Today’s organizations demand a great deal of their computing infrastructure. Not only do their networks need to manage customer-facing services, but they also power the internal applications that drive core business processes. Whether it’s managing and storing data or developing innovative new products, companies need their network systems to handle multiple workloads on a regular basis.
But business needs are rarely static. Sudden increases in demand can put tremendous strain on computing resources. If organizations fail to account for these spikes, they could be exposed to substantial risk if their systems crash or struggle to handle the extra workload. Fortunately, the scalable power of cloud computing offers a solution in the form of cloud bursting.
What is Cloud Bursting?
One of the major challenges organizations face when building a private cloud architecture is determining just how much capacity they need to meet fluctuating demand. Unless the company is setting up a private cloud through a managed hosting provider, it will still need physical infrastructure in place to handle the cloud’s computing and storage capability. That hardware represents a substantial capital investment. There are also operating costs to consider, as that equipment will require adequate space, power, and cooling to operate effectively. Provisioning too much infrastructure will result in wasted capacity and eat into profit margins. On the other hand, not having enough capacity to handle demand can overburden servers, leading to slower performance and costly downtime.
Cloud bursting offers an ideal solution to this problem. The simplest cloud bursting definition is to think of it as a very specialized form of hybrid cloud. It is a dynamic application deployment that connects a private cloud to the computing resources of a private cloud in order to meet variable workload demands. The private portion of the cloud can be right-sized to accommodate an organization’s typical capacity needs, but the connection to the public cloud allows it to “burst” additional computing resources whenever network activity spikes. Since the public portion of the hybrid cloud can be set up on a pay-per-use model, cloud bursting allows companies to meet variable computing demands without having to invest in additional infrastructure or continually pay for capacity they don’t need.
When Do Businesses Need Cloud Bursting?
The two most common drivers for cloud bursting deployments are software development and big data analytics. Software development projects often require companies to spin up several virtual machines to test applications and code, especially as the development cycle approaches its end. Some of these tests require intensive computing resources, but they will only be needed for short periods of time. If a six-month development cycle requires only a few weeks of testing throughout the development process, investing in the equipment or virtual machines necessary to run those tests isn’t likely to produce a worthwhile return on investment (especially considering that only about 0.01 consumer mobile apps become financially successful). Cloud bursting allows them to have the on-demand computing resources available whenever they’re needed, without having to make a substantial up-front investment in infrastructure.
Many of today’s companies depend heavily on data analytics to inform their business decisions and strategy. Thanks to the spread of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and social media data, organizations are gathering more information about customers, products, and markets than ever before. Unfortunately, the algorithms they deploy to analyze that data are extremely computationally intensive. When they’re busy crunching numbers as part of long-run simulations, risk analysis, data sequencing, or other read-heavy workloads, these programs can quickly eat up all of a private cloud’s available resources, slowing all other processes and functions to a near standstill. With cloud bursting, analytics workloads can easily overflow into the public cloud, ensuring that computing resources in the private cloud will still be available for other applications that are essential to business processes.
Cloud Bursting Architecture
Setting up a cloud bursting architecture within a hybrid cloud deployment can sometimes be a complex undertaking. Since workloads need to be managed across two clouds, the software applications moving between them must be properly optimized to run properly in both locations. If the private and public clouds have different capabilities and native API sets, making them work in concert with one another could be a challenge. Some cloud providers that offer managed private hosting (such as Microsoft Azure) incorporate cloud bursting into their services package. This approach is often much easier to implement because the private and public cloud environments are fully compatible. For colocation customers looking to incorporate cloud bursting into their infrastructure, the best route is to loosely couple the physical servers to the public cloud with middleware.
Cloud bursting is a useful hybrid cloud deployment that allows companies to access the scalable power of cloud computing while still retaining control over their private network infrastructure. Since they’re only using cloud resources when their workloads need to “burst,” they can limit their dependence upon public cloud providers. Given that more and more companies are turning away from purely public cloud solutions and are rightly concerned about the risks of vendor lock-in, cloud bursting architecture presents an ideal hybrid cloud alternative that maximizes performance while also controlling costs.
About Tom Banta
Tom is the Senior Vice President of Product Management & Development at vXchnge. Tom is responsible for the company’s product strategy and development.