If doing more with less is the IT problem on everybody’s mind, what is the answer? At first glance, cloud services with their pay-as-you-go pricing may look like the way to get your costs under control. Instant provisioning, scalability, and resilience also make them attractive. Yet on its own, the cloud may not meet all the needs of your organization. Legacy systems with specific requirements, sensitive data, and network latency issues are a few reasons why, despite the cloud, many businesses still run their applications in their own data centers.
Ideally, you need an approach that gives you the best of both worlds, combining the flexibility of the cloud with the security and performance of on-premises and colocation data centers. Hybrid cloud can do this for you. A hybrid cloud strategy based on your business needs will point your enterprise towards the benefits that matter. It will help you pick the right providers to make your strategy reality. Read on to find out how.
What does hybrid cloud mean for you?
In general, hybrid cloud is a mix of conventional IT infrastructure using physical servers and cloud computing based on virtual machines and storage. But how does it apply to you?
Suppose your organization has made investments in its own IT infrastructure over the last few years. In parallel, suppose that an opportunity or a need has just developed that your organization can address, but only if it can periodically process large additional amounts of data, some of which may be confidential or sensitive. This situation can arise in many sectors. Examples include retailing chains reacting to changing consumer tastes, financial institutions dealing with fluctuating interest rates, and healthcare and government entities coping with health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hybrid cloud solution that works best for you in this case should therefore let you continue to get value from your existing IT resources, provide safeguards for sensitive data, and offer flexibility to handle periodic peaks in data processing workloads. However, the hybrid cloud solution that is optimal for your business will likely differ from the solution for another enterprise, even for a direct competitor. Each organization has its own challenges and opportunities, and its own IT infrastructure. To get the hybrid cloud solution that is right for you, you need to balance conventional IT and cloud in accordance with your specific requirements.
Create your strategy roadmap for hybrid cloud benefits
The best way to make sure of hybrid cloud benefits is to know what business and IT improvements you want and how hybrid cloud will help you to get them. A hybrid cloud strategy shows you which combination of conventional IT infrastructure and cloud services fits most closely with goals such as innovation, compliance, sustainability, resilience, and profitability. If you already started using hybrid cloud to meet a specific need but do not have a strategy, now is still a great time to put one in place.
Besides your high-level goals, your IT workloads will drive your hybrid cloud strategy. Start by systematically examining the applications your enterprise needs to run and the data that fuels them. See if a workload must stay on your own servers, if it can run more cost-effectively or with higher performance in the cloud, or if new cloud technology will let you replace it. A strategy that specifies common architectures between your own facilities and the cloud can extend benefits still further. For example, by using virtualization and containerization in both environments you can make workloads more portable, increasing flexibility, scalability, and resilience.
Some workloads may have requirements for low latency interactions with other systems, high-speed data transfers, or frequent backup to distributed storage domains for robust disaster recovery. A hybrid cloud strategy may then involve colocation of systems in data centers like those managed for customers by eStruxture, with high-speed connections to a range of different cloud service providers. Data centers configured as private clouds, whether on-premises or in colocation, can offer cloud automation and functionality with enhanced security for business-critical applications.
We look at 5 potential benefits of hybrid cloud below, some, or even all of which may help you to define your own hybrid cloud strategy.
1. Use hybrid cloud to boost your business agility
Your IT exists to support your enterprise in achieving its goals and responding effectively to challenges and opportunities. Business environments can change frequently. Your organization needs to be agile enough to react in time, stay competitive, keep existing customers, win new ones, and remain compliant. The ability to develop, test, and deploy IT applications rapidly is important for high speed to market, fast time to value, and ultimately customer and stakeholder satisfaction.
Cloud providers use virtualization and automation to make their resources available to users at any time. This enables you to be agile in the following ways:
- Reaction time
Market opportunities with narrow windows and urgent mission-critical requirements need quick action. Conventional procurement and deployment of extra physical servers and IT platforms may take months, as procedures grind through different departmental approvals and IT teams install, test, and commission the resources. By comparison, cloud virtual machines are already tested, secured, and available. They allow you to not only accelerate your time to market but to lower your risk as well.
Peaks in demand affect most organizations. They may be predictable as in end of year reporting. They may be unexpected, as in the runaway success of a new product. A hybrid cloud approach lets you absorb increases in demand, switching on cloud resources when needed and switching them off afterwards. If an increase in demand turns out to be permanent, you can adjust your on-premises or colocation facilities to suit, using cloud resources to handle requirements while you make the changes.
