The hybrid cloud architecture is an extremely attractive model because it balances the need for increased application performance, improved resource utilization, the speed of delivery of IT resources and cost savings. The option to have some data and legacy applications kept on-premise or in a private cloud, as well the ability to quickly provision, use, and manage IT resources across a compatible public cloud, gives organizations the best of both worlds. A study from hosting giant Rackspace, reports that 50+% of organizations are looking to implement hybrid cloud in the coming years.

The true value of the hybrid cloud is that the architecture functions as an extension of the existing IT environment. This means IT can assign the same governance policies already established for the on-premise or private cloud environment to the hybrid cloud, for a consistent management and application experience.  While the decision to move to a hybrid cloud architecture may be an easy one, planning the migration path to get there is never simple. Organizations looking to adopt a hybrid cloud solution should plan early and often, and look to these best practices for help.

  • Decide what applications to move to the cloud- Because of the flexible nature of the hybrid cloud, nearly any workload can be migrated to the environment. However, there are common themes to look for when prioritizing which should be migrated first, and which ones may make sense to transition in later phases, if at all. One of the first factors in making this decision is to look at the compliance requirements of a specific data set. Highly regulated industries such as banking, financial services or healthcare (i.e. governed by regulations like SOX/J-SOX, HIPPA) have traditionally shied away from a hybrid cloud environment because of security and audit-ready challenges.

Today, however, cloud framework providers like IBM and Vmware are introducing greater compliance controls and data security options. As more cloud providers introduce compliance readiness support and reporting options, hybrid cloud will enter its second wave of growth.

Also, keep in mind that legacy applications that require significant resources to run or would take significant re-tooling to become cloud-ready, may be better suited to run on-premise. That said, because of the adaptive nature of the cloud model, many organization first move development and testing projects to the cloud. By leveraging a unified cloud framework, developers and IT organizations are free to build, test and iterate using preferred tools. Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions can also be run in a hybrid cloud model which speeds deployment and allows for ultimate application scalability.

  • Develop an application architecture plan- Once an organization has prioritized its current IT environment, it’s important to develop a sustainable application architecture strategy. This is used for moving on-premise enterprise applications to the hybrid cloud, such as integration for a line of business apps like SAP, Oracle, SQL Server. Or for solutions such as payment processing, supply chain management tools and HR systems. Application integration methods like RESTful APIs (Representational State Transfer APIs) enable IT, teams, to replicate characteristics of the current IT infrastructure in a cloud environment. Popular RESTful API’s include GoGrid API, Rackspace and Amazon EC2. With this strategy, system architects can better scale applications and build a modular architecture by looking at latency and security of the legacy systems.
  • Reevaluate and refocus on network performance- Organizations should also consider how a hybrid cloud environment will affect traffic patterns over the network. Multipathing is one way IT departments can create multiple routes for data to travel between physical and multi-cloud environments. Talk to cloud providers about solutions to help automate and optimize physical and virtualized data paths. Look for solutions that create predictable and consistent paths for data across the network and for those that can automate failover and recovery, reduce latency and assist with load balancing. This will ensure application availability and high-performance across the complete IT infrastructure.
  • Watch cloud costs carefully- The cost benefits of deploying a hybrid cloud model can quickly evaporate if an organization fails to keep an eye on total cloud spend. One of the most important factors when monitoring cloud costs is to only pay for the cloud resources that are actually needed. While spinning up resources for a testing environment is easy with a cloud model, it’s also very easy to lose track of those resources until an invoice comes from AWS or Google. Many public cloud providers offer cloud cost management tools, however, 3rd-party applications can provide greater visibility. Cloudability is one example of an application that helps enterprises optimize and manage cloud assets and costs.

A successful migration to a hybrid cloud solution is all about preserving current IT investments in applications, infrastructure, networks, governance, and management, while also reaping the benefits of the more agile IT infrastructure. Those companies that create a thoughtful migration plan will get the most value from combining applications from physical and virtual environments. Because we can agree that regardless of where applications and workloads are hosted, they are most accessible, productive and efficient when they work together as a cohesive ecosystem.