Hybrid cloud strategy: 5 expert tips

November 25, 2020

Originally published on The Enterprisers Project.

The dynamic nature of hybrid cloud requires a corresponding willingness to regularly review and update your strategy and its execution. Consider this practical advice on smart moves

Even if your organization at first took an unintentional path to hybrid cloud, it’s not too late to plan for its success.

In fact, even organizations with a robust hybrid cloud strategy already in place sometimes encounter warning signs that they need to revisit and revise. The dynamic nature of hybrid cloud environments requires a corresponding willingness to regularly review and update your strategy and its execution.

Hybrid cloud strategy: 5 keys to success

That said, there are some important fundamentals – ideally in place from the start, but done later is certainly better than never – that will set the stage for ongoing results. We asked several experts for their advice. Here are five tips for hybrid cloud success.

1. Get your own house in order

Mark Jamensky, VP of products for cloud management at Snow, points out that any bad habits or broken processes that have afflicted your on-premises infrastructure and applications are likely to be replicated rather than corrected by a move to cloud outside of your own datacenter.

“If you are early in your hybrid cloud journey, you want to ensure you’ve cleaned up your on-premises environment before you begin to assess and adopt any public cloud,” Jamensky says.

Given that some companies become hybrid shops by “accident,” this kind of housekeeping might need to be done retroactively. We’re talking about things like poor security practices, cost overruns or otherwise mismanaged resources, cultural woes, insufficient tooling, and so forth. (We’ll return to costs and security again below.)

“A few things you can do to prepare include ensuring you are not overprovisioned and implementing or confirming proper processes and procedures are in place,” Jamensky says. “You want to prevent any unexpected cost or security anomalies, especially as you start your initial public cloud adoption.”

Monitoring is a common blind spot, especially if you’re used to a more static infrastructure.

“Your hybrid cloud will be a more dynamic environment,” Jamensky says. “Unlike many aspects of your on-premises-only infrastructure, it’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. You should be prepared to monitor and modify on a real-time basis.”

2. Don’t improvise your spending and cost optimization

Flexibility is one of the names of the game with hybrid cloud, but that shouldn’t be understood as a license to simply wing it. That’s particularly true when it comes to your usage and corresponding spending.

“In terms of cost, understand and model how your workload will use storage, CPU, memory, and network,” says Alexander Freund, president and CEO at 4it, a managed services provider that runs environments for its clients but also its own hybrid cloud. “This is very important to predict the monthly recurring cost.”

We’ve previously shared tips on managing your hybrid cloud costs, as well as some of the misconceptions that can unnecessarily cost you money. Usage and the corresponding costs need continuous monitoring and optimization. Taking a reactive, ad hoc approach out of the gate will inevitably cause bigger problems.

“We have seen plenty of hybrid cloud projects where usage was badly understated, causing all sorts of technical and political problems,” Freund says. “As a result, to contain costs, the cloud infrastructure is then under-configured, causing even more headaches.”

3. Focus on applications as much as infrastructure

Hybrid cloud is commonly thought of as an infrastructure play; by definition, it usually refers to a mix of private cloud, public cloud, bare-metal servers, and/or other services.

[ Want a breakdown of the term? Check out How to explain hybrid cloud in plain English. ]

Success also depends on carefully considering your applications and how they will best run on that infrastructure.

“Most enterprises will likely have a combination of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications, homegrown legacy applications, and newer cloud-native applications,” Jamensky says. “All three of those types of applications will likely be present in your hybrid cloud environment for the foreseeable future, so it’s important to consider where each one of those needs to live in the short-, medium- and long-term.”

There are various organization-specific factors that go into matching the applications and data with their optimal environments, including security, performance, location, and cost. James Miller, CTO and VP of cloud and platform services at DXC Technology, notes that architecture – and specifically the differences between, say, a  microservices-based application and a traditional (or legacy) application – is also a significant factor in determining the best “execution venue” for your workloads.

Miller advises creating an application roadmap as part of your hybrid cloud strategy to best set it up for success. This may be particularly advisable if application modernization is one of your use cases.

“The first step to a successful hybrid cloud strategy is to connect with the business to set clear goals and policies to ensure hybrid cloud is a top priority,” Miller says. “Next, assess applications and the IT estate in order to create a hybrid cloud roadmap.”

According to Miller, the ideal roadmap would ideally address issues such as:

  • Future run costs that create a business case for change
  • Application and workload placement and data locality options
  • Application transformation (or modernization) requirements
  • IT policy and operating model factors

“Ultimately, [the roadmap will] produce clear, data-driven recommendations for execution,” Miller says.

Let’s look at two more smart tips:

4. Be proactive about data governance

Concerns about where data resides are often part of hybrid cloud strategies, but portability isn’t guaranteed. Bring this into your planning – including in areas like vendor selection – as early as possible.

“When considering the cloud providers and the regions within those cloud providers to use as part of your hybrid cloud strategy, data governance will often come into play,” says Gordon Haff, technology evangelist at  Red Hat. “For example, you may want to – or even be required to as a matter of law – store data within a political entity like the European Union or even within your specific country.”

You can’t very well ignore such requirements, but you also shouldn’t let them turn “hybrid cloud” into a codeword for “haphazard collection of disparate tools and environments” as a byproduct of compliance.

“You don’t want requirements like these to result in fragmented and incompatible infrastructure,” Haff says. “Therefore, consider platforms, provisioning tools, and management that provides you with portability and common tooling across distributed pools of data.”

5. Pay strict attention to security

If you have poor security hygiene in your on-premises environments, that will likely proliferate across your hybrid cloud. While any worthwhile cloud platform or service invests heavily in security, that doesn’t mean they’re going to save you (or the people in your organization) from yourself.

Freund points to compromised credentials as one common type of breach: You should expect them to happen and act accordingly.

“If you have an integrated hybrid cloud, a penetration at the cloud layer puts all of your infrastructure at risk,” Freund says. “You should have a unified authentication system for centralizing credentials and permissions, SSO (single sign-on) so end-users are not having to type credentials into each system, and MFA (multi-factor authentication). In addition, you need to have log collection and 24-7 event and alert monitoring in place.”

You’ll also want to build up your knowledge of the native security controls of key platforms or tools. For one cloud-native example,  Kubernetes comes with plenty of robust security features, but they need to be properly configured for your environment.

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