2. Optimize your return on investment (ROI) and cut costs
Even if some start-ups are “born in the cloud”, many organizations already have substantial investments in their own IT infrastructure. After initial capital investment, your own IT infrastructure may be giving you good performance at relatively low marginal cost. Before making any plans to scrap existing resources, it therefore makes sense to compare the amortized costs for your own data center with the cloud. Be sure to account for all relevant elements. For on-premises facilities for example, they include staffing, space, and power, as well as server maintenance and upgrades. For the cloud, they include costs of renting virtual machines and moving data to and from the cloud.
By using the cloud to handle overflow and spikes in processing needs, you can also dimension your own servers more efficiently. Physical servers onsite are often deliberately over-dimensioned to handle possible peaks. However, this means that much of their capacity may be unused over long periods. With a hybrid cloud strategy, you can reduce this wastage in physical servers and use them to fuller capacity. You avoid the need to reserve on-premises compute and storage resources by spinning cloud virtual machines up and down to handle peaks as needed. In parallel, you improve your ROI.
Using a combination of colocation and cloud can also enhance cost efficiency and effectiveness. For example, eStruxture colocation offers you customizable physical data center facilities via cabinets, cages, and private suites with high-density, low-cost power from sustainable sources.
3. Improve your IT security
Cloud providers base their own business models on economies of scale. They hire large teams of expert support and security engineers to make their skills and knowledge available to customers as part of their cloud services. In addition, cloud providers continually check, maintain, and update their systems to ensure high levels of security. As a result, cloud security at the host infrastructure level is often as good or better than that of on-premises data centers.
Enterprises still have cybersecurity responsibilities of their own in the cloud. For instance, even if the provider offers identity and access management tools, you need to configure authentication and authorization for your users. Your organization may be able to extend existing security tools and measures from your own servers to cloud virtual machines. Examples include security information and event management (SIEM) systems and cybersecurity analytics to detect threats. Conversely, you may find cloud models to be a source of inspiration for rethinking your own security, like integrating security into IT lifecycles from the start, rather than as a later add-on.
4. Reinforce your business continuity and compliance
The cloud offers extensive possibilities for data backup and recovery. Providers with geographically distributed data centers can offer automated data replication and backup procedures over interconnected sites for data integrity and resilience. Disaster recovery time can be reduced from days or even weeks to just hours or minutes, especially when compared to traditional solutions like tape backup.
As eStruxture offers high-speed dark fiber interconnection between several of its sites in distributed locations in Canada as well as fast links to cloud providers, you can achieve great flexibility in how and where your data is safeguarded by using a hybrid cloud combination of colocation and cloud.
Cloud providers can also help you comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR by guaranteeing that your data will always remain within a specified geographical area. Data sovereignty can thus be ensured, extending your options for data collection, processing, and storage into the cloud, as well as on-premises and in colocations.
Continuity and compliance, like security, are part of overall data governance which puts in place the rules, policies, and procedures for overall data quality and protection. It therefore makes sense to include data governance input in your process for determining your hybrid cloud strategy.
5. Make your IT fit your business (not vice versa)
The days of a provider imposing one offering on customers are long gone. Today, cloud providers offer diverse capabilities with wide ranges of pricing and resource bundling options and put their cloud resources in multiple locations. There is a vast choice of solutions, and you as the customer can pick the one that suits you best.
Optionally, you can create your own customized compute platform with cloud functionality and expert support by using a private cloud solution from eStruxture, for high performance and flexibility or increased cost-effectiveness of virtual services. In addition, eStruxture makes more than 20 key carriers directly available from its colocation centers. Your private cloud can then integrate seamlessly with on-premises infrastructure and with other hosted cloud solutions.
Automated cloud management and services can free your IT team from tasks of lower strategic value like daily server and platform administration. Your team can then focus on higher value projects like ERP or project and portfolio management. The cloud is also a great place to experiment with new applications and test data, and processes such as DevOps. After development or redesign, applications and processes can be deployed in the cloud or back in your own data center, according to your hybrid cloud strategy and business needs.
Hybrid cloud can bring you the best of on-premises, colocation, and cloud computing. You can combine public or private cloud with your own IT infrastructure to enhance overall business agility and cost-effectiveness. At the same time, you can ensure compliance, security, reliability, and returns on existing IT investments. A hybrid cloud strategy gives you a roadmap to the benefits that are important for your enterprise or organization.
eStruxture provides network and cloud-neutral data center solutions designed with the capacity, performance, and flexibility to run modern, demanding enterprise applications, and the control to rapidly scale to meet unpredictable changes. eStruxture’s facilities can meet your IT mission-critical needs as part of a hybrid cloud solution that is optimized for you. Our multiple locations in Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary provide geo-redundant protection for continuous uptime, backed by sustainable electricity from hydro power in Quebec and British Columbia.