What is a Hybrid Cloud?

August, 18 2021

What is a Hybrid Cloud?

Cloud adoption has surpassed the fad phase and has become increasingly common among organizations across every industry. Tested and validated by the pandemic, the cloud proved its value by helping organizations effectively transition to a remote work model. In fact, as businesses look towards a post-Covid future, recent Gartner survey data reports that 70% of the organizations who already use cloud services intend to increase their cloud spending.

Despite this, organizations face a conundrum when seeking to migrate to the cloud. Although the cloud has proven its value, going all-in on the cloud right off the gate isn’t the solution. There are many things to consider when seeking a solution that allows you to maximize the benefits of public clouds, private clouds, and on-premise infrastructure.

Now, let’s walk through what exactly is a hybrid cloud, its advantages and challenges, and tips on how to execute a hybrid cloud migration successfully.

What is a hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud combines the benefits of a private cloud and the benefits of a public cloud. A comprehensive hybrid cloud strategy also includes on-premise infrastructure. The private cloud, on-premise infrastructure, and public cloud are tightly interconnected and managed as one entity with a hybrid cloud strategy. Application programming interfaces (APIs), Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and Wide Area Networks (WANs) play crucial roles in connecting everything and allowing hybrid clouds to work.

Generally, moving every workload to a public cloud isn’t the most cost-efficient solution. And in some cases, it’s just plain risky to move a particular workload to a public cloud, such as when very high performance is necessary. In other instances, you legally can’t move specific data to a public cloud for compliance reasons. A hybrid cloud model allows you to move only the workloads that make the most sense into the public cloud, getting the best of both worlds.

Unique challenge for enterprises in Alaska

The risk of weakened performance when moving an application to the cloud is especially a challenge in Alaska.

Here’s why:

The easiest way for a private cloud to connect to the public cloud is through a secure and reliable internet connection. It’s important to know that hyperscale cloud providers (e.g., Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS) house servers in multiple data centers across the USA.

Because of the unique geographic location of Alaska, the nearest hyperscale provider server is far enough away to cause latency problems. High latency affects the performance of certain apps, particularly real-time applications and video communications, which impact the customer experience.

The relatively new AlCan ONE all-terrestrial fiber network, which connects Alaska to major USA hubs, helps address Alaska’s unique needs. Choosing a data center that utilizes the AlCan ONE all-terrestrial fiber network is crucial to bridge this unique Alaskan limitation.

Hybrid cloud misconceptions

There are two major misconceptions about what a hybrid cloud is: That it’s multi-cloud and what a “true” hybrid cloud environment is.

Hybrid clouds often get confused with multi-clouds, but they aren’t the same. Multi-clouds use various providers to take advantage of several provider-specific benefits and avoid vendor lock-in. A multi-cloud deployment can be hybrid and vice-versa, but they’re not the same thing.

Another misconception surrounds the definition of a “true” hybrid cloud environment. The public cloud must interconnect with the private cloud or on-premise data center to be a true hybrid cloud. An organization can use private and public clouds, but it’s not a true hybrid cloud environment unless applications and data can move between the clouds in a flexible way to respond to changes in demands and changes in needs.

What are the benefits of a hybrid cloud strategy?

The hybrid cloud allows you to exploit the benefits of both a private and public cloud. Some notable benefits include:

  • Data sovereignty: A hybrid cloud helps address and maintain data sovereignty laws without losing the advantages of the public cloud, such as speed.
  • Regulatory Compliance/Security: Concerns over security and compliance have been a notable concern of public clouds. With a hybrid cloud, you have the option to utilize a private cloud to store sensitive data.
  • Flexibility: A hybrid cloud allows you to choose which data will benefit from being in the scalable public cloud and which data should be kept in the more secure private cloud.
  • Scalability/ Elasticity: When there’s a sudden increase in demand (e.g., unplanned seasonal traffic spikes) beyond the computing capacity of the private cloud, an application can temporarily burst into the public cloud to meet the required capacity.
  • Customizable: When you use a public cloud, you’re limited in your ability to customize a solution for your business because you’re sharing resources with many other organizations. By using a hybrid cloud, you get to take advantage of the private cloud to add back an element of personalization to meet your specific needs.
  • Increased long-term margins: A well-executed strategy drives business growth and enables more business capabilities, increasing long-term margins.
  • Cost savings: When you use a private cloud, you have to pay for private resources. With a hybrid cloud, you still get to take advantage of a private cloud while leveraging aspects of shared resources and hardware. Mixing storage between a private and public cloud is also generally cheaper compared to 100% on-premise storage.
  • Backup: If your core business is in the public cloud and you can’t connect, you risk your entire business shutting down. With a hybrid model, you won’t have to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

What are the challenges of a hybrid cloud strategy?

