The right tools and procedures can help limit complexity while maximizing the benefits of hybrid cloud.
Hybrid cloud is quickly becoming the default for enterprise IT infrastructure. According to RightScale's 2016 State of the Cloud Report, 71% of enterprises have hybrid cloud environments today (an increase from 58% in 2015), and 82% have a hybrid cloud strategy.
But hybrid environments that rely on a mix of public and private clouds present a number of challenges. By their very nature, these setups are extremely complex, and many organizations struggle to integrate their legacy infrastructure, tools and procedures with the new cloud environment. In the RightScale survey, respondents cited a lack of resources/expertise (32%), security (29%), compliance (26%), managing multiple cloud services (26%), managing costs (26%) and the complexity of building a private cloud (23%) as their biggest challenges with the hybrid cloud.
What can organizations do to overcome these obstacles?
In this slideshow, we'll examine eight best practices for managing hybrid clouds. These tips can help organizations handle the complexity inherent in hybrid clouds. With the right management tools and procedures in place, organizations can keep their costs under control while enjoying the benefits of a hybrid cloud.
Keep sight of goals
Enterprises choose to deploy hybrid clouds for a variety of reasons. In the RightScale report, IT decision makers pointed to faster access to infrastructure, greater scalability, higher availability, faster time-to-market, business continuity and higher performance as some of the top benefits of the cloud.
Experts say that organizations would do well to put in writing the goals they hope to achieve from the cloud and to use that document to guide their other cloud management decisions. A company that is focused on speed and performance will need different tools than a company that hopes to get cost savings or business continuity.
Put security first
Security remains one of the most pressing concerns for organizations deploying applications in the cloud, particularly for those using public cloud services. A September 2015 SANS Institute study found that while 40% of organizations surveyed store or process sensitive data in the cloud, 33% said that they do not currently have enough visibility into their public cloud providers' operations.
Many organizations attempt to address some of their cloud security concerns by keeping their most sensitive data in their private clouds. That can help, but organizations still need to make sure they have adequate security measures in place on both the public and private sides of their hybrid clouds.
Start with non-critical workloads
For organizations that are still in the beginning stages of their hybrid cloud deployments, experts suggest moving non-critical workloads to the cloud first. This gives staff the opportunity to build up their skills and confidence before tacking mission-critical applications. Enterprises say that lack of staff expertise is currently their biggest hybrid cloud challenge, but allowing IT workers to get on-the-job cloud experience can go a long way toward addressing that issue.
Most companies simply cannot afford any downtime on their mission-critical applications, where costs for just one hour of service interruption can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. They should only migrate these applications to their cloud infrastructure after they are sure they have worked out any bugs in their security and management processes.
Invest in automation and orchestration
Hybrid clouds are simply too complex for IT to manage with manual processes and tools. Fortunately, vendors have created a wide range of automation and orchestration tools that simplify administration and management tasks. These tools handle tasks like deployment and provisioning of infrastructure resources, monitoring, auto-scaling, auto-healing, budget optimization, enabling user self service, and much more.
With so many different options available from cloud service providers and enterprise software vendors, the difficulty often lies in selecting which products to use. Many experts suggest looking for tools that can work across an organization's entire cloud ecosystem, including all of its public cloud vendors and its private cloud infrastructure.
View your network as a unified whole
Even though some of your hybrid cloud infrastructure will be located in your own data centers and some will be located in providers' facilities, organizations need to have the ability to examine all of their cloud resources at once. Public and private cloud environments need to share a network and look like one entity.
This unified approach is important because it simplifies common hybrid cloud uses like cloud bursting and disaster recovery. It can also reduce the time necessary for day-to-day administration and troubleshooting tasks.
Monitor your cloud environment
With so many different factors involved in hybrid environments, accurate monitoring with intelligent alerting becomes more important than ever. Instead of siloed tools that can only keep track of pieces and parts of the cloud ecosystem, organizations need tools that provide an overall view of their public cloud and data center operations from a single pane of glass. In addition, they need tools that can analyze log data, correlate events and alert staff about incidents that need attention. Again, whenever possible organizations should find tools to automate management activities in order to reduce the chance of errors and free up staff for other activities.
Reuse legacy tools and infrastructure when it makes sense
Re-training staff on new procedures and tools is both costly and time consuming. The same goes for rip-and-replace "forklift upgrades" of existing infrastructure. For these reasons, many experts suggest that enterprises continue using legacy tools, processes and hardware in their cloud environment when it makes sense to do so.
Naturally, not everything that worked well in a traditional environment will work well in a cloud environment, and in some cases, organizations can achieve greater cost savings by upgrading their hardware. However, if they can stick with vendors and interfaces that their staff already know well, they may see some cost savings.
Collocate data and apps
Organizations looking for performance benefits from their hybrid cloud environments need to take steps to ensure that they actualize realize those benefits. One of the keys to ensure speed is to make sure that data and applications are running in the same place. In other words, if your application will be running in a public cloud, store its data in the public cloud, and if they application will be running in your private cloud, store its data in your data center. Keeping data close to active users improves performance and further simplifies some management tasks.