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Overcome hybrid cloud deployment challenges

Before adopting a hybrid cloud, think about how it will benefit the business and the ultimate goal. Also, hire IT staff with the appropriate level of expertise and start small.

A hybrid cloud deployment faces challenges that include private and public integration, as well as security and...

management issues, particularly in orchestration. Organizations that choose to embark on a hybrid cloud project can mitigate some of these challenges by following common guidelines for IT projects.

First, don't adopt a new technology for its own sake. It is almost always wrong to suppose that a private cloud and its hybrid cloud integration will match the scalability and services of a public cloud provider. Have a clear picture of the scope and goals of a hybrid cloud deployment in your own environment. Understand exactly what a hybrid cloud should be able to do, and how the hybrid cloud will benefit the business. If IT and business leaders can't qualify and quantify what such a deployment looks like and what it should do, it might be best to delay the project until those questions can be answered. Consider just some of the fundamental issues involved in a hybrid cloud deployment:

Workload distribution. Private and public clouds are intended to offer similar capabilities -- such as self-service, automation and chargeback -- but the much smaller scale of private clouds limits their capabilities and services. Consider which workloads or purposes each cloud will serve and how the hybrid integration will help when shifting or scaling workloads. This can often involve granular issues such as scheduling and policy creation.

Public cloud selection. Public clouds are not yet ubiquitous in terms of available services, APIs, and other factors, so hybrid cloud projects are often committed to one public cloud provider where integration can be clearly defined, but this risks a level of vendor lock-in. Embracing more than one public cloud provider and establishing a multi cloud environment can be an even more complex hybrid cloud deployment.

Public cloud data amounts
Small amounts of data are archived in the public cloud.

Security. A hybrid cloud integration can involve multiple aspects of security, such as user or workload authentication, data storage and API integrity. A business must consider security needs, identify any differences in security practices and processes between private and public clouds, and be sure to address any differences to keep workloads and data secure.

Data protection. Clouds change the way that data is backed up and protected. Clouds offer the potential for greater flexibility and resilience in data protection. But a hybrid cloud deployment must accommodate data protection in both the private and public clouds. Ideally, that means adopting a single, uniform data protection scheme that still meets associated regulatory compliance or business governance requirements.

Cache and backup are two of the best reasons to use hybrid cloud.

Management complexity. It takes tools to manage a private cloud, and more tools to monitor and control the resources used in a public cloud. Getting tools to work together -- and managing a hybrid cloud integration through a single pane of glass -- can be a challenge. Businesses can usually identify suitable tools for deployment on-premises or through hosted management services. But this requires an investment in evaluation, setup and configuration.

Consider staff and build slowly

Second, consider staffing up for a hybrid cloud. Mastering cloud technologies requires a broader set of skills than everyday system administrators and data center architects might possess. This is particularly apparent when implementing a private cloud, where a complex new software stack -- such as OpenStack or CloudStack -- must be brought into the environment. IT administrators must install and configure that stack properly, and build new services around it. And they must be able to integrate the private cloud with the target public cloud to form a meaningful hybrid cloud. Taken together, it might be necessary for a business to consider hiring additional IT staff with demonstrated expertise in private and hybrid cloud deployment.

Finally, start small and build out in phases. A successful hybrid cloud is rarely a single project or effort. Businesses might choose to start by building a limited hybrid model to support specific workload objectives, then systematically build out additional capabilities and services as the hybrid cloud initiative demonstrates its value to the business and stakeholders.

A successful hybrid cloud is rarely a single project or effort.

A hybrid cloud deployment can be more successful over time if the business starts by seeking the fastest and easiest ways to use a hybrid cloud integration. A simple hybrid cloud integration might involve data storage. For example, local data in a private cloud might be backed up or archived in the public cloud, such as Amazon Glacier.

Another hybrid cloud example could involve cloud bursting where a workload might scale by invoking more instances within a public cloud -- rather than the private cloud -- eventually releasing those resources in the public cloud when the demand abates. This saves limited resources within the private cloud.

Realize the full benefits of a hybrid cloud

Learn the different private vs. hybrid use cases. Successfully navigate hybrid cloud pros and cons, and get to know the major vendors in the market.

An alternative to cloud bursting can be in purpose-built cloud usage. For example, a business might use a private cloud for software testing and development, but use a public cloud for data analytics, such as big data projects. Data gathering can deliver content to the public cloud where a highly scalable Hadoop cluster can perform detailed processing, perhaps delivering results to a visualization and reporting application in the private cloud.

A third example might involve workload resilience and availability, where an enterprise application cluster uses instances both within the private cloud as well as one or more regions of a public cloud. By distributing a cluster of workload instances across clouds and regions, the workload can potentially remain available in the face of heavy traffic, network disruptions, and malicious attacks.

Ultimately, the low-hanging fruit for any hybrid cloud depends on the needs and goals of the particular business. But figuring out those quick and easy goals can be a major boost to any hybrid cloud initiative.

Hybrid clouds can provide an organization with a powerful and versatile infrastructure capable of supporting virtually any workload deployment priority. But hybrid clouds impose yet another layer of software and complexity on the environment. Many of the benefits promise by a hybrid cloud -- such as scalability and resilience -- can be addressed with private clouds and more conventional data center technologies. It's important for organizations to evaluate deployment needs and carefully consider the implications of private clouds before embarking on a hybrid cloud deployment.

This was last published in April 2018

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