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The balancing act of hybrid cloud computing

Terry Storrar

Terry Storrar

Managing Director at Leaseweb UK
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Image credit: JLStock / Shutterstock.com

In 2022, with data arguably an organisation’s most valuable asset, data centre managers need to keep a site running effectively – availability is table stakes. Enterprises have become increasingly savvy about availability, usage costs and a future-proof cloud solution which is tailored to their business goals.

The need to drive business performance in our new 24/7 digital-first age has seen enterprises move en-masse to huge so-called cloud ‘hyperscalers’ such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. But amid the ever-increasing demand for storage and scaling services, there’s a reality check driving an even bigger trend: 2022 will be the year in which more and more customers adopt the ‘best of both worlds’ approach of a hybrid cloud strategy, a combined solution of private and public cloud services.

What’s accelerated this transition is the need for an efficient, tailored, and cost-effective option for addressing the lack of customisation many businesses experience when they try to scale their infrastructure, services, applications, and data within a public cloud environment. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020. Although data centre managers are becoming well-versed in the practicalities of a hybrid approach, some key fundamentals are important to ensure a smooth transition.

Why is hybrid cloud attractive and practical?

Hybrid cloud offers more of an ‘always-on’ approach, offering better scalability and cost efficiencies, for increased business agility. By relying only on the public cloud, enterprises risk spending more than they need, as public cloud providers are not effective at tracking resource usage. In addition, the costs of scaling services from a standing start are rising sharply and hard to sustain.

In not signing up solely to the limitations of on-premise IT, or the unknown costs of hyperscale, data centre managers can design a solution which is the perfect blend of public, private and on-premise. The rapid growth of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud-hosted online service models, with increased agility and affordability, offer data centre managers the flexibility to implement a robust infrastructure with minimal disruption to business performance. This can optimise control of public cloud usage around peak loads and low-traffic applications, meaning latency times and associated costs can be dramatically reduced.

However, there are some challenges to be aware of when establishing this more complex model, with five key considerations:

  • Cost control

Fully understanding the cost implications of a proposed hybrid model is critical to success. Poorly calculated public cloud resource usage, resulting from unclear governance and ownership, can create a resource sprawl issue for customers. To avoid this, cloud resources must be tracked and monitored from the get-go.

Without precise TCO calculations, costs can pile up quickly. Understanding the relative TCO of a public cloud environment versus an on-premises data centre is critical to align budgets against business needs. Obtaining an independent and objective TCO calculation from any prospective service provider is sensible before committing to a solution or service. Detailed financial planning is a necessary step to gear up teams with predictable cost models.

To maintain usage on a needs-basis, using real-time analytics and data can help to optimise the cloud balance. It’s important to allocate ownership for every project, while setting clear and measurable KPIs and scheduling regular reviews. Firmly embedding these fundamentals will account for the various resources and ensure they are evaluated effectively.

  • Vendor lock-in

It’s easy to become locked into a single hyperscaler/single public cloud provider and this can be a costly mistake. For instance, if something goes wrong or your provider imposes a price increase, you’re hard pushed not to go with it. A cloud-hosted service model can ensure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Cloud vendors are renowned for offering temptingly low fees for data storage before hiking up prices for retrieving your data if you want to jump ship later. When it comes to storage, look for solutions that are not tied to a single cloud vendor, and that offer support for cloud migration and multi-cloud from day one.

  • Infrastructure hosting

The decision of where to host IT infrastructure also has significance. It may influence to what extent each business retains control over the design, implementation, and administration of its IT estate. If outsourced, ensure this outsourced service provider shares your views on performance and reliability standards. It’s worth considering whether switching to a service model could increase the price/performance balance, improve security, or ease the strain on your overstretched team.

This is what makes a hybrid setup so effective for data centres to host those workloads which need scalability in the cloud while still affording the option of developing and building other key services in an on-premises data centre.

  • IT management

Back-end IT management determines the ability of a business to remain ‘always-on’. While some organisations have well-resourced operations teams that help their systems run like clockwork, others are more focused on priorities such as cloud-native development and, as a result, possess a very different skillset. In many cases, decisions about how to handle back-end management can be a barrier to business growth.

However, the flexibility of modern data centres and the service providers who run them gives businesses with always-on aspirations various options. For example, advanced and highly virtualised servers and storage solutions are now relatively easy to run. What’s more, the cloud-like management experience of these systems means they can be seamlessly integrated with public or private cloud environments. This allows users to easily manage their back-end infrastructure so they can focus their attention on strategic business priorities, rather than more granular, technical issues.

  • Security

Probably unsurprisingly, always-on provides a critical attack surface for DDoS, ransom, or other cybersecurity threats, which are growing in prevalence and cost. Inbuilt security is recommended to stay ahead of attackers, which should include detailed security notifications, reporting, and dashboards. It’s important to assess the threat levels before hybrid cloud implementation to ensure your defence is secure.

Whichever solution you choose, a fully integrated service that combines the best of DDoS IP Protection, which can fast detect incoming DDoS attacks and Security Information & Event Monitoring (SIEM) will monitor your environments 24/7 and respond to threats before they occur.

Optimising the management of hybrid cloud?

Data centre managers and service providers should be aware that cloud management optimisation isn’t just a one-off process and that they should regularly revisit and review their setup to ensure maximum efficiency. The beauty of the hybrid world is that it’s possible to make limitless changes to workloads to accommodate business needs throughout a project lifecycle or to support additional projects. Having the right capacity at the right time is critical.

In this cloud-first era, it is not just about moving to the cloud, but about connecting multiple clouds efficiently. Making the transition isn’t always simple, but by aligning to business objectives, monitoring cloud resource consumption, not relying on a single cloud vendor, and maximising security, a hybrid cloud solution can be designed to fit the current and future needs of the business.

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