While many enterprises are still wrestling with the problems of cloud computing and whether they should make the jump, a small number of companies are providing stepping stones to the cloud that can make the transition less painful -- Alfresco and its hybrid model is one of them. Alfresoco’s Director of Cloud Services David Gildeh sat down with us last week to explain what this is all about.

There is reason the spotlight has fallen on Alfresco recently. It has announced that it will looking to launch an IPO later this year, or sometime next year, and in anticipation of that IPO, it has appointed a new CEO and expanded its presence in the US.

Alfresco’s US Progress

And it is the hybrid model or cloud computing that is building its reputation within the US. Just to be clear, hybrid cloud computing offers enterprises the possibility of having both on-premises computing and cloud computing present in the enterprise to meet its business goals.

This should be an obvious model, but Gildeh says, it seems that in the US, it has not really developed in the way it could. Only last week, for example, it held its third annual Content.gov event which had as its keynote speaker Beth Noveck, the US Deputy Chief of Technology, as well as representatives from the FDA and the US patent office. The thinking behind this was to discuss how public and federal bodies can become more collaborative and transparent based on a set of open innovation standards within non-proprietary IT environments, at the behest of President Obama, who has made this a policy plank.

Hybrid, Agile Computing

Alfresco’s interest in this is obvious not only because of the large number of public sector clients it has, but also because the hybrid model sits well with this ambition.shutterstock_98210885.jpg

While many might argue that the real reason behind this is because of apparent cost savings of taking the cloud route, Gildeh points out that there are other reasons, not least of which is agility.

With agile systems, enterprises can provision new services to deal with a particular problem, or undertake a particular task, and have that task or problem resolved quickly and without having to spend valuable IT resources.

…It is giving enterprises the agility of cloud, so they can go off and creates new business case uses like B2B collaboration, pushing mobile devices outside the firewall, enabling them use interactive content, and even using the cloud as a hub to connect up cloud services. Some enterprises are also using it as a repository for content to connect up different applications," Glideh said.

If it is as clearly advantageous, or even economical as this, then why is there reluctance to take to it in the first place.

Cloud Computing Barriers

The problem, he says, is that enterprises cannot put everything in the cloud from a technical point of view because many cloud providers don’t have the ability to customize their offerings, or integrate with existing on-premise systems.

Neither can many of them tie into the regulatory frameworks that a given enterprise may be subject to. The result, despite the advantages of cloud computing, many companies still need a significant on-premises presence.

Cloud v Hybrid Computing

This is not going to change any time soon. According to Gildeh, Alfresco could hypothetically become a pure cloud company, but it’s not going to be looking at this for at least ten years.The reason for this, he says, is significant and reflects where enterprises are at the moment. Enterprises may be ready to use the cloud, but they are nowhere near ready enough to move all their content there.

Any vendor then,  will have to work with that situation for those ten years -- and probably longer -- if it is to continue to work the market:

… There is no doubt that companies want to move to the cloud and I have no doubt that in the future they will move completely to the cloud. But for really large enterprises -- the kind of enterprise that we deal with -- it’s just not viable right now... they need that strategic stepping stone that is hybrid computing into the cloud…”

Why Hybrid?

One of the reasons for the popularity of the hybrid system is that it covers all bases. While most enterprises need an on-premise hub that connects their systems, they also need to be able to connect to cloud applications. There are three elements required, and the hybrid architecture covers all three.