Adopting Hybrid Cloud
In a report published in October 2013, Gartner has predicted that almost half of large enterprises will be engaged in a combined, public/private cloud operation, often described as “hybrid” cloud computing, four years from now. As per this report, the opposition to public cloud, which looms large in many enterprise IT surveys, will fall away in the near future, at least for limited hybrid operations.
In the initial days, large enterprises typically opted for private cloud models because of security, data-privacy, and control concerns. Leveraging existing infrastructure investment, along with the Needs to utilize their existing datacenters, was also played a major role in private cloud adoption in these large enterprises. On the other hand small and medium enterprises always have been more open to public cloud uses and have fuelled the growth of public cloud services. Now we’re beginning to see enterprises make the transition — augmenting private cloud adoption with forays into public cloud and hybrid services.
Hybrid Cloud adoption Drivers
Hybrid cloud adoption in enterprises is typically driven by following key business drivers:
- Interoperability: Organizations today run heterogeneous application environment – spread over a variety of legacy systems, private and public clouds. To manage this kind of complex landscapes, organizations require the flexibility to choose between different cloud services based on the best fit and price for each applications/workloads. Most importantly, these applications/workloads need to interoperate well with others. A hybrid cloud approach can ensure seamless integration of applications, infrastructures, and services, and thus mitigates operational risk and simplifies management.
- Vendor independence: Success of initial cloud services providers like AWS, Rackspace, and Microsoft has given the rise of many cloud services vendors. Though this has created a highly competitive marketplace which is favourable to organizations in some ways – for instance, keeping the pricing of cloud services in check, it also brings with it a degree of risk. We are already experiencing consolidations and could see some of the cloud service providers going out of business in near future. To mitigate any risks arising out of any of the two situations, organizations are looking for flexibility to port applications/infrastructures/services between different providers. Hybrid cloud model provides this option to enterprises.
- Data compliance: Compliance to ‘data sovereignty’ has become the single biggest impediment to public cloud adoption in many of the countries. In addition, organizations are also facing hindrance in public cloud adoption due industry specific compliance requirements like HIPAA for healthcare and PCI for retail. With a hybrid approach, on-premise and legacy applications can be fully integrated with the cloud whilst data is stored locally, within territory, thus enables organizations to leverage the lower cost processing resources of the public cloud yet leverage the private cloud to maintain the sovereignty of data.
Use Cases for Hybrid Cloud
Organizations always grapple with the challenge of identifying right kind of applications/services to move to hybrid cloud. Though it is quite obvious that applications that demand flexible infrastructure and high performance are clear candidates for deployment in a hybrid cloud, it is not always easy to decide on a road map. Following are some of the use cases which are more suited as hybrid cloud candidates to start hybrid cloud journey of an organization:
- Packaged Applications/Collaboration Solutions: IT departments are always challenged to add capacity quickly on-demand to meet business changes. IT departments can respond of this sudden demand for capacity by moving packaged applications and collaborative software like emails, to the hybrid cloud. Standard hybrid cloud platforms ensure that applications can be transferred without the need for re-coding or reconfiguration, and with no loss in the level of security, availability, or performance users are already experiencing in their internal data center/private cloud environment.
- Web/E-commerce: The hybrid cloud is a great match for e-commerce and web applications which requires security, compliance, and dynamic resource allocations. Hybrid cloud service provide a secure, cost-effective and scalable platform for the deployment of web and e-commerce applications. Additionally, existing IT policies can be leveraged to meet all security, compliance, and control requirements.
- Backup/Archiving/Storage: Single site IT deployment can make companies vulnerable to service disruption in case of a natural disaster or technical failure takes place. That’s where the Hybrid cloud service providers come in by offering automated replication, monitoring, and high availability features for the applications. In the event of service disruption, the public cloud offerings safeguards key business assets like application data.
- Enterprise IT/Outsourced Data Center: To handle the challenge of ever growing need for data center space, many organizations are exploring outsourcing data center functionality in order to avoid the heavy costs and requirements involved in building a new data center. Hybrid cloud solution is a cost-effective option to increase capacity. The on-demand capacity and dynamic scalability of hybrid cloud service helps IT teams allocate resources where and when they are needed. Hybrid cloud services providers also provide a unified management panel for convenient management of an organization’s internal data center and the public cloud.
- Development/QA/Test: Application Developers need an agile, flexible, dynamic environment when developing and testing software applications. Dev/test applications are a common use case when moving to the cloud as it demonstrates the clear benefits, such as cost savings and reduced time-to-market.
Key considerations for a Hybrid cloud strategy
Once an enterprise choose to adopt hybrid cloud following aspects needs to be considered:
- Application Portfolio: Most cloud offerings are not designed to run both existing and new applications on a common cloud platform. Similarly all applications, especially legacy applications, are not designed to work on a cloud platform. Due to this utmost care should be taken in selecting the candidate applications and hybrid cloud platform
- Security & Compliance: As we have discussed security and compliance issues have consistently been seen as obstacles for cloud adoption in any enterprises, particularly for mission-critical applications. It is important to evaluate the public cloud infrastructure under consider is provisioned with proper security policies and controls to meet required specific compliance requirements. Any industry specific compliances also need to considered like HIPPA compliance for healthcare.
- Availability: Enterprise needs to consider the moving an application to hybrid cloud should not impact it availability compared to internal hosted situation. It also should be taken care that there should not be any need to redesign/reengineer the application for maintaining the availability. Failing to consider these aspects can result in lower performance and availability, compromising the overall experience and expected results of moving applications to the cloud.
- Reliability & Accessibility: Need for manual changing network configuration, identity access management and security policies should be considered to ensure application reliability and accessibility.
Hybrid clouds not only offer a greater flexibility to businesses in terms of choice but also terms of keeping control and security. Organizations willing to push part or whole any application can think of deploying Hybrid clouds. Some of the additional security considerations come into play as hybrid cloud environments involve both on-premise and public cloud providers. Complexity of a hybrid cloud deployment can create management and governance challenges, and organizations need to prepared to address these challenges in form governance, policies, and processes.