When Qdoba Mexican Eats separated from its former parent company, it needed to quickly build its own data infrastructure. Hybrid cloud made the most sense, says Director of Infrastructure and Security Gary Burgess.

Sep 20 2023

Why Most Businesses Now Run Hybrid Cloud Environments

The benefits of mixing public cloud with internal data centers or private clouds include increased flexibility, computing power and scalability.

When Jack in the Box sold Qdoba Mexican Eats to a private equity firm five years ago, Qdoba needed to quickly detach from its former parent company and build out a new IT infrastructure.

The solution was hybrid cloud.

Gary Burgess, Qdoba’s director of infrastructure and security, migrated most of the company’s applications and data to Microsoft Azure, moved email and storage online to Microsoft 365, and then shifted the remaining applications to a private cloud.

“We made the decision to not do anything local. Our goal was to modernize and go with Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service in the cloud as much as possible,” he says. “The areas where we had old-school legacy applications that we couldn’t lift and put into Azure, we put those into the private cloud provider’s data center.”

Recent surveys show that most organizations have adopted hybrid cloud, a combination of public cloud, private cloud and on-premises data centers. The benefits of the cloud for businesses are well known and include easier scalability, improved business agility and security, simplified management, and access to high-end data and analytics services that are otherwise unavailable to any but the largest enterprises.

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In other cases, it can makes sense for companies to keep workloads in-house in a data center or private cloud for performance, latency, compliance, cost and other reasons. 

“Organizations are trying to find the right deployment model for the right workload,” says IDC analyst Ashish Nadkarni.

For example, companies wanting to adopt high-end capabilities like artificial intelligence may use the public cloud to get the computing power they need because buying servers with graphics processing units is expensive, he says. But if they have existing databases running critical business functions on-premises, they may need to keep them in their own environment or private cloud.

LEARN MORE: Find out how to optimize your connection to the hybrid cloud.

Qdoba’s Public and Private Cloud Strategy

Qdoba, a fast-casual Mexican restaurant with 740 locations in the U.S. and Canada, standardized on Azure as its public cloud provider because of its ease of use and the many Microsoft SQL Server databases the company uses to run business operations, Burgess says.

“We owned a lot of SQL core licensing, which allows us to move into Azure via their hybrid-use benefit,” he says.

He and his team spent a year migrating applications and data to Azure, including Active Directory and endpoint security management. They subscribed to Microsoft 365 for email and did away with file servers in favor of OneDrive. Legacy apps that they couldn’t move to Azure were placed in a private cloud.

“It was the craziest 12 months of my life. We were focused on migrations and were working 16-hour days,” he recalls.

Today, about 70 percent of Qdoba’s apps and data are on the public cloud. Burgess plans to retire the remaining legacy apps within the next year and a half. “The goal is to move 100 percent to the public cloud,” he says. 

To improve application and data access in the cloud, Burgess and his team have spent the past two years modernizing the company’s network infrastructure by adopting SD-WAN and upgrading the switches and Wi-Fi access points at each restaurant with new cloud-managed Cisco Meraki equipment.

The new SD-WAN solution, directly connects Qdoba’s restaurants to both the private cloud and Azure’s data centers and the Internet. For security, Burgess implemented Cisco Umbrella, a suite of security tools that secures users, endpoints and corporate data.

“We wanted to get away from the traditional backhaul approach and have direct connectivity from restaurants to our cloud and Software as a Service providers,” he says.

Gary Burgess
We made the decision to not do anything local. Our goal was to modernize and go with Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service in the cloud as much as possible.”

Gary Burgess Director of Infrastructure and Security, Qdoba Mexican Eats

What Is the Benefit of a Consistent Hybrid Cloud Strategy?

Hybrid cloud raises questions about interoperability, management, complexity, cost and data governance. Many analysts and technology providers say that hybrid cloud requires a unified tool to deploy, manage and monitor workloads between public and private clouds and internal data centers.

“Hybrid cloud is about having a consistent management strategy, a single pane of glass, but there is a lot of work involved,” Nadkarni says. "It’s not an off-the-shelf solution.”

That said, some companies, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, feel it’s unnecessary to deploy a unified management platform.

“We are not that big, so from a management standpoint, it’s easy for us to manage the different environments,” says BJ Gardner, manager of IT operations and infrastructure for Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance.

PLM has standardized on VMware’s virtualization software on-premises and in its private cloud, and it uses VMware Site Recovery Manager software to back up its on-premises data center to its private cloud. Recently, it began using Microsoft Azure to build a data warehouse for analytics.


The percentage of organizations that use hybrid cloud today

Source: Flexera, "2023 State of the Cloud Report"

The Philadelphia-based company’s move to the cloud was gradual. Between 2007 and 2010, PLM, which provides property and casualty insurance to the lumber, woodworking and building material industries, migrated key applications to Software as a Service providers, including its policy and claims systems and Microsoft 365 for email.

Through VMware’s vCenter software, Gardner and his team manage about 40 virtual machines in the private cloud, including file servers and an imaging app that stores digitized content such as customer policies. The on-premises data center, with two Fujitsu servers running about 20 VMs, houses the company’s accounting application along with Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Domain Name System (DNS) and print servers.

In the future, the company wants to decommission its on-premises data center, and depending on the system or application, migrate those resources either to the private cloud or Azure. But for now, the architecture works.

“The cloud allows us to focus on innovation and improving the application experience for users instead of dealing with the manual, monotonous task of installing and maintaining servers,” Gardner says.

Quality Bicycle Products Goes Hybrid with VMware

When its colocation provider was shutting down operations five years ago, Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minn., decided to migrate core applications to VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services.

Systems Architect Joe Van Ert and his team educated themselves on the cloud, spent six months planning and testing, and then migrated their enterprise resource planning and other core business apps in three months. The company used Veeam Backup & Replication software to move the apps.

“We were able to lift and shift our VMs on the VMware stack to VMware Cloud on AWS with minimal downtime,” he says. 

Not everything was moved, however. The company’s software developers rearchitected its website to take advantage of containers and VMware Cloud’s services, which made its online store more scalable, redundant and feature-rich, Van Ert says.

Its IT department moved some applications into an in-house data center for performance and latency reasons, such as warehouse robot management and warehouse tracking systems, print, DNS and DHCP servers and endpoint security management software.

Originally, Van Ert wanted tight integration between the VMware Cloud and his own data center because he was migrating apps. But today, while VMware offers central management software, he wants both environments separated for security reasons.

“If someone gets into my on-premises systems, I’d hate it if they could use that to leapfrog to my cloud system or vice versa,” he says. “I’d rather have my VMware environments isolated.”

When needed, he still uses Veeam to move apps and data between platforms.

Overall, Van Ert likes hybrid cloud’s benefits. By having an on-premises data center, the company doesn’t have to spend an extra $100,000 a year in public cloud costs because the internal data center’s hardware and software licenses are paid for.

But VMware Cloud on AWS also brings great value, he says. Business groups can quickly pursue new projects because the cloud offers flexible amounts of computing, storage and RAM. “The improved agility and ability to scale resources in the cloud is so powerful,” he says.

EXPLORE: How businesses have changed the way they manage hybrid clouds.

Photography by Matthew Furman

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