The New Stack @ Scale podcast logoAs companies of all sizes increasingly move some or all of their operations to cloud-based infrastructures, the concept of the hybrid cloud is a hot topic these days. But what does the term “hybrid cloud” really mean, and who needs to pay attention to it?

Those are some of the essential questions addressed in the latest episode of The New Stack @ Scale podcast. To take a deep dive into the subject, co-host Alex Williams and I welcome a couple of certified experts: Lee Atchison, principal cloud architect at New Relic, and Kyle MacDonald, one of the original board members of OpenStack, who was on the team (sold to Citrix) and a former senior vice president of cloud at Canonical. (Kyle is now a strategic advisor and investor and works with The New Stack.)

Hybrid cloud is the new reality

“There are a lot companies that have only come part way into the cloud,” Lee noted. “They’ll move certain apps into the cloud … but those apps still have to interact with each other. So having a strong data center for those apps that haven’t moved yet, along with having a strong cloud presence, really is an important model.” Critically, Lee said, it’s not just some apps being moved to the cloud and some apps not. It is some services being moved to the cloud, and those services are shared by multiple apps, which may be mostly in the cloud or mostly in your data center.

“I think a lot of the hybrid model is how do we link some of the new green field stuff back to stuff we’ve already got in our own data centers,” Kyle said. “Most of the developers I know inside of enterprises, they see a set of services that are available to them that they’re going to go plug in and connect to, right? Some of those might be on the [public] cloud. Some of those might be on the [private] Salesforce marketing cloud.” And some might be in data center. “I think it’s just the new reality.”

the new stack @ scale podcast crew

From left to right: Lee Atchison, Kyle MacDonald, Fredric Paul, and Alex Williams.

“We’re in hybrid environments because we have to be,” Lee agreed. “Because we’re moving, because we’re changing, because the world around us is changing.… If I’m the CTO of a company and suddenly I’ve gone from everything in my control to 30 other vendors that have complete and total control over what I’m doing because if they don’t function, I don’t function. That’s important and that’s what hybrid really means.” In the end, he quipped, “Hybrid isn’t a thing of its own to be strived for. It’s a side effect of reality.”

Visibility into the hybrid cloud?

Given that new reality, Alex’s big question is what do developers, system architects, and others need to do to take advantage of this hybrid environment—especially when they’re trying to scale their operations?

hybrid cloud icon“Most companies who are doing new initiatives with new offerings that they want to start new and fresh in the cloud still need access to their existing infrastructure for some aspects of what they’re doing,” Lee answered. “There are very few companies that start something so radically new that they don’t need what they already have as part of their application” for things like account identity and other business data.

“If you’re an enterprise and you’re building one of these applications,” agreed Kyle, “you’re going to be deciding where to keep that data.” Will companies want to move legacy to the cloud even as they’re building a set of applications that are leveraging that data? The answer isn’t simple, because “It’s not [just] a question of how fast can you scale, it’s how fast can you scale while being able to maintain enough visibility into all of those dependencies that you can actually fix them along the way? Otherwise, you’ve just basically implemented a giant mess.”

That visibility is paramount, Lee agreed. “When you had a monolithic application, you had visibility … but now no one person knows everything that’s going on with the system. And that’s the challenge.”

For Kyle, the bottom line is that “you’ve still got ties and dependencies to two different sets of infrastructure, one legacy and one future. So the real question is … how do we make those very clean and apparent so that you know where you’re tied in dependencies? That’s the real trick of hybrid.”

New Relic is a sponsor of the New Stack @ Scale Podcast. However, the content and views expressed are those of the participants of the New Stack @ Scale Podcast, which is the property of The New Stack. Any views expressed on the New Stack @ Scale Podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of New Relic. By embedding the audio for the New Stack @ Scale Podcast or linking to The New Stack, New Relic does not adopt, guarantee, approve or endorse the information, views or products available on The New Stack site.

Learn more about the podcast and hybrid cloud architectures and scaling in C.K. Oliver’s post on The New Stack. And get the complete scoop on hybrid cloud from Lee Atchison here: Enterprises Take Many Paths to the Hybrid Cloud.


Cloud image courtesy of'

Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite,, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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