Editor’s note: Hybrid cloud is not just an infrastructure-centric concept, says Sinclair Schuller, Apprenda’s CEO. In this interview he discusses the business issues, challenges and solutions of hybrid clouds; de-risking the adoption of public cloud; how enterprise PaaS helps a mobile services back end and other important cloud trends.
SandHill.com: Please describe the trends in some of the challenges that companies encounter when migrating to a hybrid cloud solution.
Sinclair Schuller: Hybrid cloud, loosely speaking, is the idea that your IT infrastructure is merged into a single logical construct with a third party’s infrastructure. It would be like relying on municipal water while having your own water well at your home. This means that your applications — some of which may have significant strategic value — will live on your IT infrastructure and potentially on someone else’s.
Most of the challenges stem from understanding the risk and liability of relinquishing control, which applications are OK to run outside of your own IT infrastructure, what use cases would leverage the public half of your private cloud and how will all of this affect quality of service.
Second, there are real, mechanical challenges such as how to physical tie a third-party infrastructure to your own.
SandHill.com: How does Apprenda help customers with this challenge?
Sinclair Schuller: Most people think of hybrid cloud as an infrastructure-centric concept. This is ineffective because most of the challenges I described earlier relate to sensitivities at the application level and how they are interpreted at the business level.
Apprenda allows customers to pool infrastructure resources from any cloud into a single platform. The secret sauce, however, is that the infrastructure can be “tagged” with data that expresses business sensitivities about that infrastructure; and then our placement engine interprets that data when an application is deployed to make business-sensitive decisions about where the application will live and how it will run.
For example, a large healthcare provider might pool resources from their private cloud with additional infrastructure from someplace like Azure or Amazon. They can then flag infrastructure as “HIPAA friendly” or “Not HIPAA friendly,” or as “Dev/Test” and “Production.” Apprenda will evaluate applications against those business attributes and place applications accordingly.
This allows enterprises to map infrastructure to business concerns, allowing them to hurdle the aforementioned constraints. This is a much more powerful idea than simply saying that infrastructure from multiple clouds can “see each other” at a network level, which is what most hybrid clouds do.
SandHill.com: Please give an example of how one of your customers benefited from Apprenda’s hybrid cloud.
Sinclair Schuller: A Fortune 100 manufacturing customer is leveraging Apprenda’s hybrid cloud to define public cloud as a “feature” of their private cloud and leveraging it to slowly start migrating workloads that are public cloud friendly. This gives them the ability to leverage PaaS operations in the context of their private cloud (which ultimately is the primary ROI of PaaS), and “de-risk” the adoption of public cloud by doing it through a common abstraction.
This means that the customer gets immediate ROI, but can also position themselves to increase their adoption of public PaaS with their appetite for it.
SandHill.com: Your website says that seven out of the top 20 banks are currently piloting the Apprenda platform. What are the special needs of the financial institutions industry that your platform addresses?
Sinclair Schuller: Financial institutions have very rigid security and availability requirements. Apprenda puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on platform security and invests in a proper architecture for availability. Without these investments, we wouldn’t make it past the vendor scrutiny that the financial institutions put us through. Financial institutions are under tremendous pressure from auditors to have sane, safe and available IT; so these pressures bubble down to vendors like Apprenda.
SandHill.com: Is this a similar situation for the healthcare industry?
Sinclair Schuller: Similar to financial institutions, healthcare has significant external scrutiny. HIPAA and other regulations put pressure on the healthcare industry to source technologies that fit their mold. This means that data is secure in flight and at rest, that private information remains private and non-identifiable and that the vendor fits in with all corporate IT policies of the healthcare organization.
SandHill.com: What trends emerged over the past 12 months in customer needs for cloud solutions in the mobile arena?
Sinclair Schuller: The biggest emerging trend is that as traditional enterprises get on the mobile bandwagon their mobile strategy is different than the mobile strategy of consumer technology companies. Enterprises are looking for ways to expose their existing services, workflows and capabilities in a secure, available and scalable way so that they can build mobile front ends that tap into them.
For example, an insurance company will likely want to expose their claims workflows in a way that makes it easy to write mobile apps against them. This puts lots of pressure not on development on the mobile device itself but, rather, on the back-end mobile services ecosystem. This is where enterprise PaaS can help. Enterprise PaaS defines a fabric for mobile back-end services.
SandHill.com: In what ways do you think the vendor landscape will change over the next two years for vendors providing these kinds of mobile solutions?
Sinclair Schuller: We will likely see the emphasis shift from how vendors can help in mobile development on the device to what do vendors offer that simplifies the development of applications that leverage heavy-duty enterprise back-end services. The heavy lifting (and hence high value) engineering isn’t on the device side; it’s on the service side.
SandHill.com: From your observation, are there any misunderstandings or “myths” that are still hindering some companies from migrating to cloud solutions?
Sinclair Schuller: No, I don’t really think there are. We have to remember that an enterprise’s decision to adopt cloud (and when to adopt cloud) is much more colorful than just “yes” or “no.” Enterprises have lots of internal and external constraints, and they need to juggle those as they come and knock them down one by one.
This generally means that enterprises will adopt cloud to varying degrees and at their own pace. I think vendors who like to state that there are cloud “myths” or that enterprises are “dumb” or “slow” are simply not sensitive to the realities of what goes on in the enterprise.
SandHill.com: What do you think will be the most significant changes we’ll see emerging in cloud offerings and capabilities over the next two to three years?
Sinclair Schuller: All enterprises are adding software to their product and service mix. This means that vendors will put a huge amount of emphasis on cloud technologies that help enterprises build next-generation apps and services and connecting their customers to their apps and services. This is a significant departure from a “cloud as infrastructure” point of view.
Apprenda is a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey hosted by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research and GigaOM.
Click here to take the survey and share your opinions on the future of cloud computing.
Sinclair Schuller is the CEO of Apprenda. Apprenda has secured $16M in venture capital from funds NEA, Ignition Partners and High Peak Ventures to deliver private and public PaaS to enterprise customers. Apprenda is the best way for enterprises to develop and deliver next-generation applications or modernize existing applications for the cloud. Before Apprenda, Sinclair held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications, and consulted for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) vast IT systems.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.