The use of
public cloud platforms as a deployment option for applications is often talked
about in binary terms such as ‘do we deploy
to the cloud or keep the application on-premise?

This is
misleading, as many businesses assess the suitability of public cloud only for
the most appropriate use cases and often it will be used as a supplementary
computing resource. The cloud journey will lead companies to a pragmatic
balance between the use of their own internal infrastructure, often re-purposed
as private cloud, and those provisioned from public cloud service providers. This
is hybrid cloud computing.

For the hybrid
cloud to become a reality, workloads must be easy to move between private and
public infrastructure. A pre-requisite for this to happen is the transformation
of data centre provisioning.

A recent
Quocirca research report, In
demand – the culture of online service provision
, shows that this process
is well underway, as 85 percent of businesses now say they use server
virtualisation and in many cases this is being used to pool resources to share
them between multiple applications. In other words, IT departments are creating
their own private clouds.

There are
two big benefits for businesses in doing this. First, it makes the use of
equipment and power in their own data centres more efficient, and second, it
enables the workloads that make up their applications to be more mobile. They
can be moved from one private data centre to another or beyond the data centre
to make use of public cloud resources.

With that
flexibility in place, the businesses do not have to keep investing in new data
centre facilities and IT infrastructure, to get more and more out of their
applications.

In this way,
the use of public cloud will often be to supplement in-house requirements. Here
are some of the top hybrid cloud use cases:

Public cloud as a failover platform

Whatever the
cost comparisons one comes up with for public cloud versus private cloud, one
thing is certainly true; maintaining an un-used infrastructure stack for
business continuity reasons in case the usual run time platforms fails is
expensive and unnecessary. The same resource can be rented from a public cloud
provider on the (hopefully) rare occasion it is needed. Having a public cloud
provider on standby is a far more cost-effective way of having redundant
infrastructure when disaster occurs.

Handling peak loads

Many
organisations have times of the week, month, year or just some unpredictable
event that leads to an application having a far higher workload than is normal.
When this is the case, having the excess capacity required on standby
internally is expensive. Far cheaper is to have an arrangement with a cloud
service provider that allows new application workloads to be provisioned at
will. The service providers can cope with this because they have many customers
with peak loads at different times and the reallocation of resources is
possible at relatively low cost.

Planning for unexpected success (or
failure)

Kicking off
a new venture – for example a new retail web site or new social media
application – is an unpredictable business. What if it takes off far faster
than expected? What if it flops? There are plenty of examples of both. So, how
much do you invest in the supporting infrastructure upfront? The answer is very
little if a public cloud platform is used. The risk of the new venture is far
easier to justify if the capital investment is minimised and, if you hit the
jackpot, the fees to the cloud service provider may seem like chicken feed
compared to the new revenue being generated. Such a capability should encourage
more innovation within the organisation – more ideas can be tried out as the
risk and cost of failure is minimised. When the business case is proven, that
may be the time to use up dedicated in-house resources.

Public cloud as an application test bed

Applications
are often developed on dedicated servers, rightly isolated from run time
environments. Whilst most functionality can be tested in such environments,
scalability cannot. Testing new code in run time environment is risky as it may
impact the current actual live application. Some might be able to do this at
night, but many applications now have to operate 24 by seven. Public cloud
platforms provide an ideal environment for such testing. Resources can be allocated
to make the test environment match the live one as closely as possible and put new
software through its paces.

The stage is
set for a flood of workloads from private to public cloud; in most cases this
will then  reach an equilibrium between
the two. Many organisations admit they need help on this journey, a Quocirca research
report published earlier this year, The
mid-market conundrum
, sponsored by Attenda, found that only about 25
percent of UK mid-market organisations considered they were very well prepared
for the use of public cloud services.

The majority
wanted help with putting business continuity plans in place and to be free to
focus on application flexibility rather than building platforms. To this end
they saw more and more workloads moving on to third party platforms.

In many
cases the platforms used will be those of the giants of cloud computing,
however as Quocirca’s mid-market research shows, assistance will be sought from
IT service providers to help on the journey.

The route to
hybrid cloud is not fixed, but it is one all businesses must set out on if they
are to ensure they achieve the goal that is so important to many – innovation,
agility and competitive advantage through the efficient and effective use of IT resources.