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Why Hybrid Cloud Might Replace VDI As The White Elephant Of IT

It Was Always, Yet Never, The Year Of VDI. Hybrid Cloud Will Go The Same Way.

Hybrid Cloud is touted by the major software companies, such as Microsoft and EMC/VMware, as the next big thing. But haven’t we been here before? For a decade, VDI was promised as the nirvana to small and large companies alike, a cure-all to solve all their desktop and application challenges. It never was the year of VDI. Not really. Why was that? And will the same fate befall Hybrid Cloud in the next ten years? The evidence so far says Yes.

This means Hybrid Cloud could be the next big white elephant of the global IT industry. This is a problem for you if you are a Hybrid Cloud partner or buyer, either as an executive or a practitioner. This post has been written to provide a counter-balance to the sleek, marketing campaign from the purveyors of Hybrid Cloud.

Imagine this: if a Hybrid Cloud, a multi-million dollar bet, is described in future like this (from the Wikipedia definition of ‘white elephant’):

A white elephant  writing a webservice in php write effective essay source link writer paper first steps report writing go pink viagra in india follow url thesis writing table of contents help hairdressing assignments watch how to write a good analytical essay essay topics i have a dream thesis generator for personal essay professional resume writer website for school get link viagra au sable ed levine resume go i like doing homework proofreading course online doing shopping essay neighbourhood essay in english essay writing services uk review watch best customs essays submit a thesis Hybrid Cloud is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.

The Life, Times and Torments of VDI

The first time I saw Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) was in 2004. It had been created by a UK financial company, to give secure desktop access to off-shore staff in India. Data didn’t leave the UK (for regulatory reasons), just the image of it did, the pixels generated on a server in Scotland, fired through cables, to a screen in Bangalore.

In the proprietary software company where I worked the thinking went, “Hey, if this company found it useful perhaps our other finance companies will too?!”

An industry was born, and lo it was called VDI!

VDI had problems, though. It was difficult. It was expensive. It didn’t always work. But it solved some problems and, most importantly, it kept the high-margin license revenue flowing for the best hypervisor in the business. In the next decade, I worked on a number of VDI projects, and they all had the same characteristics: it was difficult. It was expensive. It didn’t always work. You know the rest.

“This is the year of VDI!” they proclaimed in 2009. 2010. 2011. But it was a joke after that. The History of VDI (by a VDI company!) tells you all the history you need to know. The technology did get better and VDI became a really useful model for more use cases. However, when you added up all the costs of the technology and the hidden costs of all the talent to make it work, it was very expensive. People are still doing VDI today, some change the name to End User Computing (EUC), to get away from the name, but that’s just marketing. It is the same thing underneath.

Desktop applications are being superseded by cloud native applications, mobile applications, and less desktop use. SaaS applications like Salesforce don’t need any desktop. Besides, desktops are a pain to look after, virtual or otherwise, with all that patching and upgrading. Best to do away with them all together.

“But what does this have to do with Hybrid Cloud?”, I hear you ask…

The Rocky Road to Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud is so similar to VDI it is frightening:

  1. It is a solution pushed by vendors, not consumers. Nobody is crying out for hybrid cloud in the market other than the vendors and consultants with a vested interest in the solutions.
  2. There is no such thing as Hybrid Cloud. Do a Google / Bing search for Hybrid Cloud and you’ll find seventeen different definitions and reference architectures by seventeen different vendors.
  3. The current architectures are super complex and expensive. Very VDI.
  4. There are very few examples of Hybrid Cloud.
  5. The few examples of Hybrid Cloud are barely virtual machine clusters with an API and one network connection to a public cloud.

If Hybrid Cloud is anything, it is a spectrum of solutions and the one you build as a practitioner or buy as an executive will likely resemble an over-complicated Heath Robinson Contraption.

The risk to vendors in pushing Hybrid Cloud as a solution is that it is not a product. By this I mean, the customer doesn’t know actually what they are buying and they can’t compare it with anything in the market. This sounds like typical sales practice but it is no longer acceptable with clever companies these days. Companies like Royal Philips moved all their suppliers over to consumption model contracts, no upfront capital, risk on the supplier, no commitments.

If a Hybrid Cloud is as good as the vendors say then they wouldn’t hesitate in providing the millions of dollars of hardware, software and talent to implement and manage it on an at-risk basis. Would they? Well, they are not. Same old story: risk all on the customer. That does not work in today’s cloud-first world.

The risk to buyers in consuming Hybrid Cloud is explaining to the board and financiers, why you are sailing against the prevailing public cloud winds. If you want a 21st century datacenter, use one of the top three cloud service providers. They do datacenters better than anyone.

The risk to practitioners in being certified and marked as advocates of Hybrid Cloud is that they will be perceived as out of touch, perhaps “in the pocket” of the vendors, and lacking in independence. If the Hybrid Cloud market is small, you might find yourself cut off from the fast-growing public cloud market.

There’s a Bright Light at the End of the Tunnel

Microsoft looks like the only vendor that is solving the Hybrid Cloud “problem” because they are releasing a true, connectable cloud so that you can have something like Azure on your premises. AWS don’t do this, they don’t believe in Hybrid Cloud. Google don’t do this, they partner with VMware on Hybrid Cloud and, to be frank, VMware missed the start of the cloud race and look like a cloud also-ran.

Approach Hybrid Cloud with caution: beware vendors and consultants that tell you Hybrid Cloud is the answer to life, the universe and everything. Douglas Adams already gave us the answer to that question, and the answer was 42.