Hybrid Cloud


Written by
Peter Shand
Chief Technology Officer, Americas

Hybrid Cloud: The Realities

The hybrid cloud has undeniable benefits and is considered a compelling progression of cloud computing. It allows enterprises to retain control of their IT environments while sending non-mission-critical workloads to the public cloud to take advantage of flexibility and scalability.

Hybrid cloud computing refers to policy-based and coordinated service provisioning, use and management (orchestration) across a mixture of private and public cloud services. Gartner has predicted that by 2019, more than 30 percent of the 100 largest vendors’ new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only. They have also predicted that 90% of organizations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management by 2020. Developing a solid hybrid cloud strategy can help address issues including:

  • Capacity Expansion – This can require massive capital expenditure in order to add required capacity to aging or undersized on-premise private cloud infrastructure. A hybrid cloud can allow for the required capacity to be sourced from public cloud providers to add to on-premise capacity using an operational cost model that may be more manageable.
  • Development and Test Environment Resources – These types of workloads can be very elastic and a pay-as-you-go model may be more cost effective than procuring assets to meet performance requirements during peak utilization periods.
  • Planned Temporary Need – Applications for remittances, or retail, can require significant scaling to meet customer demand for holidays and product launches. Leveraging a hosted hybrid cloud enables tailoring resources to the problem at hand while allowing one to pay on an as needed basis. It can transform a large capital expense into a more manageable operational expense.
  • Network Optimization – Due to the massive scale and available network bandwidth available with a hybrid cloud, it can be leveraged to provide connectivity options for remote branches or applications at a fraction of the cost.

Hybrid Cloud: The Challenges

Though a hybrid cloud is created by combining at least one public and one private cloud, deployment isn’t necessarily that simple. Creating a hybrid cloud is complex work, as companies face challenges with integration, migration, security and other issues.

  1. Talent and experience is extremely critical to a successful hybrid cloud journey. Most IT organizations limit or reassign risk when making major changes to IT infrastructure or strategy, especially when the available internal resources have limited expertise on the technologies being integrated. They in turn, leverage external resources like vendor or value added reseller professional services to assist with the process. A great deal of capital expenditure is budgeted and spent on deploying the internal infrastructure and orchestration tools associated with internal private clouds, however the public cloud component seems to garner less attention. In some cases, the public cloud is assumed to be purely operational even from the beginning stages of its integration into the pool of IT resources. Frequently, the Windows guy armed with a credit card or an Enterprise Agreement usually sets out to conquer Azure while the Linux guy wrestles with AWS.
  2. Understanding the cost of transitioning to a hybrid cloud can be exceptionally difficult and requires significant cycles and subject matter expertise to understand the true costs or savings that may be realized by migrating to a hybrid model. It is important to note that the costs are never purely operational even for public cloud heavy deployments. The infrastructure to provide secure connectivity will likely always involve capital budgeting. This can be significant depending on the throughput requirements for the business to access applications and data.
  3. Network connectivity between on-premise resources and the public cloud provides the foundation for a successful deployment. If improperly sized or secured; this component can cause every other component to fail or underperform. Copying data to seed development and test operations, or corporate users simply accessing mission critical applications, or pulling data to do analytics in the public cloud, all require strong network performance. Is the limited functionality available with the native VPN connectivity options for the major cloud providers enough to meet the business and functionality requirement? Will an outage in a single ISP cripple IT operations? Applications and data exist in a symbiotic relationship, one is useless without the other, so migrating parts of an application to the public cloud while accessing critical data over poorly performing connections to the private infrastructure will lead to instability and lost productivity.
  4. Cloud computing is not inherently any less secure than traditional computing, and may in fact face fewer attacks, but there are still areas to consider when building out a hybrid cloud. For example, existing security controls such as authentication, authorization and identity management will need to work in both the private and public cloud. Leveraging the new application programming interfaces (APIs) that make hybrid so attractive, requires complex network configurations, and pushes the limits of traditional system administrators’ knowledge and abilities and adds significant risk of misconfiguration. Maintaining and demonstrating compliance can be more difficult with a hybrid cloud as well as managing SLAs for private infrastructure as well as public. Business continuity if a major public cloud provider has an outage can also add significant complexity, as well as cost, to planning and operating hybrid infrastructures.

Hybrid Cloud: Where do we start?

Hybrid cloud implementation has the potential to boost performance. It moves passive and rarely accessed data to a public cloud, freeing up storage space which in turn reduces refresh times. Once you are ready to implement a hybrid cloud here are some things to consider:

  • Invest the time and dollars to fully understand and map the organization’s cloud maturity as well as to create detailed application taxonomies and topologies that fully document critical application interactions, integrations and dependencies. This investment will significantly increase the successfulness of the hybrid IT model.
  • Utilize the competition between public cloud as well as private cloud infrastructure providers to create competitive infrastructure as a service (IaaS) deals in the shorter term.
  • Develop a hybrid cloud strategy, making use of multiple hardware providers as well as cloud providers such as AWS and Azure. Utilize either cloud service brokers or appropriate tools and standards for file and data exchange to allow workloads to be moved seamlessly between cloud providers and users, without significant cost.
  • Limit the use of proprietary technologies that could cause lock-in to one provider without a clear business justification.
  • Complete a risk analysis of using any public cloud laaS provider, other than AWS and Azure, prior to its use. Regularly review contingency or exit plans, and evaluate risks for every cloud provider. Cloud provider reviews should be executed more frequently than those for AWS and Microsoft due to the higher probability of a major change in their cloud strategy in the future.

Happy Migration!

Sources for updated Gartner predictions:



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