Squaring the hybrid cloud circle: Getting the best out of all scenarios

There is clearly a growing need and place for both public and private clouds. But users are increasingly looking for solutions that give them the best of all worlds by seamlessly interconnecting the two together into hybrid solutions. In addition, many organisations need to encompass legacy IT systems so that they operate as seamlessly as possible alongside the hybrid cloud environment. 

It’s a tall order. However, there are already clear signs that such transformative solutions are making the step from concept to reality.

For one, some of the major public cloud providers are stepping up to make the development and deployment of hybrid solutions more straightforward. The newly launched Microsoft Azure Stack, for example, is intended to allow organisations to run Azure IaaS and PaaS services directly within their own data centres, whether in-house or in their chosen colocation facility.

On paper, this allows organisation to enjoy the full range of public Azure services on their own hardware, while also moving private workloads seamlessly between their chosen data centre and the Azure public cloud. The major advantages here are continued ownership of core and mission critical applications in a private cloud while also receiving the added benefits of continuous software updating and automated backups delivered with Azure public cloud service.

Such initiatives are clearly essential for getting hybrid clouds well and truly off the ground. There are many organisations out there, especially more heavily regulated ones, demanding the retention of private cloud infrastructures and certain legacy systems. An organisation might be happy enough using an Internet-based public cloud development platform for testing new applications, but not once it goes into production.

In practice, whether in-house or off-premise, the data centres supporting these hybrids will need to be equipped with fit for purpose IT infrastructure, suitable cooling and sufficient power to scale and manage the increasing draw of high density racks. They will also need highly skilled engineering personnel on hand as hybrid clouds are complex animals and cannot be built, tested and managed successfully without suitable facilities and training. High levels of physical and cyber security are also going to be of more importance than ever.         

But, above all, as demand for hybrid cloud environments continues to grow data centres must meet user expectations for application responsiveness and predictability. With the considerable amounts of data moving back and forth between the public and private cloud environments, and possibly legacy systems, a hybrid approach brings both latency considerations and the cost of connectivity  sharply into focus.

Taking Azure Stack as a working example, it is not designed to work on its own, rather alongside Azure Public Cloud as a peer system.  Therefore, latencies between the Azure Stack system and the Azure Public Cloud will determine how fast and seamless a hybrid cloud system is once deployed. 

Trans-facility networking

However, few private data centres will be able to afford to run the dedicated network links necessary for assuring consistent performance on an ongoing basis for workloads that may have variable resource needs.  While for ‘standard’ interlinks between existing Microsoft environments and Azure Public Cloud, Microsoft offers ExpressRoute as a low-latency dedicated connection, it is only available as a trunk connection to certain colocation, public cloud and connectivity operators.  These can connect directly with ExpressRoute at core data centre speeds and so largely eliminate latency issues and ensure bandwidth is optimised.

For those private or colocation data centres not directly connected, the only alternative is to find an equivalent fast and predictable connection from their facility to an ExpressRoute partner end point to make use of the system. As such, organisations using ExpressRoute for their own private data centre will still have to deal with any latency and speed issues in the ‘last mile’ between their facility and their chosen ExpressRoute point of presence.  This is the case even where connectivity providers are offering ExpressRoute to a private or colocation facility as they are layering their own connectivity from the edge of their network and the ExpressRoute core to the edge of the user network. 

In addition, if an organisation is planning on using a colocation facility for hosting some or all the hybrid cloud environment but keeping legacy workloads operating in its own data centre, the colo must offer a range of diverse connectivity options. Multiple connections running in and out of the facility will assure maximum performance and resilience.

In summary, the major cloud providers and data centre providers are working hard to meet growing demand for ‘best of all worlds’ hybrid cloud solutions. However, delivering the predictable and seamlessly interconnected public, private and legacy environments that users really want will call for fit for purpose trans-facility networking. This is essential for squaring the circle and enabling the unified fully automated computing environments enterprise organisations are searching for.