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Hybrid IT: Three pillars that underpin success

Written by Leon Godwin, Principal Cloud Evangelist for EMEA at Sungard Availability Services

There have been a range of responses to the impact of the pandemic, showcasing a greater need for businesses to consider resilience and agility. A key driver of this has been hybrid IT. Pre-pandemic research from IDC predicted that over 90 percent of enterprises globally will be using a combination of in-house environments, with multiple public and private clouds by next year. This multi-cloud approach allows organisations to optimise IT infrastructure spend whilst reducing risk. By implementing a hybrid IT environment, companies can be more agile, able to scale and better manage costs, all while ensuring consistent performance, availability of services and data, and tighter  control over security.

Hybrid IT success goes beyond just determining which workloads to deploy in the cloud and which should run on a company’s infrastructure. Whilst there are several considerations for businesses looking to evolve, below are three steps I believe IT decision makers should make to get the most out of implementing a hybrid IT approach.

  1. Own the base and rent the spike

This strategy takes advantage of both cloud and on-premises infrastructure to balance cost and performance requirements.

Owning the base means procuring the capacity and associated hosting that is needed to securely support steady demand. This includes buying servers, networking and storage to be hosted on-premises or in a colocation data centre.

It’s common for organisations to experience spikes in demand and increased traffic during times like sales events, or more recently, when almost everything turns digital. A public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environment provides the agility and scalability to rapidly accommodate peaks and troughs, so you only pay for the infrastructure needed at any given time.

Renting IaaS capacity can be much more cost-efficient than purchasing hardware, as it requires investing in unused capacity outside of those spikes, providing a better option for companies all year round.

  1. Identify the right fit

When choosing the right environment for workloads, consider the needs of the business and the application.

Public clouds are designed to maximise multi-tenancy to squeeze as many customers as possible onto infrastructure. They also tend to offer services that are charged by the hour or the second. If applications aren’t required 24/7 – like testing or development environments – organisations can save money by powering systems down outside of operational hours.

Because public clouds are built to host many tenants, they can face capacity challenges too. To mitigate this, public cloud providers offer services in predefined sizes or with specific performance attributes. Unfortunately, this can result in performance limitations and higher costs for users. Additionally, the skills required to build and maintain a public cloud are less readily available and come with a steeper learning curve. This can make it more difficult for some organisations to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, private cloud providers tend to have a smaller number of multi-tenant customers, making capacity challenges easier to manage. This can allow for a wider range of performance offerings at a more cost-efficient price point.

Workloads that run 24/7 and don’t easily scale are often more cost-effective to run on private clouds, since public clouds often have predefined attributes that aren’t always a perfect match for the needs of the workloads. Private clouds typically offer fine grade matching of resource allocation that results in less overprovisioning and fewer wasted resources.

In terms of security, innovation within the public cloud comes at a faster pace than the private cloud, allowing organisations to deploy new services more quickly to address modern threats. However, these offerings are usually constrained to virtual multi-tenant environments, which may not meet the desired security posture. Private cloud can offer the benefits of both physical and virtual security offerings, albeit often at a slower pace of innovation.

The speed of innovation in the public cloud is not limited to security offerings either; it extends to features like rewriting applications to become cloud native. However, turning a legacy application into a cloud-native application is a costly and time-consuming process, and for some legacy applications, is not easily accomplished.

Because every application and every organisation is different, a blended approach of public cloud, private cloud and on-premises infrastructure is often the best way to meet business needs.

  1. Adaptable connectivity

Operating in a blended infrastructure environment means connectivity becomes even more critical. Traditional connectivity had contracts that were often fixed for several years, but today’s business needs are more dynamic.

Workloads may need to change hosting platforms or locations. As a result, the network needs to be more flexible than a traditional network. Out of this need, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) was born.

SDN, which is more cloud-like in its procurement approach, means connectivity changes can be made in seconds, scaling up and down and in and out, allowing a business to pay only for the bandwidth it needs.

The shift to remote work during the pandemic increased the need for internet bandwidth and often changed a company’s bandwidth profile, as tactical workloads were moved or created in the cloud. Traditional network connectivity isn’t able to respond to these changing requirements in a timely fashion, often burdening IT operations and negatively impacting business outcomes.

When considering infrastructure options, don’t forget about the network access to that infrastructure. For the fastest ramp-up, the least risk, and the most predictable performance, private connectivity to a cloud provider makes the most sense. Private connectivity to a private cloud IaaS provider also allows an organisation to improve security, reliability, and predictability more than using the public internet – which will help support compliance.

For latency-sensitive workloads or those with large amounts of data egress, locate on-premises or collocated infrastructure close to an organisation’s private cloud environment. This will help reduce latency, increase bandwidth, and minimise data charges for maximum efficiency.

The best of all worlds

According to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 8 in 10 organisations are already utilising a cloud infrastructure that is hybrid and dynamic in nature because of the benefits it offers. These businesses are maximising cost-efficiency, performance, security and reliability, with the least risk of lost revenue and customers.

With the turbulence of the market today, combined with the continued risk of cyberattacks and rising costs, it’s never been more important for businesses to have resilient infrastructure in place. For the best of all worlds, ensuring the right workloads and applications are in the right places and ensuring fast connectivity is key. Only then can a business put itself on the path to hybrid IT success.

Leon Godwin, Principal Cloud Evangelist for EMEA at Sungard Availability Services