As hybrid cloud technologies steadily mature, IT managers are developing a growing list of best practices to help them migrate to and gain value from this approach. Industry experts offer several recommendations for starting the journey.
Simply moving every application to the cloud may result in poor and unreliable performance for those that aren’t ready to leave internal data centers. “Not all applications are ideal for the cloud,” says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “High-value programs and those with complex integrations to other systems will continue to do best in a private cloud. Less critical and complex software can by all means move to the public. The appropriateness of cloud for everything else should be sorted out on a case-by-case basis.”
The sorting process starts with running automated discovery tools that probe onsite data centers to identify all existing workloads. IT managers should then analyze the characteristics of each workload for its fit within a cloud environment. Factors to consider include any restrictions created by regulatory rules, such as those that specify the geographical locations where sensitive data must be stored. Also, IT managers should consider service levels required by business users. The latencies that may arise after moving performance-sensitive applications offsite may be a dealbreaker for some cloud users.
“Once they’ve been able to gather this information, the IT staff can then start working out which is the right target platform — be it public cloud, an on-premises private cloud or a traditional infrastructure,” says Sean Sargent, worldwide data center solution architect at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “Next, look at potentially transforming some of those workloads to better exploit the platform where they’re going to be deployed.”
For example, IT managers should consider using containers to smooth migrations. A growing number of IT leaders are wrapping their existing applications within Docker and other containerization products to make them more portable. “Once they’re in containers, existing programs can run in a private cloud or move to the public cloud anytime that becomes more viable,” Sargent says.
He adds that instead of containerizing an entire legacy application, some organizations see greater efficiency by breaking up large applications into containerized microservices and running them in hybrid environments.
At this point, enterprises are ready to do actual workload migrations. “Once they’re in the target environment, focus on optimizing the workflows,” Sargent advises. “Make sure that the appropriate tools and processes are in place to automate the workflows as effectively as possible and achieve the level of agility needed to meet new business requirements.”
Not all the upfront work is technical. IT managers also need to build a strong business case for hybrid cloud investments. To do this, they must look beyond the cost impact of cloud.
In some cases, lower capital spending and less management overhead can mean financial savings, but the cloud may be right even when the savings are a wash. Other compelling business reasons may be a need for greater agility when responding to market demands. Alternatively, a firm may need additional resources to help it establish higher levels of uptime to maintain customer confidence. “First, look at requirements that are unique to your business, then measure the return on investment against those goals,” says Lawrence Guillory, chief executive officer of Racemi, a provider of software and services for automating server migrations to the cloud.
That said, costs can’t be ignored when making the business case. To help estimate service fees when moving a workload to the cloud, Racemi and others offer software agents that collect information about production environments and then create model synthetic workloads. IT managers can then run the simulated code in a public cloud to gain a clearer idea of actual costs if they decide to migrate.
Compelling business cases and more mature solutions are making hybrid clouds more attractive than ever as IT managers work to turn digital disruption into a positive force for their businesses.