Hybrid cloud computing has taken off in a big way, but what is the hybrid cloud really? Can an organization that uses a public cloud infrastructure for one set of operations, and private cloud platforms for another, be said to use a hybrid cloud? Not really! A hybrid model will work only when there are several interactions between the private and public clouds, and not if they operate independently of one another. The end goal of the hybrid cloud model is to leverage the particularities of both models to create a unified, automated, reliable, and cutting-edge technological environment.
Why does the hybrid cloud score over other models? Simply because it draws on the benefits of both public and private models: the cost-efficiency and scalability of the public cloud infrastructure and the security of the private cloud platform one. Ideally, the organization should maximize efficiencies by deploying the public cloud for all non-sensitive operations, and supplementing with the private cloud where absolute security is needed.
However, there are some challenges inherent to implementing a hybrid cloud model within an organization:
Data security:Safeguarding the integrity of data is of paramount importance to every organization. Additionally, enterprises also need to comply with myriad regulations around data use and privacy. Often, moving data to the cloud can mean a loss of control, with the security of the data becoming the cloud service provider’s responsibility. Also, moving data to the cloud forces you to consider various aspects—securing on-premise data center resources, securing applications on the public cloud and data that is stored across multiple providers, and even the security of mobile devices that connect to your cloud. This calls for single sign-on, data encryption, automated provisioning solutions, etc. Plan your security measures and policies in advance, even before deploying the hybrid cloud; and commit the same investment, effort and thought into protecting your hybrid cloud as you commit to on-premise data centers.
User experience:The highly distributed environment of cloud computing could result in a negative impact on user experience and affect functional integrity, rising from longer wait times. Consider re-architecting your applications to reduce the latency times across both the public cloud infrastructure and the private cloud platforms..
Data and application integration: Hybrid cloud integration poses problems when it comes to integrating your data and applications across the multiple cloud environments. Think through whether you can use the same tools for data processing, irrespective of where the application resides, and decide which processes and workloads to run in which kind of environment. One solution, for example, could be to simply move your large data repositories to the cloud environment that runs the most data-consuming applications (again, paying attention to security of the data when data transfers happen).
Compatibility: Your private cloud platform and public cloud infrastructure may be running different infrastructure and software stacks, leading to some incompatibility. One way around this is to accept that different IT needs must be addressed differently, and sometimes, a harmonization is neither possible nor needed. For example, some traditional IT processes may not work well in a public cloud. Use the public, and hence hybrid cloud, for more agile processes that make the transition easily. And most importantly, be open to letting go off some amount of control, embracing the self-service, pay-for-what-you-use model that the public cloud so successfully offers.
System monitoring and maintenance: A hybrid cloud requires as much on-going monitoring and maintenance as an on-premise data center. However, managing infrastructures across multiple providers and networks is bound to pose a logistics challenge. In order to monitor this ecosystem of multiple cloud environments effectively, you will need to invest in some management tools, such as configuration management tools, monitoring solutions that send data to a centralized repository, etc.
Skills sets:Hybrid cloud computing places complex demands on IT personnel. You may find it difficult to find people in-house with the architectural skills needed to deploy and manage a hybrid cloud. The ideal team should cover infrastructure configuration, network architecture, application design and business process automation. So start investing in training people with the right skill set, as well as in new, cutting-edge, futuristic tools that will help deliver hybrid cloud services.
A hybrid cloud environment promises manifold benefits, but its effective deployment and use also demand long-term vision, strategic planning, flexibility, and investment. Be prepared to transform and redesign existing processes and technologies to integrate seamlessly with, and leverage the potential of the cloud.