In the early days of cloud computing, experts talked a lot about the relative merits of public and private clouds and which would be the better choice for enterprises. These days, most enterprises aren't deciding between public or private clouds; they have both. Hybrid and multi-cloud environments have become the norm.
However, setting up a true hybrid cloud, with integration between a public cloud and private cloud environment, can be very challenging.
"If the end user does not have specific applications in mind about what they are building [a hybrid cloud] for and what they are doing, we find that they typically fail," Camberley Bates, managing director and analyst at Evaluator Group, told me in an interview.
So which use cases are best suited to the hybrid cloud? Bates highlighted three scenarios where organizations are experiencing the greatest success with their hybrid cloud initiatives, and one use case that's popular but more challenging.
1. Disaster recovery and business continuity
Setting up an independent environment for disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity purposes can be a very costly proposition. Using a hybrid cloud setup, where the on-premises data center fails over to a public cloud service in the case of an emergency, is much more affordable. Plus, it can give enterprises access to IT resources in a geographic location far enough away from their primary site that they are unlikely to be affected by the same disaster events.
Bates noted that costs are usually big driver for choosing hybrid cloud over other DR options. With hybrid cloud, "I have a flexible environment where I'm not paying for all of that infrastructure all the time constantly." she said. "I have the ability to expand very rapidly if I need to. I have a low-cost environment. So if I combine those pieces, suddenly disaster recovery as an insurance policy environment is cost effective."
Using a hybrid cloud for archive data has very similar benefits as disaster recovery, and enterprises often undertake DR and archive hybrid cloud efforts simultaneously.
"There's somewhat of a belief system that some people have that the cloud is cheaper than on-prem, which is not necessarily true," cautioned Bates. However, she added, "It is really cheap to put data at rest in a hybrid cloud for long periods of time. So if I have data that is truly at rest and I'm not moving it in and out, it's very cost effective."
3. DevOps application development
Another area where enterprises are experiencing a lot of success with hybrid clouds is with application development. As organizations have embraced DevOps and agile methodologies, IT teams are looking for ways to speed up the development process.
Bates said, "The DevOps guys are using [public cloud] to set up and do application development." She explained, "The public cloud is very simple and easy to use. It's very fast to get going with it."
But once applications are ready to deploy in production, many enterprises choose to move them back to the on-premises data center, often for data governance or cost reasons, Bates explained. The hybrid cloud model makes it possible for the organization to meet its needs for speed and flexibility in development, as well as its needs for stability, easy management, security, and low costs in production.
4. Cloud bursting
Many organizations are also interested in using a hybrid cloud for "cloud bursting." That is, they want to run their applications in a private cloud until demand for resources reaches a certain level, at which point they would fail over to a public cloud service.
However, Bates said, "Cloud bursting is a desire and a desirable capability, but it is not easy to set up, is what our research found."
Bates has seen some companies, particularly financial trading companies, be successful with hybrid cloud setups, but this particular use case continues to be very challenging to put into practice.
Learn more about why enterprises are adopting hybrid cloud and best practices that lead to favorable outcomes at Camberley Bates' Interop ITX session, "Hybrid Cloud Success & Failure: Use Cases & Technology Options."
Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!