Although there are many benefits to deploying a hybrid cloud, organizations still face challenges in realizing the full benefits of the cloud. These are:

  • Cultural buy-in: Compared to past decades, the cloud introduces a very different approach to using and sourcing technology. Employees who are used to a certain way of doing things need to be strategically guided to embrace a new way of operating and doing things.
  • Too much focus on cost-savings instead of ROI: The cloud accelerates business growth by enabling more business capabilities and faster innovation. The modernization of workloads that allow this can lead to higher costs. However, businesses that can respond to customer needs faster than the competition have a huge advantage today. By switching the focus from IT cost savings to business ROI, organizations using the cloud properly will realize the true benefit and power of the cloud.
  • Too much focus on IT metrics instead of business metrics Organizations feel disappointed when they focus too much on IT outcomes instead of business metrics. Some examples of IT outcomes include minimizing data center and server costs, and some examples of business metrics include customer churn rate, customer retention rate, and average profit margins.
  • Lack of skill/ expertise: Finding the right skills can be costly, but worth the investment. Without the right skill and competence, organizations are vulnerable to risks such as choosing the wrong migration strategy for certain applications or choosing the same strategy for all applications. Other risks include security vulnerabilities, weakened performance across applications, and ineffective cloud governance.

An IT Manager helping a programmer learn more about Hybrid Cloud on a computer.

  • Ineffective cloud governance: Without effective cloud governance, overall costs can skyrocket leading to bills that blindside organizations. Effective cloud governance is about reducing hard and soft costs associated with cloud usage by effectively monitoring cloud usage to ensure it’s efficient. Effective cloud governance also helps an organization measure KPIs to determine ROI from investing in the cloud.

What are the 6 major cloud migration strategies?

There are 6 major cloud migration strategies. The approach that will drive the most business value differs from company to company and generally involves a mixture of migration strategies.

The 6 major cloud migration strategies are commonly referred to as the 6 R’s of cloud migration and they are:

  1. Rehosting
  2. Refactoring
  3. Replatforming
  4. Repurchasing
  5. Retiring
  6. Retaining

Rehosting (or lift and shift)

With a rehosting strategy, you move applications and data to the cloud without any modification. In other words, you run applications in the cloud the same way you run them on-premise. This can be an easy solution, but it comes with uncertainty regarding how workloads will function in the new cloud environment.

This strategy is relatively fast and requires minimum skills, but while it saves you money on upfront costs, you generally have to pay more on an ongoing basis. You’re also limited in your ability to maximize the benefits of a cloud-native environment.

Refactoring

This strategy involves major changes to the existing application to access cloud-native features and exploit cloud advantages such as improving the agility, scalability and performance of workloads. It’s common to refactor monolithic applications into smaller, independent services with unique business capabilities to capitalize on the microservice architecture.

With this strategy, you pay more upfront to reap long-term benefits.

There are several approaches to refactoring. You can refactor applications on-premise and slowly send the workloads into the cloud or you can slowly send workloads to the cloud then refactor. Organizations can also refactor applications after a lift and shift mass migration to the cloud.

Be careful with the latter approach. It’s common to plan to modernize after a mass lift and shift and never follow through. This approach requires discipline to avoid costly ongoing bills.

Replatforming

This strategy is similar to the lift and shift approach but involves minor changes to code to optimize for cloud technology. As far as complexity, effort, and investment required, re-platforming falls in the middle between rehosting and refactoring.

Repurchasing

With this strategy, you take advantage of SaaS models and flexible pricing instead of perpetual licenses associated with costly upfront fees and limited product updates. Through this strategy, you’re not exactly migrating applications into the cloud. Instead, you’re replacing them with a new license. An example of this would be replacing on-premise CRM with Salesforce.

At this stage, it’s common to replace traditional CRM, HR, and ERP applications with a cloud-based alternative.

Retiring

Retiring legacy applications frees up employees to focus on modern applications with greater business value, which can save an organization money on costs associated with securing legacy applications.

Retaining (or re-visiting)

Some applications with critical business value need to undergo major refactoring before being migrated into the cloud. You’ll need to revisit the application at a later date as you prioritize other applications, or low-hanging fruit, for quick wins as your team learns and develops their skills.

The retaining strategy also refers to applications that you’ll retain on-premise. Reasons to retain an application on-premise range from compliance complications to an application’s need for high performance, which may be affected by a move to the cloud.

Questions to ask when considering a hybrid solution:

As you consider migrating to the cloud, here are some questions to consider:

  • How long will it take to transfer all of our company’s data into the cloud?
  • Can we afford the downtime?
  • After the migration, how will my organization address latency problems?
  • Does my organization have the necessary experience?
  • How much can my organization afford upfront?
  • Are there legal ramifications for moving specific data?
  • What interdependencies exist in my IT environment?
  • Which workloads will be easy to migrate?
  • Which workloads will be challenging to migrate?
  • Which tools, automations, platforms, or solutions help with effective cloud governance?
  • Should I leverage a managed service provider for an end-to-end solution?

Bringing a hybrid cloud strategy to life

A cloud migration strategy doesn’t end after the initial migration, especially after a simple lift and shift approach. Ongoing modernization helps organizations realize the most benefits of the cloud. To experience the full power of the hybrid cloud, organizations need a long-term migration strategy to minimize costs and gain the most business value.

Bring to life your hybrid cloud strategy with solutions such as Nutanix, an Ampersand partner organization. Nutanix can help you migrate your workloads into the cloud, unify management across multiple clouds, and also provide cloud consumption visibility tools to help you optimize cloud infrastructure costs.

To learn more about hybrid cloud solutions, schedule a call with our team.