Taking the Middle Road: The Need for Hybrid Clouds

Taking the Middle Road: The Need for Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid cloud involves the use of public cloud and private cloud architectures working together. The key here is “working together”, instead of having two silos of inoperable clouds. In theory, it combines the best of both the worlds, though in practice it is hard not to get the worst of both worlds. Why is a hybrid cloud approach required? In this post, I will try to answer some of the reasons.

Need for hybrid clouds

Public clouds involve the use of third party servers where you are typically charged on the usage basis. It helps you cut your CapEx significantly, while providing your with greater flexibility and scalability. However, the advantages of the public cloud comes at the cost of poorer performance and increased risks to your data and applications. Private clouds attempt to solve the problem by providing cloud installation on-site with better performance and security, coming at increased CapEx and reduced flexibility.

Hybrid clouds attempt to bridge the gap by providing you the best of both worlds. The enterprises that use the hybrid cloud typically have a private cloud that handles the performance-sensitive core business applications, while using the public cloud for scaling and non-core applications. For instance, the mail server and collaboration related components can be kept on the public cloud, while keeping the customer database and large files in the private cloud.

Use cases for the hybrid cloud

  1. Handling the spikes in traffic. If you are running a popular website, your load can significantly vary depending on how a particular page is shared in the social media and popular forums. However, investing in extra hardware to handle the spikes can be inefficient. Hence, you can have your private cloud handle the regular traffic, while letting the public cloud handle the spikes in traffic.

  2. Applications with varying performance and storage needs. If you are handling large files and databases, using the public cloud can be both time consuming and costly in terms of bandwidth usage. Thus, you might want to keep these in the private cloud, on-site. On the other hand, you can have your spreadsheets, project management tools and invoicing tools on the public cloud as these do not need a lot of storage requirements.

  3. Regulatory requirements. If you are in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare or finance, you might not be able to store your sensitive customer data in a public cloud. Hence, you might want to have a private cloud for the sensitive data. However, you can have less sensitive applications like number crunching programs or the corporate website running on the public cloud.

  4. Application compatibility. Some applications like your Salesforce.com CRM are highly suited for the public cloud, while some of your legacy applications might not be suited for the public cloud. Thus you might want to have an hybrid approach there.

  5. Disaster recovery. Private clouds could be less robust than a public cloud managed by a reputed service provider. If you have a natural or manmade disaster attacking your enterprise site, your private cloud infrastructure might become crippled. You can use the public cloud as a fail-over in that case.

Summary

Hybrid clouds are clearly useful and have plenty of use cases. However, the devil is in the details. Achieving the right level of interoperability between heterogeneous cloud installations can be very hard. Thus, a lot of organizations have still not tapped its potential. But, if better integration tools emerge, it has a great potential to impact the enterprise computing.

The hybrid cloud is a little bit like sex in high school. Everybody is talking about it, but not everybody is doing it.” – Michael Crandell, CEO, RightScale Inc.

By Balaji Viswanathan

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