Hybrid cloud strategy is a how organizations determine which applications and data should reside on which parts of a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Simply, hybrid cloud strategy defines what goes on public cloud infrastructure, and what goes on private cloud infrastructure.
Although definitions of hybrid cloud architecture vary widely, there are two defining components: Public cloud infrastructure (typically infrastructure as a service or IaaS), and private cloud infrastructure, such as an on-premises data center that may or may not utilize a cloud platform.
Enterprises are increasingly embracing public cloud services as part of their overall IT strategy, evidenced by the McAfee's 2019 Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, indicating that the average organization employed an average of 1,935 cloud services
From a higher viewpoint, a hybrid cloud strategy brings together private cloud and one or more public cloud providers, who can share and migrate applications and data over a wide area network (WAN) connection.
One of the primary uses of a hybrid cloud is for disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC), where enterprise data and snapshots are stored in the public cloud for rapid recovery. Another popular strategy is cloudbursting – utilizing public cloud services when spikes in demand require additional computing power for applications during periods of high usage, thus eliminating the need to over-provision equipment that would be only rarely utilized.
Building Your Hybrid Cloud Strategy
Before developing a strategy for hybrid cloud computing, enterprises must assess existing applications, both legacy and modern, to determine whether each might be a candidate for operating in a public cloud environment. Considerations should include security, regulatory, compliance, and data governance demands, cost of virtual machine (VM) subscriptions versus the amortized costs of on-premises infrastructure, and technology advantages of candidate cloud providers, including ease of integration between hosted and on-premises applications and data.
Hybrid cloud strategy encompasses seamless workload portability between private and public clouds, and should be based on a common, consistent cloud architecture that spans both public and private, simplifying orchestration between both, such as VMware orchestration tools for VMs and Kubernetes for containerized applications.
Those enterprises that adopt standard architecture encompassing public and private clouds will find the migration to a hybrid cloud environment greatly simplified. Of course some applications are more portable than others, migrating a web front-end application to the cloud is much easier than moving a heavily used database, and once moved into the cloud many cloud service providers (CSPs) impose egress charges on data that is taken off the cloud for processing elsewhere – these charges can add up quickly and generate quarterly invoice sticker shock.
Accenture offers a ‘seven Rs’ methodology for determining a hybrid cloud strategy which encompasses:
- Retire When assessing applications, determine if any can be eliminated
- Retain Keep applications unsuitable for migration but still necessary in the private cloud
- Replace Determine if homegrown applications can be replaced by off the shelf or SaaS solutions
- Rehost Utilize CSP innovations to rehost those apps and data that offer little friction
- Replatform If an application needs simple modifications, replatform where appropriate
- Refactor Applications requiring significant changes should be refactored
- Reimagine Re-think application design with cloud-native, microservices-based technologies in mind to enhance business value and improve IT performance
There are some challenges to navigate when developing a hybrid cloud strategy. Organizations should start with a complete and thorough assessment of existing applications and data to uncover risks and expose hidden value to the enterprise.
Multiple cloud challenges
Many hybrid cloud environment involve multiple public cloud provider, and all hybrid clouds by definition have both public and private clouds. It can be challenging to determine which application is best suited to which cloud and determining the true cost of operation of an application in the public cloud versus running that application on-premises may not be apparent until the application has been rehosted and ‘hidden’ charges become apparent.
As with any environment where there are multiple environments, there is always the opportunity for finger-pointing when deployments do not proceed exactly as planned. Determining the root cause of problems in a hybrid cloud environment requires the commitment for close collaboration between on-premises private cloud team and one or more public cloud teams.
Cloud cost confusion
Integrating public and private cloud operations can involve unimagined costs for additional software licenses, charges for VMs that are not being utilized, and data egress charges to name just a few. When planning a hybrid cloud strategy enterprises should architect data flows and application utilization to minimize CSP costs while maximizing performance and overall cost efficiency.
Scalability is a prime reason for adopting a hybrid strategy, and yet it can also present difficulties if attempting to scale private cloud applications that are isolated by on-premises firewalls. When planning for cloud bursting to the public cloud ensure the applications are architected to access public cloud resources when needed.
No magic bullets
Organizations must find the right tools and platforms to facilitate a hybrid cloud strategy. In most cases where will be multiple tools, multiple integrations, and multiple vendors involved, both in the public cloud and for on-premises infrastructure. Choose the right tools for each use case rather than trying to shoehorn every application into the same tool set.
Global technology firm Cloudnexion published research that outlines the five top benefits of adopting a hybrid cloud strategy, here are their findings.
- Data security. The public cloud’s first real use case was backup, recovery, and enterprise data protection. Enterprises can utilize existing on-premises data protection tools or offload data security to managed service providers who handle backup, snapshots, BC/DR and recovery for a fixed price, ensuring that regulatory mandates such as HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR are followed to the letter of the law. Migrating from tape to cloud backup also greatly reduces the amount of time to restore lost data and can reduce RPO/RTO from days or hours to seconds.
- Innovation. A hybrid cloud strategy enables R&D and development teams to experiment without the need to procure expensive infrastructure for a testbed and utilizing a public cloud partner can facilitate an application modernization strategy, modeling new IT infrastructure and applications. Once new applications get the green light, they can be rapidly deployed in the public cloud, even if the final goal is to migrate them to on-premises infrastructure.
- Business Agility. Over the past decade, the IT mantra has evolved from ‘do more with less’ to ‘do everything with nothing’. When rolling out a new analytics application can make the difference between business success or failure, the ability to prototype and spin up new applications or deliver an enhance user experience for a mobile application can be critical to the bottom line. A hybrid cloud strategy offers agility by leveraging flexibility, speed to market, and cost advantages, which all add up to business agility and bottom line value.
- Scalability. Even the most established organizations will see spikes in demand, whether due to holiday season shoppers, a plug on Oprah, or a successful product introduction. Hybrid clouds can eliminate the need for precise resource utilization projections by buffering spikes with public cloud resources that can be spun up the instant demand increases and spun back down when demand subsides – all orchestrated automatically.
- Time-to-Market. Many organizations must deal with a procurement cycle that can take months or longer. Rather than waiting for capital purchase approvals to kick off a new business initiative, IT and line of business (LOB) teams can spin up new infrastructure in minutes to meet development, test, or deployment needs – with reduced risk.