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When it comes to the question of whether a hyper-converged system can be used as a platform for a hybrid cloud...
environment, there are two main reasons why the answer is not cut and dry. The first reason is that technology continues to evolve, and there are vendors that are hard at work on hybrid cloud products that leverage hyper-convergence. The second reason is because there are varying definitions for the term hybrid cloud.
In order to understand the source of the complexity and ambiguity surrounding the hyper-converged cloud, it is necessary to consider the nature of hyper-converged systems.
Some have described hyper-converged systems as "virtualization in a box." The idea is that a hyper-converged system consists of nodes that include storage, compute and network resources. The vendor couples those resources with a hypervisor and a management layer and then certifies the package as a whole, guaranteeing that all of the individual parts will work with one another.
At first, hyper-convergence may sound perfect for hybrid cloud use. Hybrid clouds are made up of private cloud resources and public cloud resources. Private clouds are based on server virtualization technology and hyper-convergence was specifically designed to act as an optimized server virtualization platform.
Some analysts have written that private cloud is nothing more than a fancy name for server virtualization. Based on that definition, hyper-converged cloud systems are well suited for use as private cloud platforms. However, private clouds are more commonly defined as server virtualization with a self-service layer overlaid onto it. This self-service layer allows authorized users to create virtual machines based on predefined templates. This layer may also provide additional functionality, such as chargebacks or capacity forecasting.
The problem with building this type of private cloud on top of hyper-converged systems is that hyper-converged systems, whether used in a hyper-converged cloud or an on-premises system, include their own management layer. This management layer is generally preconfigured and is somewhat rigid in regard to how it can be used.
Hyper-converged systems and the hybrid cloud model
This doesn't mean hyper-converged systems cannot be used to create a private cloud. Rather, some vendors make it easier than others to build a private cloud based on their hyper-converged systems. The ease of building a private cloud is determined by whether the private cloud software is native to the hypervisor vendor or if it is third party, in addition to the degree to which the hyper-converged system vendor allows customers to configure the management layer.
Public clouds also play a role in the hybrid cloud model. In most cases, the public cloud side of the hybrid cloud is based on infrastructure as a service resources, such as those provided by Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure. The process of connecting these resources to an on-premises hyper-converged system tends to be somewhat straightforward.
In the case of Microsoft Azure, the process commonly involves registering the organization's domain name with the Azure cloud, setting up the Azure Active Directory and establishing a virtual network that spans the two environments. These assets make it possible for users to seamlessly access resources regardless of whether they exist on premises or in the public cloud. They also open the door for migrating workloads between the local data center and the public cloud. The public cloud configuration tasks work the same way regardless of whether or not hyper-converged cloud systems are being used in the data center.
Currently, there are few hyper-converged system vendors that design their systems specifically as hyper-converged cloud for private or hybrid cloud use. Even so, the idea is beginning to gain traction. Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Nutanix, for example, are all currently working with Microsoft to develop hybrid versions of the Azure Cloud Platform System that will be based on a hybrid cloud reference architecture -- essentially the blueprint for a hyper-converged system.
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