To hybrid or not to hybrid: What’s your best cloud computing option?
According to Gartner Inc., nearly half of large enterprises will have deployed a hybrid cloud by the end of 2017. If half of the companies out there are deploying something, it’s probably important that we find out what this “something” is, don’t you think?
Let’s define some terms:
The Cloud: That’s with a capital C, please. Its lowercase cousin has been spoiling our sunny days for eons, but the two relatives have nothing to do with one another. The internet has often been depicted graphically as a cloud, intimating that there’s something foggy and unclear about it. Cloud’s half-brother is ethernet, which was named after the upper regions of air beyond the clouds, where there’s nothing BUT deep blue skies. So much for The Cloud’s family tree. What’s more important is how this family tree became so entangled with our own.
I’ve heard it a hundred times: Should I store my files in my Dropbox account or in my Cloud account? Isn’t The Cloud better since it is more modern than Dropbox? I begin to tremble with fury at the marketing departments that have turned The Cloud into something arcane and elusive.
While services such as Dropbox cannot be compared to other companies which offer more than just file storage and sharing, the layman is still confused. Dropbox started as just “a flash drive in the sky” with some sharing options. (It’s not actually in the sky, folks. Dropbox uses Amazon’s Simple Storage Service [S3] that is controlled from Dropbox’s management offices in San Francisco, California, and Austin, Texas.) Dropbox may be a flash drive in the sky, but it saves your bacon when you tend to leave your physical flash drive at home or lost in an airplane cushion that’s now somewhere over the Atlantic.
The Cloud is one thing; cloud computing is another. The term cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve economies of scale. Converged infrastructure and shared services are at the root of cloud services, not just file storage.
Cloud computing is Internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked to allow the centralized data storage and online access to computer services and resources. These Clouds can be classified as public, private, or hybrid.
A Cloud is deemed as “public” when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model. Technically, there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture. Some examples of public cloud service providers are AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. These companies own and operate the infrastructure at their data centers, but access is generally via the Internet.
A private cloud is operated solely for a single organization, although it can be managed by in-house employees or by a third-party company. The infrastructure can be hosted within the walls of that company (think vulnerability) or outside. When the company is in a dangerous weather zone or in a politically unstable country, its private cloud might be thousands of miles away from the company’s physical location, offering protection that ensures more rapid up time.
A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally. For example, an organization might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon S3 for archived data (less presently valuable), but continue to maintain in-house storage for operational customer data.
According to NetworkWorld, the top 15 cloud computing companies to watch are (in order):
3) AWS (Amazon Web Services)
4) Microsoft Azure
8) Citrix Systems
The hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities. This type of hybrid cloud is also referred to as Hybrid IT.
To be effective, a management strategy for hybrid cloud deployment should address configuration management, change control, security, fault management, and budgeting. Because a hybrid cloud combines public cloud and private data center principles, it’s possible to plan a hybrid cloud deployment from any of these starting points, depending on the company’s focus. Wisely choosing that starting point will make it easier to address business goals.
A primary objective of a hybrid cloud deployment should be to minimize change. No matter how similarly a public and private cloud are matched, design differences will inevitably exist. The greater the differences between the cloud environments, the more difficult it will be to manage multiple clouds as a single entity.
In a nutshell, cloud companies provide the services through different access methods including web browsers, mobile apps, thin clients, terminal emulators, and more. These services are:
SaaS — Software as a Service, including CRM (Customer Relationship Management), email, virtual desktops, communication, games, and more.
PaaS — Platform as a Service, including execution runtimes, databases, web servers, development tools, and more.
IaaS — Infrastructure as a Service, such as virtual machines, servers, storage, load balancers, and more.
Not all cloud computing companies offer all of these services, so it is important to determine which is most crucial to a business contemplating hybrid IT.
Envision a large number of rack-mounted servers sitting in the basement of a building, there exclusively for the storage and processing of files and applications for the company which resides on the floors above it. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks proved that no building is safe, so a distributed approach became important for the reasons of security, efficiency and scalability.
Fred sits in an office in Chicago where the temperature is controlled by a server located in Georgia (IaaS). After working in Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 all morning (SaaS), Fred needs to check on his team of consultants that has been migrating a series of legacy applications required for his business (PaaS). From the comfort of his office in Chicago, Fred has relied upon—and enjoyed—the advantages of Cloud Computing.
If any or all of these applications are important to your company, then it’s time to move to Cloud Computing.