The Risks and Rewards of a Hybrid Cloud

Remember when the cloud was the new big thing? Then private clouds where all the rage. Now we are inundated with talk of hybrid clouds which combine private and public clouds into one unified system.

Before we talk about why hybrid clouds sound so great, we should touch on why private clouds are so compelling.  With the help of server virtualization, you take your own infrastructure and make it cloud-like – basically turn it into a utility. But you control the whole thing and, because it is local, you have full control of its performance.

The problem is that as demand grows you have to scale up the private cloud by adding more resources – even if you only need those resources every now and again. At the same time, there are services you want in the easy-access public cloud (because users can get to the cloud from anywhere) but you still  want these applications and data linked to your on-premises applications.

Thus the hybrid cloud was born. If you need more capacity than your private cloud can muster, you can have a public cloud service that you ‘burst’ over to. In other cases, you want to distribute your application between your private cloud and a third-party public cloud service. One example is backup where your primary storage is in-house and you have another tier of backup in the cloud with no need for extra infrastructure. And Microsoft Office 365 is another prime example – you can work on and store documents on your PC, or have them shareable and accessible via the cloud.

These benefits are why hybrid clouds are so popular. According to the Hybrid Cloud Market” report, the market for hybrid clouds will leap from $33.28 billion in 2016 all the way to $91.74 billion by 2021. That represents a sweet Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 22.5% for those years.

But while clouds, whether public or private, make things appear simple to the end user, they are complex to undertake and to manage. Add in more than one hybrid architecture and your worries more than double.

There are plenty of challenges to a successful hybrid cloud implementation, and each can be overcome to make way for hybrid-cloud nirvana.

A hybrid cloud generally starts with the creation of a private cloud. Here your servers are typically fully virtualized and orchestration tools make it all work as a single unit. The next step is to find a public cloud vendor that has options that fit your private cloud.

Performance Problems

With a private cloud, it is relatively easy to insure performance. You know the speed of your servers, disks and LAN connections. This is a baseline measure of performance. You also understand the maximum capacity of your resources and have direct control in terms of which IT services are consuming which of these resources. On top of that, you can have performance monitoring and management tools that look for problems.  Of course these tools have to be built or optimized to deal with virtual machines of every stripe and flavor.

The integration of the public cloud adds another wrinkle – you have the cloud service itself plus your WAN connections that impact actual performance. That’s why apps that are distributed via a hybrid cloud can be far slower than when run solely on a private cloud. The same is true for private applications that ‘burst’ to the public in times of stress – here the public portion can be slower than what runs in-house.

There is a need for 360O visibility into the performance across public, private and hybrid infrastructure. With hybrid, IT has to deal with a bevy of variable factors, including your network, internal servers, virtual machines, and applications, that need to be monitored to keep track of all your cloud services.

Performance issues can come from a number of sources. It could be a router issue, a VM using too many resources, an application malfunctioning, or another infrastructure component causing the degradation.

You don’t get the visibility you need using traditional siloed monitoring tools (network monitoring, application monitoring, etc.), making it time consuming and  difficult to pinpoint the true root cause of any individual performance issues.

However, with this visibility, coupled with the right remediation tools, you can spot problems and rectify them quickly. Visibility is also instructive – by understanding overall performance you know whether you need to upgrade the underlying infrastructure.

Security in a Hybrid World

The more complex hybrid cloud architecture creates a larger attack vector for hackers, so flexible security is also of the essence.

All the security issues that you face in an on-premises world are at work when you go hybrid – with the unwelcome addition of cloud and internet security concerns. The difference with the cloud is that your data is potentially reachable more easily by more people. While your service provider should help secure your cloud data, you need to make sure there is strong authentication and that your data is encrypted when in transit.

First, you have to secure all three elements of your hybrid infrastructure, private, public and hybrid – including all the network transmissions between these pieces. Next you have to deal with incidents across these pieces. Even if your data center help/service desk is in order, you need a plan to deal with pure cloud incidents. For instance, many large breaches are of data such as credit card and personal data are compromised in the cloud.

Finding the cause of problems, though, is suddenly more complex. Which portion of this complex architecture actually holds the problem? Part of this is requiring your cloud service provider to have their house in order and spot problems from within their complex multi-tenant system.

The part you definitely want to control is the network that supports your private cloud connections to the service provider. Here monitoring the connections for performance, doing root-cause analysis and fixing problems is critical so the hybrid cloud works to satisfaction.

There are two other important elements – encryption and access control. With a hybrid cloud, data is constantly shuffling between the private and public systems. The data should be encrypted so it’s not vulnerable while in transit.

Data access is also more complex. Here you’ll need to step up your identity management and authentication game. Multi-factor (MFA) or Two-factor authentication (TFA) is a must. Even with TFA, good password policies are still critical, such as enforcing complex passwords and keeping them regularly changed.

Keep the Hybrid Cloud Network Running Fast and Smooth with Kaseya Traverse

Hybrid cloud infrastructure is complex. Private clouds are based on virtualization, and to properly monitor you need tools that support virtual technologies such as VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Xen and KVM.

To have a holistic view, the same monitoring tool must support key cloud infrastructure offers such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, as well as CloudStack and OpenStack-based services.

This is exactly the role that Kaseya Traverse plays. Its deep, unified monitoring lets IT pros see where performance problems lie, and through root-cause analysis supports remediation. The same understanding of performance allows IT to predict future needs and plan network upgrades accordingly.

The result is that Traverse keeps business critical hybrid networks working at peak efficiency. “In today’s complex hybrid cloud environments, MSPs, SMBs and large enterprises alike require a solution such as Traverse to help them reduce downtime for their IT services,” said Mike Puglia, chief product officer of Kaseya. “The days of monitoring servers and routers in an isolated silo are gone. Businesses today require tools such as Traverse that offer real-time tracking and correlation of the business impact these devices have on overall IT services.”

More importantly, Traverse maintains mappings of relationships between hosts, guests, applications and services, to support service-centric monitoring of virtualized environments.

One customer believes that Traverse keeps them on the leading edge. “The monitoring needs of leading edge companies have evolved due to the rapid adoption of cloud services. Legacy tools simply can no longer keep up,” said Sunil Bhatt, CTO of Allied Digital. “With innovative capabilities such as integrated multi-tenant net-flow, network configuration management and SLA modules, Kaseya Traverse offers an integrated, unified monitoring solution for the new generation of digitally transformed companies.”

AuthAnvil Authentication for Hybrid Environments

With hybrid clouds, you have two complex environments that both need access control and password management. Kaseya AuthAnvil solves this problem with Multi-Factor Authentication, secure remote access and Single Sign-On (SSO) that works both on-premises and in the cloud.

At the same time, strong password policies are carefully enforced, not only keeping your hybrid environment secure, but helping you stay in compliance and be ready in the case of an audit.

Get more AuthAnvil details here.


Posted by Doug Barney
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.
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