Is a hybrid cloud the right approach for your organization? The idea of delivering computing services remotely over the internet has been widely accepted for over a decade. Many organizations now recognize the numerous benefits of cloud computing, such as lower costs, higher productivity, better performance, and increased flexibility and scalability.
The Hybrid Approach to Cloud Computing
Today, more and more organizations are taking a “hybrid” approach to the cloud. Hybrid cloud is an integrated solution that utilizes a mix of private cloud, public cloud, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and on-premise computing resources to perform distinct functions. Hybrid cloud is less about using private and public cloud in concert for the same applications — and more about using the right mix of these separate and distinct computing resources to accomplish your organization’s overall IT objectives.
As the name suggests, private cloud is a secure, private computing environment in which only a single organization operates. The pubic cloud, meanwhile, includes Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform. And common SaaS subscription providers include Salesforce, Office365, Google Apps, Workday and Cisco WebEx.
According to IDG, all eyes have been on the public cloud over the last few years, but private and hybrid clouds are set for big growth in 2018. Each of the major IaaS public cloud vendors spent 2017 clarifying their hybrid cloud strategy, setting 2018 to be the year of adoption.
The biggest effort has come from Microsoft who finally released Azure Stack, a private cloud IaaS platform that is meant to mirror the Azure public cloud. Deployments of Azure Stack have been hitting the market this year.
Performing a Hybrid Cloud Analysis
One of the keys to success in utilizing a hybrid cloud is performing an in-depth analysis to determine what combination of applications should be moved to what type of computing resource. This combination will be different for every organization based on such factors as the culture of the user base, the specific apps that are being run, and whether or not SaaS subscriptions are available for these apps.
Here are six questions you should ask as you perform a wide-angle hybrid cloud analysis. The answers to these high-level questions will lead you down the path of determining the right hybrid cloud solution for your organization.
- What apps are you currently running? A common mistake here is analyzing by servers, not by apps or computing services. A single app commonly encompasses multiple servers, so you need to analyze the specific apps that are being run in order to make smart decisions about the right computing resources.
- How do users interact with and access your apps? Sometimes, apps will need to stay on premise because of how users interact with them. Or maybe apps need to be accessed over a local network so they all need to be in one location. Also, some web-based apps transfer easily to a public or private cloud while others don’t.
- Which apps need to stay together and which ones can be separated? Above all else, your hybrid cloud solution must fulfill your integration needs. So you need to map out which apps and services are co-dependent and therefore must stay on the same platform. For example, suppose your ERP is running Oracle software and your accounting is running Microsoft software. If these systems interact heavily with each other, they will potentially need to stay on the same platform — even if there is a more cost-effective SaaS option for your accounting software.
- Are SaaS options available for the apps? While software-as-a-service has become more widespread in recent years, there are still many apps for which SaaS options do not exist. So your analysis needs to consider the availability of SaaS for the specific apps your organization is running. A key consideration in evaluating SaaS is whether or not the exact app you currently use is a requirement, or would an alternative SaaS option that provides compelling ROI be an acceptable substitute.
- What level of granularity and control do you need over the apps’ performance? This will dictate whether or not a public cloud is a viable solution for the apps you’re running. The fact is, you can only get so granular with a public cloud. Also, some apps are very demanding and require a high level of control with regard to how they operate on the server — possibly more control than a public cloud can provide. If a public cloud can’t accommodate your needs with regard to granularity or control, you may need to choose a private cloud or leave the apps on premise.
- Can apps move native with changes in access methodology? If an app is moved but users still access it the same way they did before, will this result in a loss of productivity? For example, does the app run slower or does it not work in exactly the same way?
The Hybrid Cloud Decision Tree
Think of hybrid cloud as a choice or decision tree. Your goal is to select the most appropriate kinds of services and infrastructure in order to deliver needed applications and data from the most appropriate computing source. By allowing workloads to move among these four computing resources as your needs and requirements change, you’ll have greater flexibility and more options for service deployment.
When you make wise strategic decisions with regard to selecting the right computing resources, you’re able to concentrate your capital (or on-prem) outlays where they will generate the highest return on investment. In addition, you can benefit from the right combination of fixed capex and flexible opex, based on your applications and workloads.
For smaller organizations, hybrid cloud decisions often come down to whether or not good SaaS options are available for the apps they’re running. Many of these organizations can run most if not all of their apps via SaaS subscriptions. This minimizes capital and maximizes opex and ROI.
Meanwhile, larger organizations that embark on a true hybrid cloud path find a much more complex decision tree. There is existing capex on the books and diverse, potentially multi-national and departmental demands to meet.
Bringing it All Together with Managed Services
Large or small, organizations can often benefit by enlisting the help of an experienced managed services provider. This provider will have experience in guiding organizations through the process of performing a cloud analysis and then implementing the right mix of private cloud, public cloud, SaaS and on premise computing resources to accomplish its goals.
Please contact Mindsight if you’d like to explore a cloud assessment, which will help you determine what path – public, private, hybrid – is best for your organization. We are a managed IT services and solutions provider with nearly a decade of experience with cloud deployments.