Key questions to consider when evaluating hybrid cloud

Jerry McLeod, VP of business development, HotLink

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Hybrid cloud is the talk of IT, but to avoid costly, labor-intensive megaprojects you cannot escape, pay particular attention to minimizing implementation and management complexity. These questions will help you identify the best hybrid cloud architecture for your environment:

1. What are the top ways we will use our hybrid cloud in the next 12 to 18 months? 

In the midmarket, the No. 1 answer is disaster recovery (DR). A secondary data center for DR is a luxury most companies can not afford. Now, public cloud services have put DR within reach of virtually all organizations. The key is to identify the enabling technology that minimizes complexity, maximizes automation and does not overtax the IT staff. Easy cloud DR solutions exist today for midsized shops; don't be lead into a heavy professional services project.

For larger enterprises looking to utilize hybrid cloud to optimize and free up expensive data centers, hybrid clouds are attainable, manageable options. For example, organizations using VMware might want to leverage Hyper-V because they're running so many Microsoft applications, while others want to leverage KVM for better flexibility, network outputs and drivers. For them, alternative hypervisors give them flexibility and significant cost savings. Public clouds, on the other hand, are a place where they can grow certain applications, conduct testing and development, and run non-critical applications. However, modern transformation technologies for cross-platform management are necessary to avoid monstrous and expensive system integration efforts.

2. Which public clouds do we want to leverage? 

The public cloud space is continuously morphing, and that means there are many choices. End users may be quick to ask for the clouds they recognize: Amazon or maybe Azure. You, however, need to weigh all the factors, including price, scale, support and service.

There are public cloud self-service models offering attractive price points, but may not have the support staff if users have problems. On the other end of the spectrum, there are options delivering premium-level cloud and service packages for a substantial price premium. You need to analyze which cloud providers are best by asking the questions, "What do I get for this?" "What do I want to manage?" and "How hands-on do I want to be?" From there, consider the best possible options for management and migration. The answer will most likely be a mix of on-premise solutions, cloud solutions and services. Of course, mixing and matching can add significant management complexity if you are not careful.

3. Which on-premise platforms do we want to use? 

Certain applications may require huge virtual machines (VMs), and the technical staff might find that only certain hypervisors can handle the requirements. Maybe another application needs high I/O, which will lead to a different platform choice. Cost versus performance is always a factor. No matter the particulars, you need to think about flexibility combined with ease of use and the least possible disruption. Companies want to manage their hybrid environments in the same way they manage their current environments: They want a single, comprehensive management platform. You must be able to seamlessly migrate workloads between hypervisors and maintain consistent, compliant management. It is very doable today, and thus we see the meteoric rise in hybrid deployments.

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