The decision to implement cloud computing is just the first step in a long journey. Each organisation then has to choose the mix of services that is best for their needs based on cost, SLAs and whether they have the in-house skills to manage a particular service. The result will probably be a portfolio of services from different providers plus some retained in house services – a so-called ‘hybrid cloud’. In this article we will look at the challenges of implementing and managing hybrid cloud, including choosing the right services, standards, management and secure access.

So what exactly is hybrid cloud? The term was originally coined to mean on-premises private cloud integrated with community and public cloud. Products such as SalesForce, Google Apps and Microsoft 365 integrated into corporate desktops can be considered as hybrid cloud services, but they provide point applications and services only. I define hybrid cloud as a mix of two or more clouds used to provide core and common services to a user community. It is in effect just a way of provisioning services, which could be IaaS, PaaS or any other ‘aaS’.

[easy-tweet tweet=”I define #hybrid #cloud as a mix of two or more clouds used to provide core services to a user community” user=”fordwaybloke” usehashtags=”no”]

Choosing the right services

To make hybrid cloud work, organisations need to get their service management capabilities right. First, they need to define and understand the characteristics of each service they want. Then they need to map it to the available options and choose the most appropriate ones for their needs, which could be provided either internally or by a third party.Episode 1

Finally, they need to independently manage the service and monitor it against SLAs themselves. They need to have an audit function to ensure that the service is and remains fit for purpose and independent service monitoring and management either in house or contracted through an independent third party to ensure the provider actually provides what they are contracted to.

A new role has been developed: cloud service broker

This has led to the development of a new role: that of cloud service broker, someone who will both define the services and then determine the most appropriate way to provide, manage and secure them. CIOs could allocate the role of service broker to a member of their IT team to manage the cloud vendor/s if the organisation has the capability to act as broker. If they do not have the skills in-house then a third party can provide this service.

Think about standards

Once an organisation has chosen to provision services with different providers it will need the ability to integrate those services. Toolsets to do this and remote management and reporting capabilities are evolving within both the commercial and open source worlds.

Early hybrid cloud options were quite proprietary, as standards take time to catch up. We now have standards in areas such as interoperability, web, authentication etc. and these will help to increase the spread of hybrid cloud services. However, an integrated cloud offering is still a work in progress for most organisations. It is relatively easy to integrate web services, but much harder for legacy IT services.

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When defining, running or buying services, organisations should make sure that the interfaces used are as standard as possible e.g. XML, SOAP, REST, SAML etc. It is worth noting that this is rarely in a vendor’s best interests. Smaller vendors may be better at developing services with standard interfaces, so it may be better to choose services from challenger vendors rather than from the very large vendors who may use proprietary interfaces. CIOs should also ensure that they have or have access to good expertise around integration and migration, as these are the areas which always cause the most problems.

Once an organisation has moved one or more services to cloud, the portfolio of services still has to be actively managed and performance monitored against SLAs to ensure it receives the contracted service. This means considering:

  • Authentication to multiple services
  • Auditing
  • Billing control and management
  • Service integration
  • Service assurance

Monitoring and managing a hybrid cloud

Monitoring requires an audit function to ensure that the services your organisation has chosen are and remain fit for purpose. Organisations whose IT service is now dependent on multiple cloud and other external suppliers will want to know:

  • How well are my service providers performing against contractually agreed SLAs? 
  • If they are not performing, where is the problem?  This is particularly important where multiple providers are responsible for elements of the IT service.
  • Is the aggregated service delivering suitable performance to my user community? 

This is leading to a growth in new services (Cloud Monitoring as a Service, or CMaaS) to monitor the performance of multiple suppliers, all of whom will claim ‘it’s not their fault” when a problem arises. The aim of such services is to provide organisations with full visibility of how well each individual provider and the overall IT service are performing. They should consolidate events and other performance statistics across the IT supply chain, showing overall service health and providing the ability to drill down into specific services where required.

[easy-tweet tweet=”CMaaS monitors those who claim it’s not their fault when a problem arises. ” user=”fordwaybloke and comparethecloud” hashtags=”cloud”]

When choosing a monitoring service, look for integration with public cloud services (e.g. Office 365, Salesforce, Huddle, Google Apps), IaaS and PaaS services (e.g. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google’s App Engine).  Some services can also be used to monitor traditional IT services such as in-house environments, plus hosted and private cloud services where agents can be deployed or gateways installed into the monitored environment.   They should pull together service availability and other performance information and synthetic transactions against defined services and applications, showing overall system health, response times and latency.

Where contractually allowable, agents and gateways can also be placed inside a service provider’s infrastructure to provide more detailed information. The service should provide an overview and enable you to drill down into each of the elements to identify where an issue resides and the potential causes of performance issues. 

Why choose hybrid cloud?

In my experience, medium sized businesses face the greatest challenges in funding their IT infrastructure.

In my experience, medium sized businesses face the greatest challenges in funding their IT infrastructure.  With a small in-house team, they are unlikely to have the diverse range of skills required to run a complex IT infrastructure, and hence either have to  take a ‘best guess’ approach or turn to external experts on a regular basis. Developing a hybrid cloud infrastructure with carefully chosen use of managed cloud services will enable them to focus internal resources on the services most critical to their business.

For further information on hybrid cloud, contact Fordway