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Overcoming the Challenges of the Hybrid Cloud

As the hybrid model becomes more popular, IT teams are faced with managing their environments, keeping them secure and minimizing costs.
  • by Sandra Blettner
  • Cloud Client Executive | February 26, 2019

The hybrid cloud model is no longer a niche strategy in IT. Indeed, the hybrid model, which incorporates public cloud resources with a true private cloud, continues to grow in popularity. More than half of organizations employ a hybrid cloud strategy.

While the hybrid cloud model has matured significantly in the years since it first came into use, public cloud offerings and on-premises infrastructure continue to evolve rapidly. As a result, many organizations opt to work with a trusted third-party partner that has experience implementing and maintaining successful hybrid cloud deployments. 

Here are some of the principal challenges that organizations face when designing, deploying and managing a hybrid cloud environment.

51% 

The percentage of organizations that employ a hybrid cloud strategy combining public and private clouds

Source: RightScale, “RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report,” (PDF) February 2018

Networking

Because the hybrid cloud model relies on the exchange of data between organizations’ on-premises data centers and their public cloud providers, networks must maintain a high level of performance and reliability. In cases where applications require low latency to ensure adequate performance, organizations should consider establishing a direct connection between their private data center and their public cloud provider. 

Visibility and Control

Especially when organizations move toward multicloud implementations that incorporate several public cloud vendors, complexity can quickly spiral out of control. For a hybrid cloud to yield efficiencies, an organization must maintain visibility throughout its entire environment and exercise ongoing management over resources and costs. Manual monitoring processes are unlikely to keep up with cloud investments — which, once initiated, often grow at an exponential rate. This can lead not only to escalating costs, but also to problems with patching and configuration management. Also, companies that lack proper visibility into and control over their infrastructure will likely see limited success with the implementation of key cloud features, such as self-service systems. 

Security and Compliance

When the public cloud first burst onto the scene, many IT managers balked at the idea of placing any organizational data — but particularly sensitive information, such as personal data, financial information or intellectual property — in the hands of an outside third party. Over time, and as a result of many successful public cloud deployments across various industries, that fear has largely abated, to the point that IT decision-makers now frequently cite security as a benefit of placing resources in the public cloud. 

However, security and compliance are still top-of-mind concerns for data center administrators whenever they consider major changes to their infrastructure. Cloud architects need to ensure that a hybrid environment features redundancy across data centers to mitigate the impact of an outage to any one location. Further, education is an essential consideration as it pertains to IaaS security. Users must familiarize themselves with the shared-responsibility model and understand what aspects of security they are responsible for, versus what the cloud provider is responsible for.

It’s also vitally important to verify that the new setup doesn’t run afoul of data regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

Cost

According to 451 Research, the promise of reduced costs is the top driver of cloud investments, with nearly 40 percent of CIOs citing cost savings as their top cloud driver (ahead of factors such as scalability, agility and availability). However, somewhat paradoxically, cost is also the top challenge for organizations that move resources to the cloud, with 53 percent of IT leaders citing “cost/budget” as their main pain point. 

Because public cloud resources are inexpensive and easily accessible, 451 Research explains, people tend to consume them at a larger scale. This can lead to problems when organizations fail to conduct the necessary planning and application assessment prior to moving to the cloud. For example, most applications and resources on-premises are designed for peak utilization.  When moving to the cloud, many organizations follow the same logic, which drives up costs. Organizations must use tools to rightsize their resources prior to migration.

Also, some public cloud instances are inevitably “orphaned” — meaning they are still spun up in the public cloud (and, therefore, still incurring an ongoing cost), but are no longer being used. Finally, organizations often find that unexpected line items, such as bandwidth, drive costs higher than expected. While visibility and control are important for controlling costs, organizations should also strive to improve governance policies. When individual departments are responsible for their cloud consumption through showback or chargeback programs, they tend to spend less.  

Scaling Out

As workloads grow within a hybrid cloud environment, issues can arise with configuration management databases, and it can be difficult to determine the root cause when something goes wrong. And as applications become interconnected in a cloud environment, issues with one application can cause issues with other applications, as well. Aside from these potential complications, it is important for organizations to calculate the potential costs of scaling out solutions early in their hybrid cloud planning process. Growth is sometimes unpredictable, and data center administrators should seek to implement solutions that have the potential to cost-effectively scale out beyond present expectations. 



To learn how to get the most from your hybrid cloud deployment, read the CDW white paper “Managing the Hybrid Cloud.”

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