Leveraging a hybrid cloud infrastructure—combining on-premises and cloud capabilities—is a strategy many enterprises are embracing in order to maximise IT flexibility and performance. Here are ten things to guide any enterprise considering a hybrid cloud strategy.
Hybrid Cloud—The Time is Now
Unless your IT is 100 per cent physical infrastructure or 100 per cent cloud, you are a ‘hybrid’. And if that is not the case now, it likely will be in the future. Market researchers foresee a nearly 30 per cent growth rate in hybrid cloud through 2019—far faster than IT growth overall.**
The growing popularity of the hybrid approach shows how smart enterprises are not following an ‘either or’ approach. A hybrid strategy is less a way station on the way to the cloud (or away from traditional IT) and more a strategy to maximise the benefits that both have to offer: the control and easy access of an on-premises/private cloud solution with the convenience, scalability, performance, cost, mobility and collaboration benefits of a solution managed by a public, multitenant cloud provider.
Taking ‘Shadow IT’ Out of the Shadows
Today, more and more enterprises are seeing their employees supplementing their traditional reliance on internal IT resources by taking advantage of public cloud services. These ‘shadow IT’ initiatives are often a primary way that enterprises become hybrid. Enterprise IT departments typically see this as a troubling trend that raises important concerns about security and control. But it’s also evidence of the pervasiveness of the hybrid cloud and a starting point for IT to position itself as an internal service provider.
The Right Resource for the Right Workload
A hybrid cloud approach gives you the option of scaling resources for each workload and choosing the best application for the job. Applications can run on whichever platform is best suited for that workload: a highly dynamic app with unknown spikes may be best supported in the public cloud while a performance-intensive application may be better off in a private cloud. Data can be located where regulatory or security requirements dictate.
Varying Levels of Hybrid Sophistication
A hybrid cloud approach can have different levels of sophistication: deep integration between cloud and private/on premise environments or more simplistic, static, point-to-point connections designed to serve a particular functional need. For example, many organisations have connected a software-as-a-service expense-tracking application to automatically link to their back-office billing system. In effect, that puts them squarely at the centre of a hybrid approach.
ROI and Agility
Any enterprise that has virtualised IT components within its four walls has essentially created its own private cloud and is likely to have achieved significant reductions in capital and operational expenses. A hybrid cloud can be a logical extension of this strategy and— with the appropriate investment in metrics, self-service software, automation features and other capabilities— a way to achieve significant advances in enterprise agility.
Gartner recommends starting a hybrid cloud project with a small pilot, getting comfortable with the ins and outs of the hybrid model, then rolling it out further across the organisation.
Keep scalability in mind right from the start: while the pilot project may be small in scope, the infrastructure deployed should be ready for growth and capable of delivering an ROI within a defined time frame.
Test and Run
A popular use case for a hybrid cloud strategy involves developing and testing new applications in the cloud and then moving them back into the on-premises or private production environment. New applications and services can be quickly prototyped in cloud environments and then rapidly deployed and measured for success.
The cloud can be relied on for fast, on-demand capacity without having to build an in-house IT environment. Once the applications are ready for prime time, the cloud-based development environment can be ratcheted back.
To a great degree, the success of any hybrid cloud approach is going to rest on the infrastructure management that is put in place. In other words, control of both the public cloud and private assets from a single administrative console using a unified set of security, user and application policies.
Look at Your Network
A hybrid cloud strategy requires a close look at your enterprise network for bandwidth and scalability. With a hybrid strategy, companies will be relying on their network to ship large amounts of data back and forth (as opposed to more episodic dumps and updates), putting far more demand on the network than previously.
Ultimately, some of the biggest challenges in moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure are less about the technology and more about management. Most IT departments have a culture centred around control and technical expertise and now have to accommodate a more collaborative, service oriented approach for the provision of automated, self-service IT capabilities via the cloud.