to the cloud or are impacted by virtualization, data centers must adapt. The hybrid data center environment brings together the best of all worlds: cloud, virtualization, hardware, and co-lo.

By Jim Latimer, Chief Strategy Officer, CentriLogic

Businesses are migrating more of their data storage and applications to the cloud and other virtual environments, creating a huge market and hype around these two trends. Virtualization and cloud computing are growing at an astounding rate, yet for the next five to 10 years, many businesses will still need to own on-premise IT equipment and to use co-location and other physical services.

This has created a hybrid data center environment that brings together the best of all worlds: cloud computing, virtualized servers and storage, co-location and dedicated hardware.

The hybrid data center is at the epicenter of change in the way IT is delivered and consumed; it enables businesses to use cloud services for some applications and dedicated hardware for applications that don't transition well to virtualized environments.

Why doesn't "one size fits all" work?

With the hype around cloud computing and the various cloud services available to both consumers and businesses, it may seem smart to place all of your applications and data in the cloud to reap the benefits vendors tout. However, not all applications and data belong in the cloud -- nor in a virtualized environment.

Many businesses still run legacy systems that predate current virtualization technologies, and when deployed virtually (assuming end-user license agreements permit it), end users find the applications no longer work as well. The reason? Whether due to the need for high-speed data access; dedicated, large-scale memory or CPU; strict security requirements or compliance; vendor support or licensing constraints; and/or internal budget or operations restrictions, not all technology operates well in a virtual environment today.

Furthermore, not all IT departments are prepared to adequately support virtualized environments, because they lack expertise or available resources. Rushing into virtualization and/or the cloud could put your data at risk and threaten productivity. If deployed without adequate attention to the risks and vulnerabilities inherent in running virtual servers across shared hardware, infrastructure, and even locations, virtualized environments could pose a major security risk to your corporate data -- a risk that no business wants to take.

In the best of situations, there is still no way to completely eliminate latency in the cloud. For high-performing computing applications, such as those that rely on rapid access to databases, even a tiny delay can significantly degrade performance. These types of applications may still require dedicated, non-virtualized hardware.

At the same time, there are many other applications and data that can benefit from elasticity, mobility and consolidation and should move to the cloud to maximize cost savings and flexibility. To manage everything optimally when it comes to balancing cost and performance, a hybrid data center approach is necessary for many organizations.

Where does hybrid hosting come to play?

With hybrid data centers come management concerns. IT administrators must handle the traditional dedicated hardware they're used to running yet they must also learn the ins and outs of co-location services, managed hardware, virtualized servers, and public and private cloud computing. Trying to integrate and manage everything can cause headaches, and this headache isn't going away for at least five to 10 years.

Hybrid hosting in a data center combines co-location and physical hosting and then enables customers to make decisions on how, when, and where applications and data should run and be stored based on the current needs of the applications. A hybrid hosting approach can automate the partitioning of services that businesses use every day.

Most organizations are unable to adopt a "one-size-fits-all" infrastructure approach because of their unique requirements in the technologies, applications, policies, and regulations affecting their businesses. The hybrid data center environment enables them to piece together physical, virtual, and cloud services without the hassle of manually connecting all of these disparate systems.

Jim Latimer is the chief strategy officer at CentriLogic, a provider of hosting, managed services, and cloud computing solutions. Mr. Latimer can be reached at

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