As dynamic business demands continue to place an unprecedented burden on technology infrastructure, IT managers remain ever-vigilant to ensure sufficient resources are available to support business-critical and heavily used applications. The good news is that IT departments now have compelling options for effectively balancing the need for additional infrastructure and capacity with limited staff and budget resources.
A hybrid cloud environment can combine private or public clouds, as well as on-premises implementations, that are connected to deliver the benefits of multiple deployment models. If an organization requires certain business services be implemented and/or data stored on its premises, but wants hosted solutions to ease the burden on existing IT infrastructure, a hybrid cloud deployment offers an effective approach.
Hybrid Cloud Advantages
According to an IT survey by Unisys in January 2012, of the 45% of respondents who said cloud computing was their top IT priority for the year, 21% indicated they were looking for more operational flexibility, and would be exploring hybrid clouds for that purpose. What follow are the primary drivers leading organizations to consider deploying a hybrid cloud.
- Utilization of existing resources: The needs of enterprise IT are often dynamic, evolving over time. The hybrid cloud model empowers IT to flexibly augment existing on-premises infrastructure and services with those based in the cloud, without necessarily adding to their own workload. As a result, IT can better leverage existing staff--as well as capital investments such as servers, software, network infrastructure, and so on--while also incorporating assets from the cloud to create a more flexible and cost-effective IT environment.
- Scalability: For many enterprises, IT needs such as processing power, application capabilities, storage and network demands can increase or decrease at any time. Hybrid cloud deployments can augment existing resources by leveraging cloud-based resources to better handle bursts of activity.
- Performance: Some industry estimates maintain that 70% of current IT investment is earmarked for maintenance, resulting in fewer resources available for innovation. By adding a public cloud or an externally hosted private cloud to existing systems deployed on-premises, performance and responsiveness can be improved. It can also minimize associated increases in IT complexity by using efficient on-demand provisioning and easier, web-based system administration typically provided with cloud services.
Other Factors to Consider
Armed with a greater understanding of the advantages associated with hybrid cloud deployment models, there are other considerations to keep in mind as well:
- Security: When evaluating options, consider the account access controls and data encryption, because confidential information is often transmitted via the public Internet. Also confirm whether existing user accounts and groups can be used to create a single sign-on environment that is both secure and efficient.
- Integration: In a hybrid environment, its important to know whether the organizations on-premises applications like enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and associated computing resources are able to be (and/or should be) integrated with private and/or public cloud platforms and systems. If integration is required, the solutions to evaluate are reduced, because providing smooth integration among various systems requires well-developed application programming interfaces and web services that not all systems provide.
- Storage: If large amounts of data are involved, cloud-based storage can get expensive, depending upon the vendors used. On the other hand, hybrid options can often be used to offset the cost of cloud-based storage by using relatively inexpensive, on-premises hard drives or network-attached storage devices. Such devices offload the storage requirements of the cloud-based systems.
- Compliance: The role that compliance will play in a hybrid cloud environment depends on a variety of factors, such as regulatory mandates, industry standards, audit requirements, geographic location and associated laws, and the capabilities and limitations of existing IT infrastructure. For businesses in heavily regulated industries, such as pharmaceutical, medical devices, biotechnology or transportation, it may be a requirement that some specific applications and information reside on-premises behind the company firewall rather than in the cloud.
The hybrid cloud computing model offers the promise of augmenting enterprise capabilities and systems, while enabling organizations to deploy and consume cloud-based resources at a pace that best suits their IT and business goals and budgets.
Greg Milliken is the president of M-Files Inc., the developer of M-Files flexible cloud, on-premises and hybrid enterprise content management (ECM) solutions. For more information, visit M-Files.com. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.