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Zebra Technologies Unifies Hybrid Cloud with vRealize Suite

by Rich BourdeauHybrid Cloud

You have seen the surveys, hybrid clouds are everywhere.  If you are not using one today you are considering using one or so the experts are telling us.  In a March 2016, Tech Pro Research Survey 88% of the respondents said that they were familiar with the concept of hybrid clouds and 68% had already deployed or were considering deploying a hybrid cloud.  Based on these numbers, it sounds like everyone is doing it.

However, when I talk with different companies the reality is that far fewer companies are actually enjoying the benefits of hybrid cloud than the surveys would indicate.  That is because everyone is using a different definition for what hybrid cloud is.  If you Google “Hybrid Cloud Definition” you will see the following description about what makes a hybrid cloud.

Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment which uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.”

Most people fixate on the first part of the definition which is a mixture of both on premises and public cloud services.  Using the first part definition, the survey results by Tech Pro and other industry analysts seem reasonable, but just because you have infrastructure in different locations by different providers does that make your deployment a hybrid cloud?  Think about it.  Does having independent islands of infrastructure and applications really help provide a flexible hybrid cloud platform?

To really enjoy the benefits of hybrid cloud computing you need to be able to manage all your resources with a single integrated tool set that allows you to leverage the best of both worlds depending on the specific business need.  You need a single catalog of IT services where users can request, provision and manager their resources regardless of location.  You need common tools to monitor health, performance, and capacity.  You need to understand costs of the service and leverage that information to make intelligent placement decisions. Most importantly you need the ability to move applications from one location to another without having to re-architect them.

If you add those requirements to a hybrid cloud definition, I think the number of companies deploying a true unified hybrid cloud would be a lot less than many of these surveys are indicating.  One company who has really deployed a hybrid cloud infrastructure and is achieving the benefits of unified hybrid cloud is Zebra Technologies.  Here is a short summary of their story and a pointer to a full case study of their deployment.

Zebra Technologies Accelerates Business Merger by leveraging Unified Hybrid Cloud

Zebra Tech LogoZebra Technologies is a worldwide supplier of logistical solutions that identify, track and manage critical assets, people and transactions.  When Zebra acquired Motorola Solutions they nearly quadrupled the size of the company overnight.  As part of the acquisition Zebra had to pay a large data center hosting fee until it could move the Motorola applications to their own data centers.  Here is a summary of how they achieved that goal using a “unified” hybrid cloud.


  • Quickly migrate 700 legacy applications to eliminate a $157,000 daily hosting fee
  • Deploy Internal IT infrastructure resources that was larger and more flexible than existing capacity
  • Utilize public cloud resources for additional elastic capacity for application staging, future development and expansion
  • Implement a hybrid cloud with enough flexibility and elasticity to accommodate new applications and allow applications to move back and forth seamlessly


Zebra Technologies elected to leverage their existing vSphere compute virtualization environment and augment that with VMware NSX network and security services.  In addition to the vSphere based private cloud, for compatibility reasons Zebra chose to leverage VMware vCloud Air as its primary public cloud, but also needed support for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure public clouds.  Zebra IT leverage VMware vRealize Suite to build and manage a self-service platform where users could request and manage IT services on the cloud of their choice.

Business Impact

In less than a year Zebra Technologies rapidly moved the acquired applications to its new Unified Hybrid Cloud environment which now host over 45% percent of the company’s application workloads.   Here are just a few of the benefits they have achieved:

  • Hassle-free ability to move workloads between its public and private clouds
    “It’s easy to move a virtual machine, but you can spend the next hour and a half getting the network guys to change the VLAN, change the rules, or punch holes in firewalls. VMware NSX with vRealize Automation automates all of that.”

Kelly Jones, Cloud Consultant, Zebra Technologies

  • Enable Self-Service to Any Cloud
    “Everything you need for that environment will be spun up, accurately and automatically, on either on-premises or off-premises facilities, including AWS and Azure,”

Scott Myers, Cloud Architect, Zebra Technologies

  • Streamlines Hybrid Cloud Operational Life-cycle Monitoring and Management

“The app teams, the OS team, the network team, they each have their [operational dashboard] version,” Jones says. “The more people see, the more they like it.”

Kelly Jones, Cloud Consultant, Zebra Technologies

  • Precise Cost Accounting
    “VMware vRealize Business gives us the ability to show management where every dollar went, where they overspent, and what they saved to the last jot and tittle. When our finance people saw what it would do, they were like kids in a toy store.”

Scott Myers, Cloud Architect, Zebra Technologies


  • A Unified Comprehensive Cloud Management Solution
    “You need to have all these pieces: the Software-Defined Data Center, the public cloud, the automation, the security, the operational visibility, and the financial transparency. VMware has sewn it all into a single software solution.”

Scott Myers, Cloud Architect, Zebra Technologies

To find out additional information about how Zebra Technologies delivered on-demand, hybrid cloud infrastructure services to meet the increasing demand of their business read the full Zebra Technologies case study.

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