Is hybrid cloud right for your business?

By Andrew Oliver, Senior Director of Product Marketing at MariaDB.

While public clouds dominate the hype cycle, CIOs and CTOs are threading the needle with a hybrid cloud strategy, which makes use of scale and flexibility of the public cloud. It also ensures compliance and other requirements are met with an on-premises or private cloud. In a recent Everest Group survey, 72 percent of respondents described their cloud strategy as hybrid-first.

A hybrid cloud strategy allows CTO’s to choose which applications they keep in more private, secure settings, and what data they can shift to a more versatile public cloud. Meanwhile, hybrid clouds also support the seamless movement of applications from private to public cloud and vice versa, allowing businesses to be flexible and create a unified private, public, and on-premise IT infrastructures that’s flexible, cost-effective and scalable.

Simply put hybrid cloud strategies make use of on premises infrastructure combined with public cloud resources. There are different forms of this. Some companies refer to their strategy as hybrid because they have some applications deployed in the public cloud and some on their own infrastructure. Some CIOs and CTOs refer to applications or services using both public and private resources congruently as using a hybrid cloud. True hybrid clouds allow data and applications to move or be deployed in either or both private and public with only cost, security and performance policies restricting what runs where.

Today, virtually every company has both public and private cloud resources. Some companies are moving completely to the public cloud and still have some applications that have not migrated. Other companies have regulatory requirements that make hosting some data in the public cloud difficult but want to make use of it where they can. Some industries, like manufacturing, have reliability and latency requirements that require on-premises infrastructure. These industries often use the public cloud as a disaster recovery site or for less critical functions.

Common Misconceptions

As with any term in tech, there are a number of misconceptions about what is and is not a hybrid cloud.

The following points can help you navigate what hybrid clouds can (and can’t) do for your business, but you need to be consulting your developers and database management teams on the ground.

1)“All companies need a hybrid cloud”

A hybrid cloud allows companies to combine their own data center and/or private cloud setup with public cloud resources. The freedom to move data back and forth between the two environments is particularly useful for industries that need local sites, such as shop floor control systems in manufacturing, whilst also wanting a public cloud recovery site.

Other companies adopt hybrid cloud as part of an ‘edge’ strategy; These companies maintain local systems for high-frequency data – even if the final data lives on a database-as-a-service (DBaaS).

Or, they might be hybrid because of security policies and regulations, or perhaps because they have legacy systems and need to migrate over time when they refresh applications.

This is absolutely key: hybrid cloud is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution; decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

2)“Moving to a hybrid cloud set-up is easy”

Migrating to a hybrid cloud system can be extremely complex, and this is why companies with strong devops teams fare slightly better.

To make the migration smooth, you’ll want to hire a dedicated data team that can oversee the cloud systems and manage the compatibility of data between environments. You also need to be prepared to pay for the up front costs. Hybrid cloud will save you money in the long-term, but it does require initial investment, and because the migration can be complex, you may hit roadblocks along the way which push timelines back and costs up.

3)“Hybrid cloud is the same as having both public and private infrastructure”

Merely having local infrastructure and using AWS or Google Cloud does not constitute a hybrid cloud strategy. To create a hybrid cloud, first the local infrastructure should be as well instrumented as a public cloud. This means that it integrates into developer and operations frameworks (i.e., CI/CD pipelines) just like a public cloud. Moreover, resources like databases and security have to have the same kind of quality of service guarantees. Finally, specific policies and strategies based on cost, application type, and regulatory requirements should identify which types of applications and data are hosted locally or in the public cloud..

Assessing your options

Take a look at your budget, assess your resources and talent. Having the right people for the job is essential - your team needs to be able to handle the complexity of migration and maintenance of the hybrid cloud environment, as well as be able to integrate new tools and applications. Alongside this assessment, you need to think about what specific business applications you’re going to want/need to use before undergoing migration. It’s also important to think about how you’re going to stay compliant during the transition.

Aside from the practical evaluation, looking at outcomes is going to be the most important thing you do when it comes to making a decision on hybrid cloud. The motivation for most businesses to go hybrid is to increase agility, since this will give you a significant competitive advantage in the market. Single cloud infrastructures struggle to deliver this, and both this set-up and a multi-cloud one lock you into a single vendor. If you don’t like the idea of being tied to one provider for the foreseeable future, and prefer to invite more competition when it comes to your private cloud infrastructure, then hybrid cloud is probably going to sway you.

To make the transition easier consider databases, security infrastructure, and other core services that run both locally and in public clouds. It also makes sense to look at coalescing the multitude of databases into more less variety and fewer versions where possible. Most organizations use hybrid cloud projects as a chance to uplevel their technical capabilities with newer technology.. For example, if scalability and availability are primary concerns, you’ll likely want to explore Distributed SQL options for your private cloud.

Deriving real value

The key to getting the most out of hybrid cloud is to be flexible in your approach. The complexity of moving applications either fully or partially to an off-prem environment can require some compromises, and taking these in your stride will be important. Second to this, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you can identify the right tools and providers to help you migrate and acclimatize well in advance. Trying to get a holistic view of your businesses operations and tension points will make your migration journey much simpler, since you’ll be able to pick the right partners and applications to take your operations to the next level.

More and more small businesses are thinking about their digital infrastructure in the early stages, and we may see this start to change the hybrid cloud archetype. The benefits of flexibility, long-term cost reduction, and security that come with hybrid cloud have rightly received more attention in the wake of the pandemic, as all three of these issues have become more important for businesses. A hybrid cloud may well be the answer to your business problems, but always do your due diligence first and make sure you know exactly what tools and applications are going to help you derive real value, drive revenue, and elevate your businesses success.


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