Hybrid clouds, which combine internal computing infrastructure with public cloud computing resources, are one potential solution to migrating to cloud computing. Consider these 10 questions to help you decide whether a hybrid cloud is the right strategy for your company.
1: Can I trust my data to the cloud?
A major driver to adopting a hybrid cloud infrastructure is retaining data within the four walls of your company. If your company stores sensitive data and must maintain strict control over that data, leveraging computing resources from the cloud, combined with local data storage, might be a perfect scenario for a hybrid cloud.
2: Can I do a niche function cheaper, better, or faster?
For many organizations, no public cloud solution can provide a unique or proprietary function, and massive, costly homegrown systems have organically expanded around that handful of unique processes. Some of the savings of cloud computing can be realized by keeping the unique function in-house and sending commodity functionality to the cloud. If you have a unique pricing or quoting system, why not use a cloud CRM for the bulk of your sales force automation but leverage a commodity cloud solution for the rest of it?
3: Am I already a cloud provider?
Organizations that are heavy users of technology like virtualization and shared infrastructure may already be capable cloud providers in their own right. With automated provisioning and some management changes, offing internal cloud services to business users, combined with public cloud services, may optimize the use of your existing infrastructure and provide the benefits of public cloud services.
4: Are we unsure about committing to the cloud?
A hybrid cloud solution is the perfect way to test the waters of cloud computing. While you won't make your cloud provider's latest case study, there's no shame in calling a few cloud APIs and taking baby steps into the cloud. Most organizations are already doing this, despite no talk of clouds, hybrid or otherwise. There's no hard and fast rule about how much data or computing power must be sourced outside your four walls, so choose a timeline and level of commitment that make sense for your organization.
5: How well do we manage vendors?
Taking a hybrid approach to a cloud deployment lets you test a vendor before fully committing critical IT processes to a public cloud. A hybrid approach gives you a chance to experience a cloud provider's capabilities and support abilities before fully committing to a full-blown public cloud solution.
6: Is the solution temporary?
Hybrid clouds are a great way to address a short-term gap in your IT infrastructure. Perhaps you need to fill in some infrastructure to address a temporary uptick in volume or fill in while you wait for another project to complete. The ability to augment your in-house infrastructure and computing capabilities is a great argument for a hybrid cloud.
7: Do you need lower cost redundancy?
Redundancy is an expensive proposition, the ultimate expression of which requires buying at least two of everything, including physical facilities and IT staff. A hybrid cloud can provide redundancy on an ad hoc basis, routing your computing needs to a cloud provider if a section of your internal infrastructure fails or requires scheduled downtime. Since most cloud services are priced primarily on a pay-for-use basis, augmenting internal infrastructure with cloud resources can be very cost competitive compared to traditional redundancy.
8: Are you going multinational?
Just as hybrid clouds can augment infrastructure for technical reasons, they can also augment infrastructure for geographic reasons. Perhaps you've expanded to a new country that requires local storage of customer data or has unique business requirements in one area. Rather than building internal systems to support these requirements, design a hybrid cloud architecture that leverages public clouds for these unique functions but keeps the primary business process within your walls.
9: Do you need to rapidly innovate?
A lot of value is locked in your current IT infrastructure, whether it's high-value data, unique processes, or connectivity to partners and customers. However, it's often logistically difficult and costly to build test systems and experiment with major new infrastructure. With hybrid cloud computing, you can "plug in" cloud resources that allow you to experiment with different aspects of your infrastructure without procuring labs and hardware and without developing massive sets of test data.
10: Do you want analytics yesterday?
Many cloud services exist around data analytics and reporting, and these represent a perfect "bolt-on" solution to your existing IT infrastructure. Instead of buying or building an in-house reporting and analytics engine, build a hybrid cloud that uses your existing data with cloud-based analytics to rapidly satisfy the demand for big data-style analysis.
- The art of the hybrid cloud (ZDNet special feature)
- Executive's guide to the hybrid cloud (free ebook)
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.