By: Autumn Salama, Solutions Management of Cloud at Zayo
We’re not shy about our enthusiasm for hybrid cloud solutions. With their combination of enterprise cloud, managed hosting and data center colocation, hybrid cloud solutions often deliver the best possible mix of flexibility, scalability and performance — if they’re configured correctly.
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The benefits of any cloud solution rely heavily on how well it’s built and how much thought went into the design. Developing your hybrid cloud infrastructure is no small venture, and there are many aspects — from hardware selection to resource allocation — to consider when building out your solution.
So how do you get the most from your hybrid cloud? Here are seven important considerations to start with when designing and building your cloud.
1. Right-sizing Workloads
One of the biggest advantages to the hybrid cloud is its ability to match workloads to the environments that best suit them. You can build a hybrid cloud solution with incredible hardware and impressive infrastructure, but if you don’t tailor your IT infrastructure to the specific demands of your workloads, you can end up with performance issues, improper capacity allocation, poor availability and/or wasted resources.
Bursty, more volatile workloads are well suited to the hyperscalability and speedy provisioning of cloud hosting, as are any cloud-native apps your business relies on. Performance workloads that require higher IOPS (input/output per second), CPU and utilization are typically much better suited to private cloud infrastructure if they have elastic qualities or requirements for self-service. More persistent workloads will almost always deliver greater value and efficiency with dedicated servers in a managed hosting or colocation solution.
2. Security and compliance
Different workloads may also have different security or compliance requirements that dictate a certain type of IT infrastructure hosting environment. For example, your most confidential data shouldn’t be hosted in a multi-tenant environment, especially if your business is subject to HIPAA or PCI compliance requirements. It may seem obvious, but when right-sizing your workloads, don’t overlook what data must be isolated, and also be sure to encrypt any data you might host in the cloud.
With so many varying levels of compliance, managing the security of your data can tax your IT staff’s bandwidth, and it’s crucial to have a compliance expert on hand to ensure you are taking the proper precautions and documenting processes and procedures. While cloud hosting providers can’t be compliant for you, most offer an array of Managed IT Security solutions and some even have a third-party-audited Attestation of Compliance to help you document for your auditors how their best practices satisfy your compliance needs. And because they typically support a wide variety of customers with their security and compliance requirements, cloud hosting providers typically have a lot of experience in this area.
3. Data center footprint
There are many reasons an organization might want to outsource its IT infrastructure—from shrinking the IT footprint to driving greater efficiency, to securing capacity for future growth, or just to focus on what is core to the business. The bottom line is that data centers require massive amounts of capital to build and maintain—and they do become obsolete over time. This places a huge burden for mid-to-large-sized businesses. But data center consolidation takes discipline, priorities and a plan. The ability to migrate workloads to a single, unified platform that consists of a mix of cloud, hosting and data center colocation provides great flexibility and control, enabling a company to migrate workloads on their terms and with one partner responsible for making it happen.
4. Hardware needs
For larger workloads you seek to host on premises, in a private cloud, or through colocation, what sort of performance do you need from your hardware? A truly hybrid IT infrastructure outsourcing solution enables you to deploy the best mix of enterprise-class, brand-name hardware that you either choose and manage yourself or consume fully-managed from a cloud hosting provider. Performance requirements, configuration characteristics, your organization’s access to specific domain experts (storage, networking, virtualization, etc.) as well as the state of your current hardware will dictate the proper mix.
This is also a good time to review your inventory and decommission any hardware that is reaching end-of-life. That said, you may have existing hardware you can leverage for your new hybrid cloud solution, perhaps in a new context. Document the server decommission and migration processes thoroughly to ensure no data is lost, and follow your lifecycle plan for decommissioned servers. But by all means, take full advantage of the hardware you still have and optimize your workloads appropriately across data center colocation, managed hosting and cloud.
5. Personnel requirements
When designing and building a new IT infrastructure, it’s sometimes easy to get so caught up in the technology that you forget about the people who manage it. Which technology resources do you have on staff, and which do you need — both for day-to-day IT maintenance, and for the workloads of tomorrow?
With cloud and managed hosting, you benefit from your provider’s expertise and their SLAs — so you don’t have to dedicate your own IT resources to maintaining those particular servers. This can free up valuable staff bandwidth so that your personnel can focus on tasks that are core to your business’s growth, or train for the skills they’ll need to handle new cutting-edge technologies. And when you have a particularly tricky design or configuration issue, chances are the experts at your service provider have seen it before, so you can leverage their collective knowledge and experience to optimize your IT infrastructure.
6. Disaster recovery
Building redundancy and failover into your environment is an essential part of disaster recovery, so make sure each of the servers hosting your important data and workloads have a secondary site. With a hybrid cloud solution, you have a lot of great, cost-effective options, because it can incorporate multiple sites and platforms—putting the best of colocation, hosting, cloud and a variety of managed services to work for you. For example, you might want to mirror a dedicated server environment on cloud virtual machines—paying for a small storage fee to house the redundant environment, but only paying for compute if you actually have to failover. That’s just one of the ways a truly hybrid solution can work for you.
When updating your disaster recovery plan to accommodate your new infrastructure, it’s essential to determine your Recovery Point Objective and Recovery Time Objective (RPO/RTO) on workload-by-workload basis, and to design your solution with that priority in mind. (Learn more about Business Continuity and DR solutions here).
7. Finding the right cloud hosting provider
Your hybrid cloud hosting provider not only designs and builds your environment, but also manages it after you go into production. This is a partnership that is established early in the sales process, because to do it right you need to trust their solution architects to understand what you need and work together to design your deployment. You also need to know that capacity is there for future growth (you shouldn’t have to wait months for equipment to arrive and be setup…one of the benefits of outsourcing is that you can scale quickly and not be subject to hardware procurement cycles). And you can expect that some assumptions will be tested and changes made in implementations. Make sure you choose a trustworthy provider with competitive SLAs, proven experience in hybrid cloud implementation and a commitment to staying on top of the changing paradigms in cloud technology.
It’s also important to choose a provider whose skillsets complement those of your team—and that you’ll have ready access to them. Take note of the areas of expertise you need for full-service management of your environment — from cloud to storage, networking, virtualization, disaster recovery and security — and choose a provider who can fill in these gaps through managed IT services. Again, while technology is a huge component of the hybrid cloud, you need people to manage that technology.
Hybrid cloud offers your business many advantages. However, building the solution that’s right for your business takes a great deal of planning and expertise across many areas of IT. Zayo Cloud’s hybrid infrastructure as a service (Iaas) offering is the most flexible, adaptable and customizable infrastructure solution available today. Contact us to learn more about how our hybrid cloud solutions will deliver the performance and scalability your business requires.
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