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5 Things to Consider When Building a Hybrid Cloud Architecture

By: Blair Felter on March 25, 2020

The race for digital transformation is on, with companies across almost every industry looking for ways to provide services and solutions driven by the latest technology. While the initial wave of cloud computing saw many organizations shift away from physical infrastructure, the next decade of IT deployments will see the embrace of true hybrid cloud architecture that provides far greater control and flexibility.

What is Hybrid Cloud?

In the simplest sense, a hybrid cloud is a combination of a public cloud environment and a private cloud environment. The two environments are integrated through a common operating system and can easily share data back and forth. Certain applications are hosted in the public cloud portion while others remain within the more secure, controlled environment of the private cloud. Some hybrid cloud deployments use more than one public cloud service, allowing an organization to connect its private network to a variety of public cloud environments. These deployments are typically referred to as multi-clouds.

What are the Primary Hybrid Cloud Benefits?

The key advantage of any hybrid cloud is flexibility. Organizations can use hybrid cloud architecture to adapt their network infrastructure to their current and future needs. If they need to add a service or run an application their network lacks the capacity to handle, they can use the expansive power of public cloud computing to increase their capabilities without having to set up a completely separate network. The scalable nature of public cloud platforms also allows them to spin up processing and storage to handle increased computing demand without having to invest in new hardware to host those workloads.

Another benefit of a hybrid cloud strategy is it gives organizations the ability to retain control over a secure, private cloud environment where they can locate mission-critical data and applications. Many industries face unique compliance standards that require them to take extra precautions with data security. While they may be able to use or gather some of that data in a public cloud environment, it often cannot be stored or managed there when it’s not being processed. Having a private cloud environment available that can be customized to meet these needs is absolutely critical for many organizations.

For larger enterprises, one cloud service is rarely enough to meet every operational need. The sales department may need one platform, while the marketing and customer service departments need their own unique solutions. Hybrid cloud architecture can create a multi-cloud environment that allows every department to manage its own platforms while working with the same data sets. Critical data is managed in the private cloud, but the various applications running in connected public cloud platforms can access that data when it’s needed to deliver key services.

5 Things to Consider When Building a Hybrid Cloud Architecture

Where there are many hybrid cloud benefits, there are a few things every organization should consider before it undertakes the challenging task of building such a complex environment.

1. Do You Need a “True” Hybrid Cloud?

The defining characteristic of a true hybrid cloud architecture is integration between multiple public and private cloud environments through a common operating system. An organization that hosts its network on its own private environment with a dedicated operating system and then connects to a cloud service through a direct on-ramp or an internet connection isn’t really a true hybrid cloud. For most businesses, simply being able to connect to a preferred cloud provider in this fashion is more than sufficient for their needs. The speed and high performance of a true hybrid environment provide much greater benefits to enterprises with high volume workloads and distributed systems.

2. What Cloud Platforms Will You Need

Identifying the right cloud computing platforms an organization needs may seem like a simple process, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Companies need to think about their existing needs and where they intend to go in the future. Building out a hybrid cloud infrastructure on a platform that won’t be able to accommodate future workloads could create some rather expensive problems down the line. This choice may be easier for companies looking at different software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors, but for companies looking to build their own applications or operating environments through platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) public cloud providers, it’s very important to make the right decision from the beginning to avoid the problems associated with vendor lock-in.

3. Where Will You Locate Workloads?

Once a hybrid cloud architecture is set up, organizations need to know where they’re going to manage their data and applications. This almost always requires a three-way balance between accessibility needs, compliance requirements, and application needs. Organizations want their networks to be as user-friendly as possible, but they must take security into consideration. Some data simply cannot be hosted in a public environment due to regulatory requirements. Furthermore, some legacy systems will not be able to function properly in a cloud environment. These systems will need to be managed locally and integrated into the public cloud through a series of often complex workarounds. Balancing all of these needs to ensure workloads are running smoothly is a complicated process that needs to be well-thought-out before network architects begin building the hybrid environment.

4. What Cloud OS Will You Use?

A cloud operating system allows organizations to monitor, manage, and orchestrate all aspects of a hybrid environment through a single set of tools. Ideally, it should be able to simplify a complex environment and provide users with the flexibility to manage data and applications with minimal specialized training. There are a number of cloud OS frameworks that IT engineers can utilize to create a true hybrid environment, including VMware Cloud, OpenStack, Nutanix, and Kubernetes. Making the best choice for a hybrid cloud strategy will depend upon the specific needs of each organization’s IT deployment.

5. What Kind of Security Will You Need?

Few events strike more terror into the heart of companies and consumers than a data breach. That’s why it’s absolutely critical for organizations to put the proper security controls and policies in place when it comes to managing data across their digital infrastructure. While public cloud platforms have proven far more secure than many feared in the early days of cloud computing, they still don’t offer the same level of control and security as a private cloud environment. That’s because an organization retains full visibility into a private cloud and retains the ability to manage every aspect of it directly. These security considerations need to be kept in mind when planning a hybrid cloud strategy, especially if sensitive data will be moving throughout that environment.

Building a hybrid cloud architecture is a complicated undertaking for any organization, but one that can provide a number of significant performance and efficiency benefits. As more organizations shift away from on-premises infrastructure and embrace colocation and cloud solutions, hybrid cloud architecture will likely become more commonplace. By laying out their security and workload needs well in advance, companies can build the dynamic networks that not only help them to service customers today, but also grow their business into the future.

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