Recently, some of the brightest and best minds inside Citrix came together for our annual gaze into the future – the results of which you can find in our Predictions for 2018 blog post.

A recurring theme, and one that I suggested would be top of mind when asked What tech concept do you think has been widely talked about, but will really see success in 2018? is the concept of hybrid cloud.

Why did I point to this, specifically? Let’s start by taking a trip down memory lane.

Over a decade ago, when the term cloud computing entered our vernacular, many IT professionals of that era reacted with absolute disbelief. Could it really be within the realm of possibility that organizations would be comfortable with trusting somebody else to manage, operate, and secure their mission-critical servers and applications? What was this thing called cloud?

Interestingly, this wasn’t an entirely new proposition. In the mid 1990s, we had seen the rise (and subsequent stall) of the Application Service Provider model – growing to a multi-billion dollar revenue business by 2003, but this model lacked any real scalability and was usually offered on a single-tenant, customer-by-customer basis, with the infrastructure and software hosted by the application vendor.

While it would be fair to suggest that the Application Service Provider model was indeed the precursor to the pervasive Software as a Service (SaaS) component that forms one third of our understanding of cloud computing today, the other two components; Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service each have very different roots.

Rewind to the mid 2000s – cloud computing’s formative years – and you will find a checkered history littered with puritanical debate, not only around the components, but also around the delivery model. Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud was the argument that surfaced at every industry event, and within the marketing materials of just about every technology vendor on the planet.

For anything to be considered “real cloud,” Public Cloud champions decreed, “it must be pay-per-use, opex-centric, elastic, and infinitely scalable”. Fair point.

Private Cloud advocates refuted these claims, countering, “if enterprises build advanced automation and orchestration on top of data center virtualization, then they can achieve rapid delivery of on-premises infrastructure resources.” Also a fair point.

As the debate raged, one key element that regularly seemed to be missing was the why? We had plenty of the what, but why were organizations interested in taking advantage of these emerging paradigms?

On one hand, there was the promise of improved efficiency and effectiveness, simpler operations, faster time to delivery, and improved productivity. On the other, there was the peril of security, loss of control, lack of visibility and the challenges of performance and reliability. How could organizations balance these to get the best results?

As the hype died down, the hyperbole gave way to critical thinking and organizations got to grips with understanding how to create and execute cloud-first strategies, the prevailing logic of “use the right cloud at the right time for the right reason” helped give rise to the notion of “hybrid cloud”.

And then there were three. Public, Private, Hybrid.

Each perfectly reasonable and each perfectly suitable for pretty much any use case that yesterday’s, today’s, or tomorrow’s businesses may require. And all of that only took 10 years to figure out.

Today, I tend not to think of hybrid cloud in the purest sense of the term. I like to envision it as the scenario that most organizations, and certainly most Citrix customers, will find themselves in for the foreseeable future.

For many modern, cloud-enabled enterprise environments, hybrid cloud architectures need to support, but do not explicitly require, physical or logical extensions of corporate networks to allow seamless access between the client/server. These architectures also permit higher-level integrations between disparate systems using application programming interfaces to securely exchange data via public or private network connections.

By definition, hybrid cloud is a multi-modal environment that combines the distinct sets of infrastructure, platform, and application services from both public cloud and a private cloud that today’s agile business requires. These services can be fundamental infrastructure building blocks, such as compute, storage, and network or they can be platform or software services that require different types of interconnectivity, security, and authentication to support different types of usage.

Let’s take a look at how the Citrix Secure Digital Workspace concept, powered by Citrix Cloud, addresses the hybrid cloud scenario for our customers.

The graphic above represents a simplified view of a typical customer environment. In the Private Cloud realm, traditional physical and virtual infrastructure still provides much of the daily horsepower for delivering applications, desktops, and data.

These traditional infrastructure services are increasingly augmented by multiple services from the Public Cloud realm. These are often delivered from a combination of Cloud providers, depending upon the type of services required.

The graphic above demonstrates the capability of the Citrix Secure Digital Workspace. The true value of hybrid cloud is not in the provision and management of the enabling infrastructure, but in the productivity gains that can be realized by delivering a mix of business-enabling services that allow end users to work the way they want to, while giving IT the visibility and control that they need to security and compliance.

As hybrid cloud continues to emerge and become the dominant model across many of our customers, the very nature of how we must change the networking and security model to accommodate these shifts becomes increasingly clear.

The diagram above (left hand side) acknowledges that Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is a key component of the Citrix strategy, enabling customers to be more certain that their applications can be available, secure and will perform – irrespective of where they are deployed.

The right-hand side of the diagram introduces the concept of the Citrix Analytics Service; a cloud-delivered solution for gathering deep insights into user behavior. This service is built to learn and understand the normal patterns of usage across the hybrid cloud and the Citrix Secure Digital Workspace and provides administrations and security ops professionals with 360 degree visibility and the ability to spot suspicious behaviors and react to those in quicker than ever before.

The Citrix Secure Digital Workspace allows customers to bring together all the digital assets they require – from any cloud – into a single, cloud-delivered workspace, ready to deploy, securely, to any device.

We are building the Citrix future to enable our customers to deliver their future. We believe the future is hybrid. Are you ready to accelerate to the cloud?