Talent [R]evolution

Developing a hybrid cloud strategy: Pros and cons

In the last few years, cloud strategy has transformed business. Now, cloud computing is one of the most in-demand solutions in virtually every industry, due in part to its ability to accelerate data ingestion and analysis. As companies IT needs continue to grow exponentially, more and more data is accumulating and travelling every second. Thus, businesses need to have the tools to capture, analyse, and extract value from this data.

This is why the hybrid cloud is set to be the next generation in cloud computing solutions. Essentially, the hybrid cloud is a combination of compute and storage products from a public cloud provider and private, on-premises hardware. By bringing some elements of the cloud in-house, businesses can enhance speeds and cut costs.

A further advantage of the hybrid cloud is its scalability and flexibility. It could be as simple as running a file storage system from an in-house server and email hosting from a platform like Gmail. There are of course more sophisticated examples; for companies running advanced analytics, they could use a SaaS provider that delivers a web application, and then distribute workloads across an in-house high-performance server and the cloud, depending on the traffic in the system. 

First, we’ll look closer at the advantages of a hybrid cloud strategy, demonstrating how businesses can best leverage these solutions to suit their needs. We’ll then outline some use cases, basic design scenarios, and identify the possible setbacks. With this information, you can lay the foundations for a hybrid cloud strategy in your organisation. 

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Key advantages of a hybrid cloud

Economisation

A hybrid cloud encompasses a combination of static hardware and the flexibility of the public cloud. This allows businesses to leverage the public cloud while still taking advantage of the existing infrastructure they may have. After all, storage is one of the most costly components of IT infrastructure. The public cloud is effectively like renting real estate; you don’t have to maintain the property, but it comes at a premium. With the hybrid cloud, companies get the best of both worlds, giving companies the extra storage they need as and when.

Elasticity

The ability to flex into the cloud is possibly one of the most compelling benefits of cloud computing. This also feeds into the economisation aspect: why pay for storage all the time if you only need it for a limited period? With a hybrid cloud, static workloads are run within the private corporate infrastructure, while overflow workloads can be pushed out to a public cloud. One example is data processing, where a public cloud overflow can substantially speed up processing and analysis.

Agility

The cloud helps businesses accommodate compute needs on-demand. For instance, if you need GPU processors and SSD storage, you would need to procure the hardware and hire a team to manage it. With the public cloud, it’s there at the push of a button. However, exclusive use of the private cloud comes with the associated expenses. With a hybrid solution, this balancing act between storage, speed and cost is simplified and businesses can make decisions with more agility.

Hybrid cloud use cases

There are numerous use cases for creating a hybrid cloud architecture. However, every company will have unique needs when it comes to its implementation, so it’s important to have a robust vision for your cloud strategy. This will ensure that the system is deployed as effectively as possible. Below are five scenarios in which hybrid cloud systems are relevant options.

1. Disaster recovery

Setting up an independent environment for disaster recovery (DR) purposes can be very costly, but with a hybrid cloud setup, it is much more affordable. This is because it creates a flexible environment where you’re not paying for all the infrastructure all the time. Instead, companies have the ability to expand and contract as needed. Furthermore, it can provide additional security by locating the architecture in a different geographic location, protecting hardware from certain disaster events. 

2. Archiving

Using a hybrid cloud for archive data has similar benefits to disaster recovery. Often, a business will choose to implement a DR and archive hybrid cloud strategy simultaneously. This is because the hybrid cloud is also a cost-effective and secure solution for storing data that is at rest.

3. Application development

Another area where hybrid cloud deployment is beneficial is application development. As companies have embraced DevOps and Agile methodologies, project teams are looking for ways to speed up the development process. Developers are using public cloud services for application development as it’s very fast and easy to use. But, once it’s ready to deploy, many companies move them back to the on-site data centre, often for data governance or cost reasons. A hybrid cloud model allows for speed and flexibility in development, as well as for stability and security later down the line.

4. Cloud bursting

Many businesses are exploring “cloud bursting” via a hybrid cloud model. That is, they want to run their applications in a private cloud until demand reaches a particular level, at which point they would failover to a public cloud service. However, this use case has been found to be quite challenging to put into practice; so far, it tends to be financial trading companies that have made it work to their advantage.

5. Cloud transitioning

Businesses that operate on legacy infrastructure may want to move to the public cloud but have to deal with a sunk investment on their internal data centre. A hybrid cloud migration strategy might facilitate the move to the cloud while softening the blow of phasing out on-site data architectures. Alternatively, this model can allow a business to transition to the cloud in line with business demands.

Designing the right hybrid cloud strategy

These use cases demonstrate just a handful of possibilities for the hybrid cloud. The design of your solution will depend on the business’s unique needs. For small businesses, a hybrid cloud model could be quite simple; for instance, using a collaboration tool like Microsoft O365. However, for our purposes, we’ll focus on medium to larger organisations that will likely leverage public cloud solutions like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform along with your own internal data centre.

