Hybrid cloud solutions offer key benefits to enterprises – combining the best services of multiple providers allows each individual aspect of your business to run at optimal efficiency. However, keeping track of decentralized data and integrating existing private cloud systems with a hybrid cloud provider can be challenging.
The key to ensuring the best possible result from hybrid cloud integration is by establishing a uniform policy that serves as a foundation for communication among disparate business units that may be running on separate infrastructure platforms.
There are a few situations that hybrid clouds are uniquely suited to address. For instance, if your company wishes to use a Software-as-a-Service application but is concerned about security, the SaaS vendor can create a private cloud, inside their firewall, specifically for your company. If the company provides you with a virtual private network to access the software, you're essentially using a small-scale hybrid cloud.
The key element there is that there is a private cloud working alongside a public cloud – this is the defining characteristic of hybrid clouds. Enterprises get a flexible, cost-effective mix of public and private cloud services.
Elements of the Combined Private/Public Cloud
The purpose of the hybrid cloud is giving enterprises the ability to move workloads from the private cloud to the public cloud when needed. This may be desirable for any number of reasons – outage or peak demand for computing resources in the private cloud, for instance.
When this happens, the hybrid cloud infrastructure allows for additional computing resources to be called upon on an as-needed basis, but achieving that level of integration requires considering a number of factors:
- Cross-Platform Management
- Service Level Agreements
Below, we'll cover each of these in turn, and reveal how they fit into the grand hybrid cloud scheme.
In order to give enterprises the ability to easily move workloads from the private cloud to the public cloud whenever necessary, each cloud platform must be broadly interoperable. Each application and set of data being transferred needs to have a compatible equivalent on the other end. There are two basic ways of ensuring interoperability between private and public cloud platforms.
- Running the same cloud infrastructure on both network systems, or
- Integrating workload transfer through a series of APIs.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow developers to bridge cloud-specific applications to local datasets, and vice versa. It allows, for instance, an application-specific set of data to become compatible with a cloud-based data processing application that would otherwise require the data to be manually input.
Writing and implementing APIs for every single business process you could conceivably wish to effectuate in the cloud can be a time- and labor-intensive process. Fortunately, cloud service providers offer APIs for a broad range of commonly needed services – but enterprises combining multiple cloud services may find that competing APIs are incompatible. These are the ones you may need to generate your own compatible versions of.
Hybrid Cloud Security
Many enterprise level CIOs are hesitant to use public clouds for sensitive applications, citing security concerns. These concerns are well founded, as public clouds are a tantalizing target for cybercriminals, and cybersecurity concerns are generally outside of the enterprises direct sphere of control.
However, this impasse can be circumvented in a hybrid cloud system. The most effective way to do this is by extending IT services to the public cloud through a virtual private network. The VPN allows for secure, encrypted communication between systems based on differing cloud infrastructure – essentially bypassing the public vs. private security concern.
This solution, while highly effective, produces a few issues for enterprise IT departments to resolve. Namely, identity and access management needs to be addressed through a single set of controls, according to a uniform policy that mitigates any discrepancies between various cloud service providers. Interoperability plays an important role in constructing this security system, as uniform policies will have to make use of interoperable resources to produce results.
Hybrid Cloud Management
In order to streamline tasks when moving workloads from public to private clouds and vice versa, enterprises will need to develop a consolidated management system that offers operational control throughout multiple data system types and applications.
A decentralized system benefits most from a centralized management solution. Data connectivity, scalability and visibility all need to be quickly and decisively addressed from within a resource-efficient control structure that is interoperable across the public and private cloud infrastructure spectrum.
For instance, should a department set a budget limit for cloud resources, an alert should be automatically generated when the expenditures for combined private and public cloud platforms approaches that limit. Otherwise, management may never truly know how much it is spending on its hybrid cloud solution until it is too late, and the money is already gone.
The same is true of data management for high-performance processing tasks. Hybrid cloud platforms improve processing speed by making colocation possible – physically reducing the distance between servers and workstations. However, it is nonetheless necessary that a centralized control keep tabs on data ingress and egress throughout your networks – unless you choose a cloud provider that does not charge egress fees.
A key element of a successful hybrid cloud policy, service-level agreements are the backbone of any multi-platform network. In order to achieve interoperability between your own private cloud infrastructure and one or more external services, you'll need predictable and reliable guarantees of uptime, performance benchmarks, application response time, and access to monitoring. These should all be carefully laid out in your service-level agreements – preferably uniformly among multiple service providers.
For instance, if your private cloud experiences an outage, will your associated public cloud services be able to shoulder the increased workload and ensure business continuity? Can they, from a legal or cybersecurity standpoint? These concerns must be laid out in writing before some unexpected emergency occurs.
TIG is a hybrid cloud service provider that offers flexible and secure cloud services to enterprises and institutions in Canada. Contact us to find out how the hybrid cloud can help you enjoy access to a more powerful and efficient business process computing platform.