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How a hybrid cloud architecture can reduce risks


Margaret Ranken, Telecommunications Analyst, looks at why enterprises are choosing a hybrid cloud architecture in order to reduce risk and gain competitive advantage.

As the benefits of cloud computing become well understood, most companies are using at least some cloud services, whether email, backup, e-commerce sites or indeed services from providers of all types of Iaas, PaaS, SaaS or XaaS services. The standard of data centre performance, resilience, monitoring and availability attainable by the specialists is making it harder to justify maintaining an in-house data center for all but the largest organisations. Nowadays, start-ups never even consider the possibility, it’s cloud all the way.

For companies who already have established in-house deployments, there is always the concern that change is costly and introduces risks. Most IT managers follow the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” so moving a system that is working well from in-house servers to a cloud deployment doesn’t make sense.  It is no surprise then, to find that in October 2013, Gartner estimated that nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.

Good management tools are essential to knowing where your assets are located, how they are protected and what the threats are. Hybrid cloud management tools are emerging from companies like VMware and Red Hat that allow you to manage in-house and cloud infrastructure seamlessly, applying a single model for management, orchestration, security and networking across both the public and private data centers. Network virtualisation allows you to configure firewalls and networks in the cloud as if they were in your own data center and follow the same polices for security, control and compliance. By creating a seamless infrastructure you can reduce rather than increase complexity and thus reduce risk.

Hybrid cloud management tools are emerging from companies like VMware and Red Hat that allow you to manage in-house and cloud infrastructure seamlessly.

The most obvious way in which a hybrid cloud can reduce risks is in cloud backup and disaster recovery applications, by providing flexible access to off-site capacity that can be configured to provide hot back-ups for truly mission critical data and regular but less frequent back ups for more run-of-the mill information.

Using an elastic cloud architecture also reduces the risks to public websites, especially e-commerce facilities, which often require publicly accessible websites linked to mission-critical assets on-site. Their resource usage is dynamic and unpredictable and sites can be brought down by a sudden surge of demand, for example following an unexpectedly successful promotion. Hybrid cloud allows you to extend your infrastructure seamlessly when needed and to replicate mission critical applications so that there is no downtime should problems occur.

Another area where hybrid cloud can reduce risks is in development, where, for example, a new mobile app can be tested in the cloud without risking disruption of the core in-house systems. Test environments can be created quickly in the cloud so if there are multiple streams of development you can create multiple environments in which to test the different streams.  It makes the decision to go ahead with a project much easier when you know that it is using a flexible infrastructure that can be created separately from the core systems.

Assessing risks can be a challenging process, and that must be the first step. But a hybrid cloud carefully designed to reduce those risks once they are identified may well turn out to be the best solution in the long run.