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Contributor Columns on Information Technology and Security

Designing an Efficient Hybrid Cloud for Your Enterprise

A hybrid cloud is an integration of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud, creating a cloud computing environment wherein some resources are supplied externally while others are provided and managed in-house. Putting everything on a public cloud has advantages, but it is not always applicable to all organizations or business operations.

A hybrid cloud is an integration of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud, creating a cloud computing environment wherein some resources are supplied externally while others are provided and managed in-house. Putting everything on a public cloud has advantages, but it is not always applicable to all organizations or business operations. For example, it is inadvisable for organizations that require data sovreignity and control over hardware. The hybrid cloud addresses the shortcomings of public and private clouds, while tapping on their strengths. 

Before discussing in detail the benefits of a hybrid cloud, however, it’s worth looking at the points that make a purely private and a purely public cloud advantageous. Can a hybrid cloud really provide considerable advantages? Or is it enough to simply stick with either private or public cloud? 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EgnyteHybridCloudSolution.jpg

 

Advantages of a Purely Private Cloud 

Private clouds offer the following three main benefits: greater data security, more predictable availability, and full control. 

Since a private cloud is completely run by the organization, on its own servers, important data are secured the way the organization wants them to secured. This may not always be the case in the real world, but in theory, a private cloud can be more properly secured by an internal IT staff that has a greater understanding of the network’s operation, activity, and the threats expected. 

Predictable availability is also an advantage for private clouds. The servers are under the control and supervision of internal IT staff so if there are problems, they are promptly detected and (supposedly) promptly fixed. 

Additionally, private clouds guarantee full control over everything. The organization has full control over policies, configurations, security mechanisms, or the assignment of workload across servers. There are no limitations except for the capacity of the hardware deployed. Resources can be fully used, or some can be temporarily put on standby depending on needs. Resources may even become revenue generators if an organization decides to sell server services to third parties. 

Advantages of a Purely Public Cloud 

Public cloud, on the other hand, also offers important advantages. The most noteworthy of which are the lower cost, the reduced reliance on an internal IT department, and scalability. 

The overall cost of using public cloud over having a private one is considerably lower. This is because an organization, in choosing public cloud, no longer needs to purchase the needed hardware and software, pay for the power to run the hardware and the space needed for them, and spend for the training and salaries of the IT staff. 

It is also advantageous not having to rely on an internal IT department. Money is needed to hire IT personnel and to keep them updated with the latest in cloud technology. Public cloud service providers are experts and well-updated in their field, so there’s no need to worry about spending for the updates and hardware upgrades. 

Scalability is also a major benefit in using public cloud. Public cloud service providers have a variety of packages to meet the varying needs of customers. When there’s a need a scale up, an organization will simply be charged according to usage, or one can upgrade to a bigger or higher package. When some scaling down becomes necessary, there will be no problems in disposing equipment or in taking back the value of the equipment that will be unused after scaling down. 

Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Model 

Implementing a hybrid cloud is mainly done to secure mission-critical applications and information by keeping and managing these in-house while taking advantage of the cost-effectiveness and scalability of public cloud options. As mentioned, a hybrid cloud brings together the advantages of both private and public clouds, while remedying or compensating for the drawbacks. Basically, a hybrid cloud model can offer most of the positive points enumerated above. 

Is a Hybrid Cloud Model Necessary? Any Caveat? 

The big question: Is a hybrid model right for an organization? For organizations that are already satisfied with the advantages provided by either public or private cloud, it may no longer be necessary shifting to a hybrid setup. In particular, those that have already invested on the equipment to operate a purely private cloud system may no longer consider going hybrid unless there aren’t competent IT staff available to manage the private cloud network, or if a study would prove that running it privately will entail higher costs. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that security compliance can become more complicated in a hybrid environment. This is because an organization will have to maintain security compliance for both private and public clouds, not just for one. There are also potential issues when it comes to network complexity and infrastructure dependency. 

While a hybrid cloud is meant to address the drawbacks of private and public clouds while taking advantage of the benefits they bring, it is not meant to serve as a one-size-fits-all solution. Suitability will still depend on the specific situation of an organization. 

Designing an Efficient Hybrid Cloud 

Intel has an excellent white paper on how a highly available, and dynamic hybrid cloud environment can be achieved. This paper offers a considerable amount of technical information, so it is certainly worth using as a reference. However, for those who are looking for quick pointers on designing an efficient hybrid cloud, there are a number of things that should taken into account. 

First, the workloads should be prudently assessed to properly determine the setup required. The desired IT architecture and app needs, for example, should be accurately evaluated. Tests will have to be undertaken. Geographic restrictions and possible issues in content delivery or network performance have to be factored in. 

Next, it is essential to be familiar with the different considerations in designing a hybrid cloud infrastructure. There are conceptual and physical design considerations involved. The conceptual design aspect has to take into account architectural principles and patterns as well as a reference model. The physical design, on the other hand, focuses on network and compute design considerations as well as management and support design considerations. 

It’s also important to anticipate potential issues and risks. There’s a need to ensure security compliance for both private and public clouds. The management of a hybrid cloud should guarantee the protection not just of the organization’s data but also the resources (hardware and software). Look for compliance and security guarantees comparable to that of the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud, including certifications such as ISO 207001, SSAE16 SOC, Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix, FedRAMP, and HIPPA. Additionally, latency and server load issues should be anticipated. 

In terms of anticipating latency and server load, there is actually an abundance of choice in the area of load balancing technologies. These help avoid overload and downtime by distributing incoming traffic across multiple servers, whilst ensuring business continuity through automated failover. 

Load balancers vary in shape, ranging from on-premise appliances to DNS-based services and cloud based PaaS solutions. Load balancers also differ in their capabilities, with distribution algorithms ranging from the simple round-robin to a more advanced data-driven options, enabled by layer 7 visibility – the later can take into account the current server loads, as well as packet content, to optimize load distribution. 

For those in need, this guide to choosing a load balancer can help in determining the best distribution method and deployment mode – depending on your needs and attributes of your core infrastructure. 

Still, generally speaking, for most intents and purposes a PaaS-based solution may be considered the most robust and scalable option, especially when compared the bare bone DNS-based approach. 

Moreover, think of the management tools needed when running the hybrid cloud environment. These management tools (example: Operations Manager) are the console or interface that enable the monitoring of workloads and apps across clouds. There should be a unified interface for managing the hybrid environment. 

There are no fixed formulas or methods in coming up with a hybrid cloud design that is efficient. Everything is still dependent on the specific circumstances and needs of an organization. The points mentioned here only serve as guides in coming up with an efficient design. That’s why it’s very important to carefully and objectively determine whether a hybrid environment can indeed be advantageous. Simply jumping on the hybrid cloud

bandwagon does not guarantee success or efficient operation. It’s still important to create a plan or design that promotes efficiency.

 

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