Managing Hybrid Cloud: 3 Challenges

IT leaders need a well-planned strategy for successful hybrid cloud adoption.

John Villasenor

February 29, 2016

4 Min Read
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Moving forward in 2016, it’s clear that cloud computing has become key to digital transformation. It’s also taking more of a hybrid approach. Enterprises are quickly adopting a combination of both private and public cloud technologies to run their mix of application workloads.

Yet as more enterprises adopt this hybrid cloud approach, IT leaders are asking themselves a number of questions about how to effectively deploy and maintain their aggregate enterprise presence on both public and private clouds. Three common challenges emerge as vital areas of consideration for enterprise IT leaders: migration complexity, scale, and total costs.

Migration complexity. Cloud computing has many benefits, but how fast should you adopt a hybrid cloud approach? First, it’s important to understand which applications can be distributed across the traditional model and private cloud, and if these applications can coexist. The answer is likely yes, but in order to do so, you need the ability to provision the applications to either environment, which implies you’ve already tested them in both environments. The other option would be to adopt a framework that provides adaptors allowing you to deploy in these environments and only test once. Generally, these are the two choices. Retesting is something that most people usually don’t like, so you’re better off writing to one of the frameworks.

Another option would be for an enterprise to set up a small private cloud with say, 500 servers. While this may seem like a good solution to managing migration, getting started requires you to make a decision about what you’re actually trying to do. For instance, a company  worried about the security of its data might start with a private cloud with 500 virtual servers. However, it doesn’t matter so much where you start, but rather how you’ve decided that behind the firewall is the right cloud approach for you. Sure, vendors will give you an on-demand solution, but keep in mind that this often isn’t as economical.

Scale complications. When it comes to managing hybrid cloud, the two critical complexity drivers are change and scale. Within hybrid cloud, virtualized, and containerized environments, event volumes grow exponentially, configuration management databases (CMDB) will be inaccurate, and it becomes quite difficult to determine root cause when something goes wrong. In fact, in a dynamic and high-scale cloud, root cause analysis doesn’t converge.  As a result, you can’t use a rules-based system to get to root cause. Instead, from an incident management perspective, consider an algorithmic, machine- learning way of assuring service quality in your cloud environment.

Another issue is data fragmentation. When you think about an application, it generally doesn’t stand alone. It’s connected to a number of other applications, and data often flows across a workflow between those apps. This means that you have to really think about where you want the data to reside, particularly data at rest. Data that moves with the process is less of a problem, but you have to add security in it as well. The important thing with data is to architect it as part of the solution and not look at the application in isolation, but rather in the context of the other applications that surround it.

Total costs. While migrating to the cloud does provide opportunities for reducing the costs, the expenses involved with adopting a hybrid cloud approach are often underestimated. Many vendors, for example, require additional licenses for a cloud service to access their on-premises applications. An enterprise is usually locked in with their internal infrastructure, and then they’re required to pay twice when moving to the cloud. Any vendor that will simultaneously work in both clouds -- on- and off-premises -- and in the legacy brownfield environment (where you are paying just for what you use), is probably the best option since the vendor provides enough flexibility to operate in these environments.

It’s also important to note the scaling costs for moving forward: What happens when an enterprise needs to scale usage up or down? For instance, say you’ve deployed some set of capability and capacity behind your firewall, and you now find that that an application needs more capacity in what was deployed. The whole notion of “cloud bursting” allows you to use capacity in the cloud when you need it, and still keep everything behind the firewall when you don’t. A challenge with this, however, is that you have to engineer the data so that the data can be secured in either location, often creating more work.

While CIOs have much to consider regarding hybrid cloud, the benefits will ultimately outweigh the challenges. Coming up with a well-defined strategy around hybrid cloud is crucial, along with knowing how to accommodate the scale and change involved with having applications on premises and within internal and external cloud environments. Finally, make sure your budget is aligned with your goals, to find the best overall solution for your enterprise needs. 

About the Author(s)

John Villasenor

Vice President of Worldwide Technical Services

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