As businesses grow and users’ IT needs change, data centre admins should consider hybrid cloud and the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS models of IT delivery. But the road to a hybrid cloud infrastructure is fraught with security, cost and standardisation challenges.
Traditionally, IT operations were built to provide for -- what was considered – a steady state operation. IT’s mind-set was that demand is deterministic, varying within a narrow range, and users had to fit their IT needs within this system.
But, as business expanded and technology advanced, the private data centre became more siloed to address the specific applications and business processes. Supporting business change with a traditional approach of buying additional IT equipment has led to increased staff, technology costs and process overheads.
To add to this, current economic uncertainties are also bringing disruptive changes to businesses and how IT supports these are changing. IT is under pressure to reduce costs, develop standardised processes, and respond quickly and flexibly all whilst increasing service levels.
All these factors are transforming how an organisation’s IT infrastructure is built, operated and consumed. IT pros are, therefore, looking to adopt hybrid cloud computing and build an SPI (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) delivery model. In particular, the Software as a Service (SaaS) model helps IT bring flexibility and scalability to their infrastructure as well as address the businesses’ new needs.
Considerations for a hybrid cloud
While moving away from an in-house facility to a SPI cloud service model transforms IT delivery, not all workloads should move to a cloud infrastructure. There are some key requirements that IT must deliver while considering cloud options.
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To move to a hybrid cloud infrastructure, IT must have complete clarity on the economic equation of the reduced costs -- not all processes will meet this criterion.
IT must achieve trust of operations and high service levels while taking measures to avoid data loss and security risks. And equally importantly is to ensure that workloads can be moved to a cloud environment without loss of functionality or downtime.
The service-led cloud computing strategy helps IT be more flexible and reduce capital and operational expenditure. This can be delivered if the platforms offer workload mobility, a key feature of virtualisation.
But such a hybrid cloud model must be supported with security systems that are designed to operate across virtualised platforms. Deploying security paradigms directly from dedicated systems into a virtual environment will create unexpected overheads and not deliver the expected economic gains.
Provisioning resources needs to be standardised, with the overall cloud environment managed to ensure that system performance and service levels are clearly and easily monitored. IT can now manage unplanned events with minimal risk to users and the business.
The next layers of transformation are more challenging to achieve. To take full advantage of the virtualised infrastructure, application platforms need to address the delivery of database and business critical applications. This means IT pros will have to address how SAP, Oracle and other bespoke applications are migrated to a hybrid cloud infrastructure.
It is crucial the IT pros address this issue so that it can manage and secure the end user access across the range of endpoints -- whether they are dedicated terminals, laptops, smartphones or tablets.
Getting started with hybrid cloud
Identifying the processes that will assist in the migration from an in-house data centre to the cloud can be another stumbling block.
But, as always, some of the first solutions are closer to IT. For instance, many organisations have recognised that software development and test is a simple starting point to a cloud service deployment.
Other processes that can benefit from a virtualised infrastructure are server and storage provisioning, data protection, disaster recovery and access controls. Loosely implemented ITIL guidelines have to be hardened to support private cloud implementations for a SaaS strategy.
Cloud admins must address the application support with an adaptive and flexible virtualised platform. Admins can do this by encapsulating operating system images so that applications can run on the virtualised infrastructure without compromising functionality. This will also accelerate the move from fixed function data centre operations to reap increasing rewards from the virtualised private cloud infrastructure.
SaaS, IaaS and PaaS are usually provided via a set of Web services, there are obviously management and security challenges too on the journey to developing a service-oriented strategy.
The top three threats IT will have to deal with with this model are: Web-based application flaws; insecure protocols; and weak credentials.
IT can mitigate these risks and build a secure SaaS model by properly managing their credentials, using proper protocols to protect data and preventing security exposures.
Benefits of a hybrid cloud over an in-house data centre
In-house data centres have serviced the business well but the need to respond to changing business and operational needs is taking users to trusted hybrid cloud infrastructure to deliver services to the business in a timely, cost effective way without compromising service levels. In many cases, service levels are improved through standardisation and automated IT management processes.
This has strong and positive impact on the way IT operates:
- Traditionally, dedicated infrastructures were designed to deliver the range of applications. As the architectural design standards are placed under the spotlight of cost, service level and flexibility, the prerequisite is to design a consolidated multi-tenant cloud infrastructure. As an outcome, this will mitigate risk and bring efficiencies to the delivery of business critical applications on which the business depends.
- Through the build and operational phases, the emphasis was on provisioning and configuring systems as the needs evolved. There were specific monitoring tools to identify any issues arising on order to respond to break fix situations. Within the hybrid cloud infrastructure, IT process engineering places a strong emphasis on consistent and extensive automation procedures.
This supports automated provisioning of resources within given service envelopes, capacity planning and performance management – a hallmark of a cloud-based model
- IT now has the opportunity to move from a reactive, time-consuming break-fix mode to a responsive service delivery model, keeping up with, or helping to lead business and operational change.
Meeting users’ growing expectations of IT service and making the business more competent means IT should consider cloud computing services and develop a service-driven model of IT delivery. Planning to overcome the cost, standards and management issues will help IT make the most of their private cloud-based SPI services.
Hamish Macarthur is the founder of Macarthur Stroud International, a company that provides consultancy and research services on the IT and telecommunication markets. He is also a regular contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK.