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Three hybrid cloud quandaries

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Nattapol Sritongcom)

Next year, Gartner predicts that 90 per cent of organisations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management.

Businesses are quickly realising the inherent values hybrid cloud deployments can offer for operations: cost optimisation, added efficiency, agility, and access to a growing number of innovative products and services “as a Service” (aaS), such as Security as a Service (SaaS) or Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). However, adoption of a hybrid cloud approach introduces new complexities that businesses must weigh up and learn to manage effectively. As Senior Gartner Analyst DD Mishra describes such situations, “it [hybrid cloud] increases the complexity of selecting the right toolset to deliver end-to-end services in a multi-sourced environment".

When businesses run mission-critical applications and infrastructure across multiple cloud environments, they run the risk of creating hidden interdependencies between disparate systems. As a result, IT can become more difficult to control or fix in an instance of a failure, exacerbating the potential disruption caused by a single point of failure. This potential for disruption is causing many companies to hesitate in their hybrid cloud deployment, and thus miss out on the business benefits associated with same.

In addition, particularly in the case of legacy IT, certain pieces of hardware and software simply may not be compatible with certain cloud environments. This turns the process of finding the ‘right’ hybrid cloud configuration into a case of trial and error, with the threat of disruption to business continuity present every step of the way.

Clearly, it’s important for organisations not to rush when deploying hybrid cloud, so before embarking on this journey, three critical questions must be addressed to help overcome potential complexities: firstly, which applications should be hosted in a public cloud and which should stay on-premise? Secondly, how can workflow streams be uninterruptable across two environments? And finally, how can hybrid workloads ensure continued compliance, especially in the age of GDPR?

Deciding which applications are cloud-suitable for private vs. public cloud 

When deciding which applications to move to the public cloud, an organisation should start with the less mission-critical ones (such as infrastructure services, messaging, web applications for collaboration, and database applications). These are good candidates for public clouds because they are less likely to cause widespread disruption to a business if they are knocked offline and can be cost-effectively maintained at the cloud provider’s data centre.

It’s often thought that applications and data that, if rendered inoperable or stolen, could affect the organisation’s ability to function are best suited to the private cloud. These so-called ‘mission-critical’ applications vary from industry to industry but are generally responsible for supporting the basic transactional activity between an organisation and any number of components in its network (i.e. customers and/or end users, products and services, network endpoints, etc.). On the other hand, that’s not to say that cloud providers should be discounted entirely for hosting mission critical applications. Cloud and managed service providers may layer their solutions with specific components that protect the stability of the applications they host, such as co-located data centres or managed security services.

The question boils down to where applications will be more resilient. The locality of on-premise solutions ostensibly provides greater peace of mind, but the cost of making private clouds resilient may push organisations to go to a cloud provider with resilience embedded within its offering.

Facilitating seamless workflow management between cloud environments

At times, an organisation will need to migrate data from on-premise hardware to the cloud or vice versa. This requires a new IT governance model to be created, with policies and procedures attuned to where applications and data reside. An efficient migration strategy reduces the risk of data being lost during the process and the potential for other people to access information that they shouldn’t be able to see. A consistent toolset across hybrid IT deployments is needed to grant the ability to provision, view, access and manage public and private cloud resources with a single set of credentials.

The flexibility of a hybrid cloud service model also extends to options for provider or customer management of the on-premise private cloud environment. The most sophisticated cloud providers offer management solutions that span both cloud environments. A self-service portal enables the customer to manage their on-premise private cloud environment to reduce costs and to post service requests to the public cloud. In-house IT can also collaborate with operational support from public cloud service providers, taking full control of architecture, deployment, monitoring and change control in hybrid cloud solutions. They also resolve incidents to keep critical applications and workloads up and running.

No room for non-compliance

In terms of business priorities, organisations endeavour to be more flexible, more available and more omnipresent in order to remain competitive. While hybrid and public cloud solutions are the natural choice for businesses seeking these benefits, a distributed model of data storage presents a challenge to one of the key facets of GDPR compliance: knowing exactly where data is. As a result, businesses looking to migrate data from on-prem data centres to the public or hybrid cloud must have the diligence to ensure visibility is not sacrificed in the process.

The need for visibility in distributed cloud systems is driving demand for so-called ‘sovereign’ cloud solutions, which provide the fundamental benefit of ensuring all data is stored on servers located on UK soil. Currently popular within the public sector due to enhanced security qualities, the GDPR is now also driving uptake of managed sovereign cloud solutions in the private sector, along with other factors such as cybersecurity and the uncertainty around data transfers around Brexit. These solutions will help close the widening gap between operational flexibility and regulatory compliance, and give businesses peace of mind when migrating to the cloud. 

Protection from disruption

The most important consideration for organisations deploying hybrid cloud solutions is protection from disruption. Only when the threats hybrid cloud poses to business continuity have been addressed can migration processes begin and concerns surrounding performance, flexibility, and control be put to bed.

Cloud computing is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the implications of simply following suit and choosing the wrong solution can backfire, with potential to cause real damage to the bottom line for companies. Only through a thorough examination of the options and insight from qualified experts will organisations successfully embark upon the right cloud journeys for operations today, and beyond.

John Young, Solution Architecture and Engineering, Sungard Availability Services