By Zahid Jiwa, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems
Traditionally many organisations were sceptical of cloud computing. The thought of having data in a remote, seemingly insecure location caused plenty to be hesitant. However, by now most organisations have embraced the cloud concept and have in some capacity encompassed cloud computing into their overall strategy. Moving forward however, with increased efficiency the order of the day, CIO’s and IT organisations that adopt hybrid cloud environments will be able to enjoy new levels of flexibility whilst maximising the productivity of cloud services.
In many situations, IT organisations need the ability to run both a private infrastructure with specific applications on-premises and a cloud service that hosts additional applications, files or databases. Hybrid cloud provides IT with the ultimate in flexibility and control. In fact, IT departments shouldn’t be doing anything going forward that doesn’t provide choice to provision IT where it needs to be. Selecting technology options that are exclusively on-premises or exclusively public/private cloud could send an IT organisation down a dead-end path, as that ultimately results in restrictions.
The question is, “How should organisations plan where applications should run, be that in the cloud or on-premises?” For those organisations that need to fire up a new IT project straight away to get early feedback, test the system, and get the business engaged with what they are going to be delivering, then public cloud enables a very rapid start. It really is that simple. There are no configurations, no firewalls or bandwidth considerations to contend with, building an application in the cloud can start immediately. Public cloud is without a doubt the quickest way to build early prototypes. At the same time, it is also a highly optimised environment for mobile. If a company is building mobile apps and needs to get them out quick, there is no easier way to do this than in a public cloud, which delivers ubiquitous accessibility.
The beauty of a hybrid environment is that IT has options. IT departments can start – build, test and initially deploy in the cloud – then if desired for any reason, the application(s) can be brought back on-premises. The advantages of starting in the cloud is that this gives IT time to properly scope the infrastructure and understand the business requirement – how many users are going to be adopting the new application, how much bandwidth they will require, etc. With hybrid cloud, entire infrastructure does not have to be built from day one.
So why else would an organisation chose a hybrid cloud environment? Often, hybrid makes sense when organisations have heavy back-end data integration requirements. In this situation, there may be the need for all or part of a particular application to run on private cloud or on-premises. The on-premises piece of the application integrates with back-end systems, which can do all the heavy lifting and pass data back, via web services, to the front-end running in the cloud. Some organisations also have data sovereignty issues (e.g. cannot permit data to reside on services outside the EU), and this is when a hybrid environment can provide data isolation on internal infrastructure while using front-end servers to provide ubiquitous access. This deployment scenario enables companies to have certain data and apps to be as close to the end-user access point as required, which may also be the optimal choice from a latency perspective.
Other organisations want to take advantage of cloud bursting to handle infrequent but significant load spikes without having to over-purchase in their internal infrastructure. For example, an organisation may have an accounts payable application that runs comfortably in an on-premises environment until the end-of-quarter, when extra horsepower is needed to handle the load. In this situation, the application can be pushed to an external cloud, utilising its elasticity. Ultimately, the organisation bursts its ability to handle the increase that quarter-end demands but once complete, the application simply folds back on-premises.
Another good example is seasonality. Retail organisations periodically move into the cloud to deal with sudden spikes in business. Let’s face it, in retail if a slowdown fulfilling orders will result in lost customers in this sometimes commodity business, this is when retailers need to scale out the front-end to continue delivering a great consumer experience. With the advent of mobile and web, where consumers have so much choice available at the click of a button, businesses have to maintain a maximum acceptable response time of two seconds. Ten months out of the year, an on-premises infrastructure can easily handle the load. During the peak months of November and December, that demand is multiplied by 10 and is precisely when response time must be at its best. However, to build an on-premises architecture optimised for just two months is prohibitively expensive. The most cost-effective way to have the ability to scale up when sales are up is to take applications out to the public cloud. Then when that spike drops, which in retail is inevitable, organisations can bring it all back in-house.
In summary, if organisations want to build and deploy applications more quickly, more cost effectively, and with more control, then a hybrid cloud environment delivers the ultimate choice, flexibility and speed. IT organisations can move very quickly, firing up projects without having to wait for the operational side of the business to catch up. Or, the cloud can be used to scale and flex to meet business demands. The components only need to be hosted in a public cloud where it makes absolute commercial and operational sense. In this way, IT organisations effectively maximise their on-premises or private cloud environment. It’s a win-win. Predictions for hybrid cloud are topping the analyst lists for 2015, and this prediction will exceed expectations.