Over the last several years, the clouds have rolled in over enterprise IT. These clouds aren’t dark ones obscuring the sun, however; in fact they’ve made the enterprise computing horizon much brighter. Going from a relatively unheard-of concept ten years ago, the cloud has become a popular buzzword seizing hold of the collective conscious of CIOs and directors of IT at companies across industries, sizes, and revenues for its promise of organizational transformation.
A large amount of enterprises have already built their own private cloud networks, hosting essential applications and providing anywhere, anytime access to mission critical data for employees scattered across the world. While it’s a large undertaking, in many cases the effort pays off, resulting in increased productivity and ease of access.
And there’s no shortage of companies that have built public cloud offerings to leverage this trend, with tech giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle all having entered into the market in the last few years, not to mention the thousands of smaller service providers offering more niche solutions for the organizations that need them. These services can be a cheaper alternative to building an internal private cloud infrastructure, or can provide a necessary extension of the limits of a private cloud, allowing for occasional bursts in computing power.
Many organizations have started to blend both private and public cloud offerings to create a hybrid cloud infrastructure. These hybrid clouds exploit the control and security of a private cloud, along with the flexibility and low cost of public cloud offerings. Together they form a powerful solution to meet the increased demands on IT from the rest of the organization.
Cloud computing has a seemingly endless list of reasons for why companies should adopt it: cost savings, improved security, enhanced agility, greater accessibility and flexibility, among many others. Implementing newer technology always poses risks and challenges that must be taken into account and built into the plan for rollout though. For that reason, we’ve put together this helpful guide with the best practices for building a hybrid cloud for your organization. Read on to learn more.
Benefits of Building a Hybrid Cloud
One of the foremost benefits of implementing a hybrid cloud approach is cost savings. Instead of having to spend the money and build infrastructure to withstand occasional bursts in system usage that only happen a small fraction of the time, organizations can leverage public cloud offerings to offload some of the heavy usage, and only have to pay for it when they need it. With less money spent on infrastructure, more funds can be devoted to other critical projects that help move the business forward, instead of holding it back.
Improved Security is another major benefit of hybrid clouds. While the perception that the cloud is insecure is a persistent one among members of traditional IT teams, TechTarget reports that users of service-provider environments actually suffer from less attacks than on-premise users do. The myth that cloud computing is less secure than traditional approaches can lend itself to the fact that having things stored off-premises feels less secure, however this is not the case. Cloud computing can offer increased security for organizations utilizing it.
Another major benefit of hybrid clouds is enhanced organizational agility. By leveraging the public cloud in times of heavy usage, the organization can experience fewer outages and less downtime. For developing and testing new applications, the hybrid cloud also offers an attractive option for hosting them–buying time until a decision is eventually made as to where to host it permanently.
With employees becoming increasingly mobile, greater accessibility to business-critical applications is a necessity for any 21st century enterprise. Gone are the days when employees only need to access their email when they’re at their desks, or only need to update a spreadsheet or access an application during business hours. Business happens 24/7 nowadays, and for companies to compete effectively, the cloud offers the advantage of anywhere, anytime access.
Although the benefits outweigh the negatives in most cases, building a hybrid cloud poses a number of challenges, and for this reason, it may not be the solution for every company.
Challenges of Building a Hybrid Cloud
It takes tools and skills to effectively operate a hybrid cloud solution. Not everyone has these skills, and it can cost a pretty penny to get them. If your organization has recently decided to make the move to the cloud, it might be necessary to look for outside talent that has the necessary skillset to accomplish it. Moreover, the team implementing the project will probably need additional training to learn the systems, and all of this costs money; bringing us to our next point…
Cost plays a major role in planning to execute a hybrid cloud strategy. While the public cloud can offer an attractive option for its flexibility and relatively low cost to operate, building a private enterprise cloud requires significant expenditure and can become expensive very quickly with all the physical hardware necessary. At the same time, heavy use of public cloud resources can rack up unexpectedly high usage bills that may not have been planned for. When outlining a budget for a hybrid cloud project, make sure to factor in all of these difficult-to-plan for costs.
Security is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days when they think of the cloud. While we’ve already seen that cloud computing is not inherently any less secure than traditional computing, and in fact faces fewer attacks, there are still considerations to take into account when building out a hybrid cloud. The proper precautions must be taken to ensure data is properly protected and that control is maintained by the right people. Additionally, depending on the industry, there may be certain regulatory requirements that prohibit data from being stored off-site, which would prevent the use of a public cloud entirely.
Data and application integration serves as a second challenge to take into account while building a hybrid cloud. Applications and data exist in a symbiotic relationship, with each one being useless without the other. Oftentimes they’re chained together. So when considering where to store each of them, it’s essential to ask whether the infrastructure they’re placed on matters. For example, if an application lives in a private cloud and it’s data lives in an on-prem data center, is the application built in order to access the data remotely? Technologies like copy data virtualization can decouple data from infrastructure and make this problem less of a headache.
Compatibility across infrastructure can prove itself to be a major issue when building a hybrid cloud. With dual levels of infrastructure, a private cloud that the company controls, and a public one that the company doesn’t, the chances are that they will be running different stacks. Can you manage both using the same tools, or will your team have to learn a new set in order to effectively oversee them?
Networking is another factor to consider in hybrid integration and there are a number of questions one must ask while designing the network around it. For instance, will very active applications be living in the cloud? It’s necessary to consider the bandwidth usage that this could take up on the network, and whether or not it could cause problems in bottlenecking other applications.
Like every IT project, building an enterprise hybrid cloud brings along many benefits and challenges. When properly accounted for during planning, organizations can minimize these difficulties and maximize the benefits they bring for the company.