Software and networking tools will be integral to managing these services. Public clouds will have to be securely connected to the private data centre using virtual gateways or direct connections. Then, you’ll need automation tools that can manage the scaling of the public infrastructure. If you’re implementing Azure it will most likely be Powershell, while AWS users will likely use API-powered tools built into the platform itself. Data engineers will have to define workloads and establish a scalable base that can be balanced across infrastructures.

Ultimately, the goal is to make operations as efficient as possible, so you can leverage the elasticity of the hybrid cloud. Costs are a reflection of efficiency, which can escalate quickly at scale in a public cloud environment. Running static workloads in a private cloud is costly, whereas scaling into a public cloud saves time and effort related to provisioning and procurement. However, if a business really wants to take advantage of hybrid cloud architecture, it needs to avoid any vendor lock-in – the goal is 100% mobility for data.

Businesses can also use the public cloud to take advantage of various services while enjoying the savings associated with a hybrid model. Platforms (PaaS) and Serverless infrastructures are also available from public cloud providers. These environments allow engineers to develop code directly into the system, as opposed to traditional third party server models. This allows developers to create new apps with specific use cases like IoT, social media or even plugins for CRM like Salesforce.

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Challenges of a hybrid cloud model

Certainly, the hybrid cloud comes with many advantages, possible structures, and compelling use cases. However, before implementing a hybrid cloud infrastructure, it’s essential to have a clear idea of the challenges that you may encounter. Sure enough, it’s one of the most stable cloud environments, but it’s important to enter into a cloud implementation project with your eyes open.

Primarily, it’s important to be aware that the savings associated with the hybrid cloud are felt in the medium to long-term. The implementation of this solution will require an initial investment, which can exceed the cost of a public cloud subscription. This is because, at the end of the day, hardware costs money.

Secondly, it’s vital to not be complacent about security. Hybrid clouds are indeed secure, but you need to have precautionary measures in place. This is why it’s advisable to consult with a specialist to ensure maximum security, especially in regard to off-site data warehouses. Compatibility can also cause headaches. A high-performance on-site infrastructure may not fully integrate with a sluggish public cloud, leading to sub-optimum results. 

While these concerns are important to address, if companies utilise the appropriate experts and resources, companies can reap all the benefits mentioned above. The key is sourcing the right expertise – which Outvise can provide. We’ll explain how Outvise can connect businesses with experts in our concluding remarks.

The future of the hybrid cloud

The move to cloud computing has incredible momentum. For most small businesses, the transformation will continue as apps become SaaS-powered. Companies that run in-house hardware and development teams will need to continue to analyze how they can leverage the cloud to best meet their needs. As new technologies emerge, the path to full autonomy and mobility in data is opening, underpinned by the hybrid cloud.

For instance, IoT and AI are driving the necessity for hybrid solutions. This is because many machine learning programs require an absolute minimum of latency. Precision machinery is a good example of this necessity; if something went wrong, whole batches of products could be ruined – or worse, cause an industrial accident. 

By moving compute power physically closer to the site, latency is reduced. This principle is known as edge computing, which is set to have a substantial influence on industry and manufacturing in years to come. By processing at “the edge” – that is, on-site or at the last mile of the network – companies can save storage and accelerate analysis. Meanwhile, archival data or lower-priority processes are performed in the cloud.

However, as multi-cloud solutions are increasingly leveraged, the need for a centralised management system is growing. Businesses that want to invest in a hybrid cloud solution should look out for developments in this field, or indeed, seek to develop their own all-seeing eye for the hybrid cloud.

Access expertise to implement a hybrid cloud

Cloud computing will continue to revolutionise how we use technology to power business. The hybrid cloud is a compelling proposition for organisations big and small, as it provides the scalability, security, and economy they need to use the cloud to their advantage. Plus, with novel technologies like edge computing within reach for more businesses, a new dawn of efficiency and precision is just over the horizon.

However, to effectively implement these solutions, you need expertise. Identifying an IT infrastructure specialist is crucial to a successful roll-out, as choosing technologies and architecture appropriate to your business needs is essential. But where can companies find these experts? And how can the talent acquisition process reflect the goals of the project itself – that is, agile, cost-effective and dynamic?

Outvise was founded to broker these connections between businesses and experts. With a 30,000-strong curated network of fully-certified TMT and digital specialists, businesses can identify the right person for the job in as little as 48 hours. These experts are available for on-site and remote working, providing companies with the flexibility they need. With profiles ranging from data architecture and security experts to Scrum masters and project managers, Outvise helps businesses find the right experts. 

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Skilled business analyst with great knowledge of both agile methodologies (Scrum & Kanban) and waterfall (UML & Use Cases), data analysis, visual design as well as some programming understandings, acquired through my experience as BA on web, mobile and desktop projects. As a tech passionate he has his own Youtube channel where he give the latest tech tips and insights.

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