Navigating the hybrid highway

In the second part of our hybrid special Bree Freeman explains the potential pitfalls of adopting the hybrid cloud path.

This year hybrid cloud has shaped up to be the go-to model for enterprise users. No matter what your organisations size, all the figures point to the same thing – you’re going to be in the hybrid cloud majority soon, well if you’re not already.

And it’s easy to understand why, as the hybrid cloud offers a number of benefits to big business, such as allowing a firm to retain sensitive data behind its own firewall while taking advantage of the lower cost and flexibility of the cloud. It can also improve scalability and provisioning at decreased cost, allowing resources to be allocated to the cloud for short-term projects at much lower cost than it would to make changes to your infrastructure. Plus there’s one often overlooked advantage of the hybrid option; that it allows companies that are reluctant to move to a cloud model the opportunity to dip their toes into it at low cost and with less perceived risk – a significant benefit for those companies with management that take a more conservative approach to technology.

But as with most things in life ‘knowledge is power’ and despite all that is good with a hybrid there are potential pitfalls that you should be aware.

One such pitfall is also hybrid’s advantage: security compliance. While a hybrid cloud enables you to comply with certain regulations, all the while still being able to reap the benefits of public cloud, you now have two different services to ensure you remain compliant – your public and your private cloud. Failure to do so could defeat the entire purpose of deploying the hybrid cloud approach in the first place.

There can also potentially be other issues around things such as infrastructure dependency, which over internal IT infrastructure is one of the major drawbacks of implementing a hybrid cloud. To mitigate the impact of outage a firm would need to ensure redundancy across the data centres. You can do this by using multiple data centres from a single provider or by engaging multiple providers.

Another are you really need to do your homework on is the potential complication from poorly constructed SLAs. Make sure you have detailed SLAs drawn up for both your private and public cloud providers. This way you can ensure that both providers can meet your expectations. At the same time you also need to have a realistic approach towards distribution of workload. My advice is to look for potential integration issues that ultimately could disrupt services.

Complex networking is also an area that you or your company should be aware of. In a hybrid set-up the network plays the most important role, basically it is imperative for smooth transfer of data. What is more is that the APIs used in a hybrid environment demand complex networking as well, so ensure that you bring this up with your provider before signing on to the dotted line.

Another area that you need to be aware of is data sovereignty, because when data flows from a private to public cloud, you could possibly breach data sovereignty laws when the data in the public cloud moves out of a country’s border. So be warned that multiple service locations can expose you or your company to unforeseen jurisdictions.

Also be aware of your data management, I know I’m more than likely teaching you to suck eggs but constant movement of data between the private cloud and multiple public clouds may add to the complexity of managing and tracking the location of your data. Plus the cost of data mobility between clouds can be substantial when moving large amounts of data between your clouds.

Other niggling areas that you really do need to be aware of include: replication of confidential data between clouds can expose your company to potential data security risks and operational errors can occur even with ISO27001 security standards-compliant public cloud providers. There’s also the chance that public cloud providers may shut down their services giving insufficient time window for you to migrate your data – you just need to look at 2013 Nirvanix scandal to see what I mean.

However, don’t let me scare you off the Hybrid path as there are a number of ‘good guys’ out there that can make your journey an easy and open one, in my opinion these include Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, IBM. And here in the UK we boast a vibrant hybrid cloud market for small- and medium-sized that is being headed up with some great providers such as Attenda, Niu Solutions, Claranet, Pulsanet, Commensus, Nasstar and last but not least ioMart.

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