Spreading data across the hybrid cloud: What goes where?

The term hybrid cloud is used to refer to a combination of public and private clouds that are tailored to suit an organisation's specific business needs. As a minimum, a single private cloud and single public cloud are all that are required to create a hybrid cloud computing platform. However, organisations can always combine multiple private and public clouds to suit the business' requirements.

A public cloud enables organisations to adopt enterprise class technologies for their environment at an affordable price point. However, security, availability, compliance, performance, portability and the cloud provider's market longevity can often be of concern. A private cloud can answer these concerns but is more expensive to deploy and operate. A hybrid cloud offers both these benefits by integrating an organisations data and processing the data into the correct cloud.

This prompts the following question: with regards to the hybrid cloud, which data goes where?

It's really a case of data classification and risk. When a company's applications and data are moved from on-premise platforms to a public cloud offering, the organisation will essentially be 'renting' services alongside other customers, whilst entirely entrusting the provider and its staff with regards to data security, uptime of services, confidentiality, compliance and transition, all of which can have a catastrophic effect for some businesses if not adhered to or met.

Before considering public cloud offerings, companies will need to thoroughly understand the business impact and revenue loss that could occur from hosting data off-premise in the public cloud. Even if the aforementioned are of little relevance, companies looking to move to public cloud offerings must still proceed with caution; what if the cloud provider goes bankrupt? What is the relationship with the provider becomes toxic? What if they decide they no longer want to provide cloud services?

At present, the above normally dictates that an organisation's 'crown jewels', i.e. enterprise, business critical, secure or regulatory data and applications, remain on-premise or within a secure private cloud environment whilst more commodity based or tactical services, such as data archiving, backup, e-mail, collaboration and workspace recovery, are moved to a public cloud.

However, the continued maturation of public cloud service offerings is starting to challenge this principle and more progressive organisations are embracing a 'cloud first' approach to application deployment.

Although public cloud offerings can often be cost-effective, they must also be the correct fit for the organisation, striking the right balance between scalability, agility, compliance, performance, security and operational flexibility.

Del Lunn is a principal consultant at GlassHouse Technologies.