Hybrid cloud: reducing risks by getting the best of both worlds

The benefits of cloud computing have been widely acknowledged in recent years, and today, most organisations use at least some cloud services for operations, whether email, backup, e-commerce sites or the more advanced software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS). With today’s high standards of data centre performance, resilience, monitoring and the availability of specialists, it’s hard for most businesses to justify maintaining in-house data centres.

But diving into a public cloud computing environment for any mission-critical applications makes many companies more than a little nervous. After all, who is really comfortable with putting it all out there? Who feels secure enough to trust that confidential data is truly safe in the public domain?

Concerns about the cloud

Public clouds undoubtedly provide a wealth of benefits to companies, including undeniable access to data for customers and employees, or data that can be shared, analysed and put to work. Despite this, organisations have a hard time relinquishing control of applications and data that run on their own infrastructure. And they’re not sure how to align the cloud to their business goals. In addition, they are concerned that if the cloud vendor’s network goes down, they could lose millions a day in lost sales with no real recourse other than to sit on their hands and wait. They really can’t afford even the slightest chance that their mission-critical applications are susceptible to any outage. So the safest bet is to keep their applications on premises where they can keep an eye on them.

Furthermore, many CIOs follow the old adage "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" so moving a system that is working well from in-house servers to a complete cloud infrastructure doesn’t make sense. Therefore, it’s no surprise that analyst house, Gartner, estimates that nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. However, we believe that hybrid cloud is beneficial to all businesses regardless of size.

Mix and match

Hybrid cloud represents the best of both worlds. In the simplest terms, it is primarily a private cloud that allows an organisation to tap into a public cloud when and where it makes sense. It creates an environment in which companies can maintain on-premises control of certain applications and data, while determining which applications belong in the cloud. The hybrid approach minimises change, helps to reduce costs and risks, and enables more scalable and flexible business processes.

One company that uses a hybrid model is Whirlpool, the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances. The manufacturer uses a globally integrated IaaS with vast capacity to support its existing product lifecycle management system. The flexible and scalable infrastructure, on which Whirlpool hosts its ecommerce platform, enables the company to store and deploy large amounts of customer and product data. Using a hybrid cloud model, Whirlpool can drive ecommerce sales, streamline orders, reduce costs, and improve flexibility and speed processing time.

This crossbreed of cloud computing allows companies to adjust the amount of computing power used based on their individual fluctuation in actual usage. So for companies that have a lot of variation in their computing needs, a hybrid model makes them much more nimble by bursting to a public cloud for times where more computing capacity is needed. Generally, adding public space to a company’s cloud model is much easier and timely than growing its private cloud to meet mounting needs. So a hybrid model is more cost effective in providing world-class computing power that is available anytime, anywhere, without as big a budget commitment as a private cloud.

No longer risky business

Another huge benefit of using hybrid cloud is that it can help reduce risks. Businesses that opt for hybrid cloud can use network virtualisation to configure firewalls and networks in the cloud as if they were in their own data centre and follow the same polices for security, control and compliance. By creating a seamless infrastructure, businesses can reduce rather than increase complexity and therefore reduce risk.

Using a dynamic cloud architecture also reduces the risks to public websites, especially e-commerce sites, which often require publicly accessible websites linked to mission-critical assets on-site. Often, sites can be brought down by a sudden surge of demand, for example following an unexpectedly successful promotion or seasonal demand for products or services. Hybrid cloud allows businesses to extend their infrastructure seamlessly when needed and to replicate mission-critical applications so there is no downtime if problems occur.

One example of a hybrid cloud model successfully used is the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) Wimbledon.com website and Live @ Wimbledon broadcast channel. Wimbledon.com, the official website of one of the world’s biggest annual sporting Championships, is the go-to place for information, match analysis and all the latest Wimbledon news. With over 19 million unique visitors over the Championships’ two-week duration and around 430 million page views, AELTC uses the cloud to scale up the website’s capacity to withstand vast web and multi-device mobile traffic at peak times, and scale it down again to the capacity of a private tennis club again when the tournament is over.

Furthermore, serving Wimbledon involves handling a lot of multimedia data, whether it’s one and a half million video streams for Live @ Wimbledon, or the iPad app, which might see over 350,000 iPads accessing multimedia content at once. AELTC uses a web content management system (CMS) to deal with these heavy workloads, and this is just one case where a hybrid approach pays off. The CMS runs both in a cloud instance and, while the Championships are running, in a physical instance, run on-site. This ensures AELTC is provided with the performance it needs, combined with the scalability and disaster recovery an event of this size requires.

A balancing act

Ultimately, the nature of a hybrid model requires that companies determine which data or applications reside on the private cloud and which can reside on a public cloud. Businesses need to assess how much risk they are willing to tolerate with their data and applications.

Companies must also consider the level of customer support desired from the cloud provider. The many benefits of moving to the cloud can only be realised if the operation and access is seamless. Businesses need appropriate monitoring, governance and security tools to expedite the process of accessing key applications securely, anytime and anywhere. But that specialisation in IT delivery often makes cloud providers better suited to delivering and securing applications, allowing businesses to enjoy comprehensive data protection in addition to faster and less-expensive IT provisioning.

A one-size fits-all public cloud doesn’t work for many businesses. Many are looking for ways to take advantage of the cloud without giving up their legacy IT investments. A hybrid model enables them to take advantage of a cloud environment, yet still maintain a level of control that is consistent with their business needs — a practical approach that delivers the best of both worlds

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