Seven vendors topped Forrester's first Wave for Hybrid Cloud Management Solutions, in spite of some confusion in the market as to what exactly "hybrid cloud" means.

Three vendors scored a place as strong contenders.

Scratch below the surface of the cloud computing hype of recent years, and you'll find very few organizations doing a wholesale move to the cloud, with most choosing to retain data on premises while moving specific workloads to the cloud. Which is where hybrid cloud management vendors come in: they help organizations manage their on premises and cloud deployments.

Forrester named RightScale leader in hybrid cloud management, with Scalr, CliQr Technologies, Dell, IBM, VMware and Red Hat following successively.

HP Enterprise, BMC and Microsoft filled out the strong contenders.

Define Hybrid Computing

Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester and author of this Wave acknowledged the confusion surrounding hybrid cloud computing.

“We have entered phase where every solution is called hybrid cloud. If you had anything that ran outside the data center few years ago you called it a cloud solution. Now everyone’s calling them hybrid cloud solutions,” he said.

The problem is that hybrid cloud computing can be a whole bunch of different things to different people, which is where the confusion arises, he continued.

Very few people turn to Forrester asking specifically for hybrid solutions, instead asking for advice on solutions that can help them manage environments that are split between their own data centers and a public cloud such as Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). So how does Forrester define hybrid cloud computing? Bartoletti explained:

“Forrester takes the simple approach that hybrid cloud is ‘cloud plus anything.’ So it could be cloud plus another cloud. Hybrid could be when it [the organization] wants to use AWS but also wants to use Azure. Hybrid could be when the organization wants to use new elastic applications in the public cloud, but wants to leave the data for that application in the data center. Hybrid cloud is when organizations deploy two different components of an application in two different places.”

So if an organization uses cloud computing for part of its computing needs, it's a hybrid cloud.

“The reason hybrid is so important now is that applications are far more hybrid than they have ever been before. Your development teams are building applications where the components live in a whole different bunch of places and that’s creating an entirely different and new level of complexity,” Bartoletti said.

“Every time we move things apart we create IT management complexity. What we are seeing is that the use of public clouds is growing quickly. On top of that lots of companies say they have a private cloud strategy so it’s only going to get worse.”

Bartoletti added that Forrester research reports almost 30 percent of IT infrastructure workers already supporting public cloud, almost a third supporting some kind of private cloud and almost half saying that building an internal private cloud is a priority.

Hybrid Cloud Management Leaders

Challenges that arise with hybrid cloud management include enforcing IT governance, IT control, cost management and security, and all without slowing down cloud adoption.

While public clouds offer opportunities to innovate quickly, IT needs to strike a balance between safeguarding the organization and enabling employees to work on public cloud platforms for greater efficiency.

“A lot of the new solutions we have been looking at [in the Wave] help IT teams and developers use more cloud, but use it safely and effectively. What IT needs is frictionless governance over these platforms,” Bartoletti said.

Leaders

The Leaders in this year’s Wave fall into two groups:

1. RightScale, Scalr, CliQr Technologies, Dell Cloud Manager

These leaders are cloud independent and sold by independent software vendors rather than a cloud platform vendor. The independent software vendors sell management stacks to make developers more productive across multiple clouds. All focus on the developer lifecycle.

2. IBM, VMware, Red Hat

These three share a background in infrastructure management. Their products are mainly sold to the infrastructure and operations teams who are responsible for managing cloud infrastructure. While some originally focused on the private cloud, they are now expanding to support public clouds as well. All three are very strong on what is important to IT administrators from an infrastructure standpoint.

Strong performers

While these vendors’ strategy is evolving, they still have a ways to go. Microsoft’s approach to the cloud does not really support other vendors’ clouds, but rather multiple Microsoft clouds. While a strong solution, the lack of cloud independence can be a shortcoming. Likewise, VMware offers a strong solution in its own cloud space and largely supporting its products. HP Enterprise is also very strong in its own cloud, or for managing multiple clouds built on HP infrastructure, but is not strong in non-HP settings.

Market Consolidation Ahead

Bartoletti foresees consolidation in this market with some of the smaller players swallowed by bigger players looking to fill out their portfolio.

There will be continued consolidation in the cloud platform market as well. The shape of the hybrid cloud management market will be determined by the kind of applications that are moving out of the data center and into the public cloud.

“The next wave of cloud adoption is being driven by organizations that are moving their core ERP [enterprise resource planning] and transactional database systems, their core systems of record — what they use to run their business, their Oracle workloads, and their SAP workloads, to the cloud,” Bartoletti said.

“But they are not just moving these applications or workloads to the cloud, they are also modernizing them, they are connecting them to new cloud services and rethinking the databases they are based on. That second wave of migration to public cloud platforms is going to generate a lot more interest in management tools.” 

Title image by Charles Forerunner