Cloud

5 best practices for managing a hybrid cloud environment

For a growing number of organizations considering public or private cloud, the answer is both. Here are five considerations that address the unique challenges of a hybrid cloud deployment.

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Public cloud or private? For a growing number of business and organizations, the answer is both.

Hybrid cloud is on the rise in the enterprise, as it combines the customizability and security of private cloud, with the scalability and flexibility of the public cloud. One such software vendor that is embracing the hybrid cloud is SAS, which has begun moving some of its operation to AWS.

At the 2016 SAS Global Forum, Ethan Merrill, a manager of software development for SAS, explained how the company began its hybrid cloud journey and shared some best practices for those considering a hybrid cloud deployment.

SEE: Hybrid Cloud: Benefits, roadblocks, favored vendors (Tech Pro Research)

1. Weighing the options

Of course, the first question you'll need to answer is why you want hybrid cloud over the other options. For Merrill and SAS, they came up with a list of five reasons why hyrbid cloud made the most sense for their organization.

  1. The value of the hybrid network
  2. Software-defined everything
  3. Extending compliance
  4. Global presence
  5. Leverage IT and existing systems

In terms of the hybrid network idea, Merrill said it was a matter of addressability.

"The value we derive from having the hybrid situation with Amazon is by having our datacenter addressable with Amazon," Merrill said.

Software-defined everything offers the automation necessary to speed up deployment time, and reduce human error. With hybrid cloud, SAS is also able to utilize all the compliance tools they use in their Cary, North Carolina data center and extend them to the cloud as well.

The global reach of AWS helped extend SAS's presence around the world, and helped them reach customers that they couldn't reach before, Merrill said. That could be due to closer proximity to the data or sovereignty issues.

2. Consider the data

As noted above, SAS made the move to hybrid cloud so it could use its existing compliance tools. Compliance and privacy are serious cloud concerns for many industries and shouldn't be taken lightly.

Data classification is critical to making the right choice about a potential cloud deployment. Questions around data sensitivity and sovereignty will be the most important, but you should also be aware of where it resides now, where you want it to reside, and what will be the most convenient way of accessing it.

For example, Merrill said that SAS wanted all its instances in the public cloud to appear as if they were based in their Cary, North Carolina data center, relative to the DNS setup and to help other SAS employees more easily be able to work with them.

3. Security

Security is a key concern when you bring public cloud into the mix. Hybrid cloud will undoubtedly change your approach to security, and you need to be ready to patch any holes or extend the needed capabilities.

When it comes to metrics and monitoring, SAS was able to leverage its existing monitoring system in Cary. But, Merrill said there are a lot of interesting things in AWS to consider as well. You should compare and contrast your vendor's monitoring tools with your own.

The primary preventative measures that SAS took with hybrid cloud was to establish security groups and firewalls. Merrill said through AWS, SAS set up Lambda functions to run at specific intervals that would check their security groups.

Authorization and authentication are also important. Merrill said that SAS was able to use their on-premises SAS Active Directory to maintain their existing authorization protocols in the hybrid cloud.

4. Operational complexity

One thing that weighs heavy on the mind of operations administrators is whether or not their company's performance will take a hit with the introduction of the cloud. Benchmarking is a worthy procedure so that you can determine which, if any, of your critical services will be affected by the hybrid cloud.

In planning for a hybrid cloud deployment, you have to consider how complex you need it to be in order to ensure that you can meet your organization's disaster recovery standards and maintain the data properly. In SAS's case, Merrill said they set up AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) snapshots around their instances, so they can resurrect it if something catastrophic happens.

Another big consideration is storage, which Merrill said "proved to be the most varied aspect of our deployments." With both private and public cloud options, your storage options will be varied. You will have to consider the different bandwidths available for different storage types, and what instance type and bandwidth works for your different services.

SEE: The 15 most important hybrid cloud vendors (ZDNet)

5. Pricing

Sadly, there's no "eureka moment" that adding the public cloud element will make your cloud deployment any cheaper, Merrill said. Still, you should weigh what perceived benefits hybrid cloud brings against the potential cost to deploy it.

Just like with any service, different vendors will offer different pricing options as well as different services on their platform. Work with your finance team to determine which vendor, and subsequent services, will deliver the best ROI for your organization.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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