hybrid cloudLast week, I was invited by Leaseweb to take part in a panel discussion about the evolution of the hybrid cloud. Alongside me sat Robert van der Meulen (Cloud Manager, LeaseWeb), Avi Shalisman (CEO, MoovingON), and Anatoly Atamanov (Director IT Operations, MyThings). As a result of this panel discussion, I’d like to share some of the challenges that IT faces in this seemingly inevitable transition to a hybrid cloud model. Although many things have already been said about the topic, I still feel the need to define what it means (yes…again), as well as what it is not.

I see the hybrid cloud as a sub-section of multi-cloud deployment, meaning IT users use both internal (private cloud) and external (public cloud) environments. While this sounds pretty straightforward, I’ve come to understand that there is no real alignment in terms of the definition of the hybrid cloud. As mentioned above, this article will identify certain challenges that are faced when building a hybrid cloud. While these challenges may (still) keep IT teams from even wanting to begin building a hybrid cloud, the business side of many companies is increasingly moving towards using the public cloud.

There are several incentives of building a hybrid cloud. Some see the public cloud as an extension of their on-premises environment; some simply want to use the public cloud for everything outside of mission critical applications and data that is kept on their trustful on-premises environment for increased security. Regardless of what your incentive is, it’s important to be aware of possible challenges lurking ahead.

3 Hybrid Cloud Challenges

Challenge #1: Capacity

This begins with the ability to learn your past and forecast business needs through simulated user-based growth, new application deployments, etc. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to create a more realistic picture of your expected business needs for the upcoming year and be better equipped to create a plan. Although simulations take time and money, they result in great benefits. Some of which include pinpointing where the public cloud fits into the picture when you decide to burst out, deciding what capacity to allocate to the public cloud, and how to optimally utilize on-premises irons through appropriately allocating resources.

Challenge #2: Security

As mentioned above, one of the incentives is to leave mission critical applications and data on-premises in order to maintain security. However it seems like the need to maintain security has resulted in more security issues. When you open your datacenter to a shared environment, such as the public cloud, you actually extend your attack surface. Just to make it clear, that doesnt mean the public is less secure, it’s just another environment you are utilizing, which means there will be more “security points of failure”. Therefore, protecting and archiving your data, maintaining complete transparency and governance are important tasks, especially when data constantly streams in and out of the public and private clouds.

Today, monitoring tools and new initiatives in the security world are introducing more capabilities on that front. They’ve implemented the concept of securing individual components within an environment (e.g. a single application or even a server), as opposed to the entire environment as a whole. In a distributed environment, when the level of your security granularity is finely detailed, you are better equipped to divide et impera vulnerabilities and attacks.

Challenge #3: Networking

Application developers tend to assume that all components of an application are close in proximity to each other. For example, they may think that the database connection is near the front-end and middle tier servers.

A network needs to be planned in order to ensure there is reduced latency between components, both internal and external, that support an application’s requirements. Certain cloud providers, such as VMware and Microsoft, that are a native enterprise IT enablers and have developed their own public cloud offerings over the past few years, recognize the importance of connectivity, including reduced latency between components. Today, you can find new out-of-the-box solutions, such as VMware’s hybrid cloud service, vCloud® Air, and VMware vCloud Air Network service provider which provide a dedicated, low latency and secure network connection between private and public clouds.

3 Hybrid Cloud Thoughts

Hybrid Promotes Experimentation

The hybrid cloud is important for more reasons than long term investment benefits. It helps companies experiment with developing and testing applications in the public cloud, and enjoy both worlds with a certain level of ease. This may simply be a phase of slowly moving more resources into the public environment, but it is a great opportunity to make IT more flexible and efficient.

Developers Promote Hybrid

In order to overcome the challenges mentioned above and make sure that you’re streamlining workloads in and out, it is obvious that automation is key. In some cases, these challenges make traditional enterprise IT hesitant to move resources to the public cloud and build this hybrid model. Nonetheless, the fact that developers can use containers to move their applications to wherever they please, forces IT to take the next steps and help build a secure hybrid environment.

Hybrid vs Hybrid Cloud

It is important to differentiate between a hybrid environment and a hybrid cloud environment. A hybrid environment contains on-premises resources, that allow no flexibility or self service, in a traditional environment, and uses the public cloud on the side. However, when you build a hybrid cloud environment, on-premises resources are completely virtualized and automation is put in place. Ultimately, a hybrid cloud environment needs to be dealt with as a single entity, so that when a workload is injected, it is automatically and appropriately placed within the environment.

This post is brought to you by VMware vCloud Air Network Services.