Saturday, 19th September 2020

Why a flexible hybrid strategy offers a route around potential vendor lock-in

As the cloud services market has developed, many businesses have forged exclusive service provider partnerships to benefit from the scale, agility and performance capabilities now offered by numerous large global hyperscalers. While their enormous success is testament to the way they have met the needs of businesses worldwide, many organisations have additional requirements relating to application performance, legacy applications, data hosted under certain jurisdictions, and data security. By Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK.

In a world of cloud choice, where different options support diverse use-cases, for many businesses, there simply is no “one cloud fits all” solution. As a result, IT leaders who want to spread their investment beyond a single cloud partner must allow for various solutions in their architecture planning. This is where hybrid cloud comes in.

The effect of this is that many modern businesses are procuring more than one type of cloud service – from infrastructure to applications. This kind of hybrid cloud strategy considers the need for integration between all types of cloud services and, for those who see it as an important point, help avoid the potential issues associated with being locked-in to a single cloud service provider.

Like any approach to cloud adoption, making sure that a hybrid strategy achieves what its users require needs careful forward planning to understand key factors. These range from identifying the best execution venues for different workloads to ensuring that contracts and agreements work well for everyone involved.

Different apps need different cloud infrastructure

Hybrid cloud computing offers a multitude of options for application hosting and development. To get the most out of a hybrid architecture, the workload must suit – and be optimised for – the infrastructure.

By classifying your organisation’s portfolio of applications and data processing requirements, you can break down the application landscape and architecture to plan the best path to migrating to the hybrid cloud.

Legacy applications can be difficult to upgrade and modernise, for example, but with a sound hybrid cloud strategy the business can progressively deploy new services without the risks of a huge migration project. The legacy applications can stay where they are, and there might even be options, if required, to connect them to one or more of your cloud providers.

In terms of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, every hybrid cloud journey should start by reviewing the balance between the applications’ CPU performance, storage and scalability, and how frequent the application will require a “peak load” operation. With these parameters defined, the workloads can be mapped to the most appropriate infrastructure. For example, the lowest performance requirements tend to be suited to a VPS and the highest might be best suited to bare metal or dedicated servers.

Focusing on business outcomes

IT and business leaders must also focus on business outcomes and quickly adopt the most optimal architecture. A number of processes can be put in place to ensure the hybrid cloud technology choices are benefiting the business including, changing the way people view IT infrastructure management.

It is important to think about the business benefits not only during a migration, but in the long term. Put something in place that ensures your business can take advantage of the flexibility of the hyperscalers, in combination with the potentially more competitively priced cloud or dedicated server elsewhere. Alternatively, use hyperscalers for your application servers. While the database servers are hosted within a specific jurisdiction outside any public cloud, this infrastructure can be set up as a hybrid cloud. Once an application landscape is moved to hybrid then be flexible to start optimising the architecture.

For example, if your company has a traditional business, undertaking e-commerce in a hybrid cloud environment allows it to be more flexible with how the information is processed and stored.

How to control hybrid cloud contracts and agreements

There’s little value in adopting a hybrid cloud strategy if it doesn’t deliver on cost and value for money. By following a few guidelines, it’s possible to make the contract process less disruptive to the business and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Creating a successful cloud contract must involve ensuring everyone is aligned. For example, an organisation can switch from one architecture to another only to discover there are layers that are not covered by the contract.

IT administrators think about migrations, system maintenance and monitoring, but will this be done by your new cloud provider? It is important to go over processes to ensure all services are covered as they were before. All parts of the service delivery process you used to do need to be implemented in some way regardless of where it is hosted. Additionally, make sure the monitoring and system maintenance can be automated over the full hybrid cloud, or can be done in a similar way, so you don’t have to do all management and monitoring differently for every cloud you use.

For further cost benefits, it might be good to differentiate your peak load from your base load. Your base load might be on longer term contracts, while it might be more worthwhile to have your peak load on pay-as-you-go terms.

Take a close look at the cloud contracts, understand what your responsibilities are and make note of what the changes might be. Often managers assume the techies will “make it work” when moving to the cloud. If the business requirements are not well communicated or understood by both sides a poor selection of cloud infrastructure for the application can result.

Another good practice is to review the scope of the new platform and check back to see if the initial migration goal aligns with long-term strategies. For example, a business requirement for big data processing might involve high-capacity cloud services, which are being paid for, but not utilised, most of the time.

Ultimately, each business needs to reach a decision on what version of cloud works best for them. Fundamental to the whole cloud concept are choice and versatility. For some, a strategic partnership with a single provider is ideal, while for others, the blend offered by hybrid cloud offers the flexibility that always comes by working effectively with a portfolio of partners.

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