What is a Hybrid Cloud?
A Hybrid Cloud is a mixture of a privately hosted infrastructure (Private) and another done on your behalf by choice vendors (Public). Most clouds worldwide depend on open source technologies, be it a Linux based system or an Enterprise Open Source solution.
Our clients most often use Red Hat Virtualisation, Citrix Xenserver, or VMWare. These are the leading providers for virtualisation globally so the likelihood is that if you use a Private or a Public cloud, you will use one of these three.
The benefits of a Hybrid Cloud are manifold, from cost-savings through not having to own an entire datacentre, to quick and easy systems being spun up for particular projects. Having a Hybrid Cloud allows you to keep your primary systems in or near your offices, leaving Disaster Recovery to secondary systems hosted by reliable vendors.
There are always considerations for IT Security, which is why one doesn’t simply create an account on the first hosting-provider they see online and instead firmly investigates all available options.
It is also the case that leading software such as Red Hat CloudForms helps organisations manage their cloud vendors and migrate hosted services between them seamlessly to reduce spend – if you are serious about Hybrid Cloud then looking at a way to manage it easily is the first step to success.
The benefits of a Hybrid Cloud
There are significant benefits to using a Hybrid Cloud model.
Alongside Disaster Recovery, mentioned above, you can find that for short-term use it is cheaper than renting physical hardware to host on. This is because you can spin-up systems until they have outlived their usefulness, and after you decommission them you no longer have to ‘rent’ the compute space.
A Private Cloud invariably means external access connects directly to your network, which can be a security issue. By segmenting your network across multiple cloud vendors, you can ‘harden’ your cyber defences as systems get closer to the core of your operation. This is incredibly important because often SMEs will have a handful of critical servers which can rarely afford downtime, which in turn reduces resilience. A Hyrbid Cloud lets you setup restricted systems for contractors and auditors to access should they need to.
Carbon emissions reporting is complex, but many cloud-vendors offer tools to help track your energy usage. They aren’t holistic and fail to reflect supply chain emissions, but can be convenient if you want to capture the emissions of a particular system.
A Hybrid Cloud allows you to ‘plug-in’ to the ecosystem of the relevant vendors, so if for example you want to use advanced development tools it is much easier to this via the ‘Store’ of a vendor as they have useful integrations on offer.
The challenges of a Hybrid Cloud
If managed poorly a Hybrid Cloud can actually increase costs though. We have seen many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) set up systems which are ‘always-on’ and therein use a lot of electricity and compute power – therein increasing costs. Remember: you already have a private cloud – you have systems which are mostly online and don’t need a mammoth cloud all the time.
It is often the case that suppliers don’t look to automation – meaning you don’t make the most of it either. You are renting ‘space’ on a Public Cloud so while some automation tools may be available from the vendor, they will likely come at additional costs.
If you setup a Hybrid Cloud without looking at automation the system becomes less useful and unable to scale to your daily requirements. For example, with Red Hat Ansible Tower you can create virtual-datacentres in mere hours; manually it could take weeks if not months to spin-up virtual systems. Linking to the above, this in effect means you run systems built for peak-use 100% of the time, which is once again a waste of resources and money.
Hybrid Cloud often has inconsistencies, we observe this the most with Microsoft Azure. On the one hand your Microsoft Servers may even be hosted in Azure, and yet to administer it you need 100% cloud emails and other extra costs to make it function. The additional systems are not quoted for, and take extra time to manage for System Administrators therein increasing cost.
Unfortunately some organisations choose to treat their Public clouds as if they were already incredibly secure, but many vendors (rightly or wrongly) do not accept liability for harm done on their systems. Put simply, even with a trusted vendor – on IT Security you still need to seek expertise.
Finally, we mentioned Disaster Recovery previously but there are caveats. As with IT Security, the vendor accepts no liability if systems go down – if they are hacked or your systems fail and you don’t have backups, that is not their responsibility. Likewise, if a Hybrid Cloud is configured to only and always look to your Private Cloud in an office or a datacentre, it may fail to work in the event of an actual disaster.
Is a Hybrid Cloud the right approach for you?
Ultimately the choice is yours, and for some with large enough budgets it’s very much a matter of personal preference. There are definitely benefits to using a Public Cloud to support your Private Cloud, that is to say: depending on external vendors to support (but not supplant) your in-house IT infrastructure can bring benefits, just as there are challenges that need to be addressed.
It pays to undertake a roadmap exercise and envision what the next few years could have in store for an organisation that seeks a hybrid approach. Should your organisation have difficulty tackling such an approach, having an external party run a Discovery Session to help tease out your fundamental goals may also prove helpful.
It does take expertise however and so always be mindful that most IT providers will favour their partnerships over your interests – wherever possible seek a vendor-neutral supplier, one who points you to vendors best suited for your needs and not their greed.