While the world is focusing on the pull towards public cloud, a number of enterprises still rely on the legacy servers that host high-volume and secure transaction processing applications. The importance of these systems of record applications and their security, stability and performance requirements cannot be understated. While these two worlds are getting increasingly closer, for the next five to seven years, a robust hybrid cloud environment that is able to manage the new platform on cloud and the old systems of record on premise solution is the need of the hour.

Planning your hybrid cloud strategy

There are no shortcuts in planning for your secure hybrid cloud strategy. When we talk about hybrid cloud, you have to look across all the services and platforms and assess them against the requirements and the readiness of cloud to deliver on them.

Our approach to defining and planning hybrid cloud strategy is as follows. 

Assess requirements and limitations

Business and IT often operate in their own silos and often, business requirements do not necessarily translate to clear IT requirements. While developing your cloud/ hybrid cloud strategy, business and technology need to work closely together to determine what is needed and if this readily offered by the cloud. Some questions that you may consider:

  1. Do current applications support the business needs, and how are they managed?
  2. What new services will be required and can these services be delivered in the cloud?
  3. Are our business and technology teams equipped with the skills required to exploit the cloud?
  4. While cloud can enable reduced operational costs in the long run, are there any financial blockers or constraints to accelerate the transition?

Building out your response to these questions is essential to developing the foundations for your hybrid cloud strategy.

Determining best workloads

When moving workloads organisations need to consider a variety of factors such as performance, security, costs, and applicable regulations.

When analysing applications, some organisations may decide to keep critical workloads to on premise due to performance, security and manageability concerns, re-architecting these applications for the cloud becomes a non-starter for the near-term. Furthermore, businesses almost always try to introduce other means to make these applications available over the hybrid cloud (e.g. Fronting the application through an API layer).  What this means is that we can now modernise applications that are on premise and offer them as API services for cloud consumption. Considerations need to be made for scalability, high availability, and throughput necessary to meet end-user expectations.

Where the application data resides and questions on data sovereignty are quite important these days given the large quantities, and varied types of data used by businesses today. In a hybrid environment we must be able to manage the location and synchronisation across the cloud when and where it is used. The location of data also depends on maintaining proximity to where the data and compute resources are, which then requires a well-planned and executed approach to data synchronisation and overall data management.

Network considerations

Most customers not only have on premise applications, but a multitude of SaaS products that they integrate with (e.g. O365, contact centre products, security products etc.). It is quite important to understand how scalable the integration fabric is from a network, security perimeter and interface perspective to work with these products. Pick and select a cloud product that provides most of these SaaS solutions bundled into one and consolidate.

Also understand the user base and footprint into consideration when articulating the requirements and the intended solution. Some questions that you may consider:

  1. Do we need to span across multiple regions and distribute the solution? 
  2. Where is our security edge and the backbone of the infrastructure reside? 
  3. Where are our private, public and cloud brokerage endpoints?

Engineer the solution that meets the needs of the business.

Understand licenses and SLA’s

In a hybrid cloud environment, management of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), configurations, and licenses are more complex. Your team must understand how service levels are handled across the cloud environment, which may include both internal policies as well as those of public cloud providers or partners.

In order to manage these services effectively across both internal and cloud provider estates, configuration information must be gathered from all locations, reconciled and related to enable coherent and consistent service management. Multiple information models for Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs), and the use of disparate tools to gather configuration details, make this management more challenging. The use of cross-platform tools, combined with configuration management policies that all providers must adhere to, can help in this regard.

Finally, adding cloud can significantly increase licensing complexity due to the dynamic nature of the infrastructure and its “pay as you go” characteristics. Unusual spike in demand that requires doubling of compute resources, make it difficult to predict and license software appropriately. There are a number of potential ways to manage licenses, including hosting applications (SaaS), cloud-enabling current core systems, or leaving systems of record in place.

Governance

Organisations using application workloads have governance procedures and policies on their systems designed to protect the integrity of their data and applications. It is important to replicate this well-planned governance structure as much as possible on the cloud in order to make sure proper guard rails are in place before anything can be setup on the cloud and to avoid inadvertent mishaps. However this can be difficult to implement due to budget, time, budget, the way public cloud is architected. Addressing this complex issue requires close collaboration with business stakeholders, internal IT department, cloud providers, and even government bodies. This will result in a governance framework that can ensure data and transaction integrity and security.

When to use Multi-Cloud over Hybrid Cloud?

Different public clouds are better at different things, and have different cost structures. By analysing and leveraging the strengths of each public cloud, you can build an environment that maximises your benefits. You can mix and match multiple public cloud offerings to better fit the compute needs of your unique environment.

If you want to build a multi-cloud solution, instead of a hybrid-cloud solution, the complex part is figuring out where to put the remaining resources that forms part of the complete solution. You may need authentication and authorisation servers, database servers, monitoring tools, etc., either on the cloud or on premise. It would be best to utilise what you already have by leveraging the cloud’s capabilities to integrate with your network.

So in short, the only difference between a multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud solution should be where you host your resource. The key is to never duplicate the effort. You should be able to manage all of your hosted resources from a single portal so as to avoid having to remember and sign into multiple portals to access your resources.

If you are going to spread your compute resource load around multiple public clouds in a multi-cloud solution, or between the public cloud and your on-premises solution in a hybrid cloud solution, ensure that you have a single connection broker that can manage capacity in those clouds and connect users to their resources. That’s the key to a successful hybrid or multi-cloud strategy.

Conclusion

A hybrid cloud environment is not an isolated project and must form part of an overall digital transformation effort as a manifestation of IT as an agent of change and to improve efficiency and increase flexibility. Business functions working in silos and IT assets must give way to a holistic approach to leveraging the cloud, to make IT more effective in supporting business goals. Cloud can be a major enabler to achieving this transformation by making IT assets more accessible and useful to all stakeholders. If done correctly, a move to the cloud can yield significant financial and organisational benefits over time.