AWS Outage, Reinforces the Need for Hybrid Cloud

Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) recent outage resulted in an entire day of loss of services for its clients and reinforced the point that solely relying on a public cloud infrastructure can have drawbacks. 5nine Software’s Morgan Holm looks at why hybrid cloud is the best solution for most businesses.

When Amazon Web Service (AWS) suffered a catastrophic outage recently after its servers crashed, millions of companies were left reeling from the disruption – everything from larger websites to people’s smart homes and even library catalogues was rendered temporarily useless.

This has understandably raised a question mark over the reliability of the public cloud as a sole solution for businesses. Particularly as AWS has the biggest share of the market for cloud-based providers – bigger than the next two providers (Microsoft and Google) combined.  Organisations need to evaluate their public cloud workloads for disaster recovery scenarios.

However, while many companies have been focused on moving to purely cloud-based infrastructures, a growing number are realising it is not necessarily an appropriate model for their organisations. Whether this is due to the age of the company, its size, or simply a preference for control or to maintain “data sovereignty”. As such, a natural middle ground has emerged in the shape of the hybrid cloud.

The benefits of a hybrid cloud solution are wide ranging. In the first instance, depending on when organizations were established and if they are carrying any “legacy baggage” – for example, those organizations that went through virtualisation during the early 2000s – they will need to keep those legacy systems in place until they have had time to “retool” and factor them into a new system. A scenario like this makes hybrid cloud the obvious choice.

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The other major challenge that businesses face is a desire to maintain complete control of their data onsite. If your datasets and applications are a core part of your business, it’s understandable that you would want to ensure you retain that data on your premises and within your control. Whether that is down to regulatory compliance or maintaining data sovereignty (where that data resides, who has access to that data, how that data is secured) it all comes down to having that ability to manage those essential elements that are central to your business.

A big part of what is attractive about a public cloud structure is essentially a cost-benefit structure, especially if you have a business where there is periodic need to scale up. For example, for a company that performs tax audits, there are seasonal spikes in their business, whereby, maintaining and managing infrastructure components on a year-round basis doesn’t make sense. Therefore having the ability to use the public cloud is the perfect solution.

Of course, security is a concern for public cloud. The cloud providers themselves provide robust security systems and have sophisticated teams focussed on their security, but essentially, the real responsibility for maintaining the security of the applications and data is down to the end user. If you open up an application and leave it exposed to the public cloud, that’s not the responsibility of the cloud provider if this then results in a data breach. Maintaining secure processes is a necessity whether you use the public cloud or not, but it’s a reason, why for some people, it’s a risk too far to transfer everything into a public system.

Many organisations also contain various public facing information systems. For example, if you have a website, or a documentation centre accessible to customers, this is all in the public domain, and as such will create less of those security concerns with moving to the public cloud.

These scenarios are part of why we’re seeing a real mix of both public and private cloud use. With the AWS outage, the result was hours of zero access to services for their users in a particular region. The affect of this (though dependent on the individual user’s model of business), it’s reasonable to presume, that those Amazon users that relied on AWS to host all of their data would have been completely immobilised during that period.

This understandably is going to temper people’s enthusiasm for public cloud as a singular structure for their business. However, with hybrid cloud, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You may want to keep your core applications on premises, but if you have a need for the elasticity of the public cloud, with its ability to scale up when you need that actual capacity, workload mobility really becomes key to the solution for businesses.

What companies need is flexibility, scalable and “always-on” provision. This ultimately means that workloads need to be agile. We need to be able to move from public to private seamlessly, but equally – as the AWS outage highlighted – we also need to be able to do the same between the public cloud providers themselves. While the latter is a little way into the future, the former is here now.


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