Hybrid cloud environments are becoming increasingly popular. According to Flexera's 2019 State of the Cloud report, 58% of companies now have a hybrid cloud strategy, up from 51% the year prior. That's a significant enough shift to suggest that more companies are finding value in it.
These environments offer the best of both worlds. Companies can get the scalability and flexibility of a public cloud environment, while also retaining tight control and security over sensitive data and critical applications on their own premises.
The hybrid cloud comes with its own challenge, though: How do you manage its component parts together, maintaining performance and keeping them secure? Here’s how to create and maintain a smooth, seamless, and secure hybrid environment.
An early management challenge is deciding what workloads to put where. Splitting a single workload across a hybrid cloud environment is a tall order. The idea of 'bursting' by offloading computing tasks from the private to the public cloud at times of peak demand is theoretically possible, but practically difficult. You can divide different application components across the private and public cloud using virtual machines or software containers, but this is a demanding task because you have to manage factors like inter-process latency and data persistence across two separate pieces of infrastructure. It isn't impossible, but for most small businesses, it isn't realistic.
Instead, most small businesses will use the hybrid cloud as a resource for ad hoc tasks like virtual development and testing servers, or for cloud-based backup. You can run batch jobs in the public part that don't have any latency issues, or analytics processing.
You can manage the infrastructure across the different clouds in two ways. The first uses a single vendor for both parts of the hybrid cloud infrastructure, providing a unified view.
Microsoft offers Azure Stack, an on-premises private cloud environment that you can manage in concert with the Azure public cloud using the company's own tools. Amazon offers AWS Outposts, its own on-premises private cloud solution that integrates with Amazon Web Services.
A patchwork of clouds
This single-vendor approach won't work for businesses that already have their own private cloud infrastructure and need to manage it in concert with one or more incompatible public cloud services. This is where hybrid cloud management (HCM) products come in.
HCM tools tie multiple public cloud infrastructures together with on-premises ones to create a unified monitoring and management solution. Forrester points to companies including Cisco, CloudHealth, Red Hat and VMware in the HCM space.
This product category lets you manage different aspects of your hybrid cloud depending on your needs. You can use HCM tools for automation and orchestration, service level monitoring, and governance. The ability to manage from a 'single pane of glass' is key here.
These products have already expanded from basic infrastructure management such as virtual machine and storage provisioning through to more advanced tools such as monitoring the performance of end-to-end cloud-based services comprising different underlying technologies. Look for more tools such as hybrid cloud cost management as this category continues to evolve.
Don't forget security
Whether it's managed in a HCM product or set up separately, security is a key factor in hybrid cloud management. This begins with infrastructure design. Ensure that your private network is properly segmented with a single, controlled gateway to the hybrid cloud service. This will minimise the chance of lateral movement through your infrastructure.
Proper identity and access management for users is also advisable. This will let you govern access to applications and data across the private and public parts of your hybrid cloud infrastructure.
Taking a cohesive approach to hybrid cloud management, from the design of low-level networking through to the positioning of application workloads, will help to make it an effective part of your overall IT strategy. Can a hybrid cloud environment get the best of both worlds while maintaining reliability and performance? You bet.