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Migration, workflow fluidity among hybrid cloud challenges

It's not easy to migrate data and apps in a hybrid cloud environment. Despite the challenges, the rewards are worth the effort for many businesses.

The rise of cloud computing is a boon to AWS as well as other public cloud providers. Enterprises of all sizes are adopting hybrid cloud environments for storage and a variety of workloads. And there are several reasons to adopt a hybrid cloud, many of which mirror the benefits of public cloud but allow enterprises to team those advantages with the added security and control of an on-premises private cloud.

Hybrid cloud allows enterprises to cut costs, run workloads efficiently, develop applications in the most suitable environment and pursue the proper levels of security and controls for end users and data. By relying on the strengths of a particular public and private cloud provider, businesses can develop their own cloud cocktail -- a blend of services specifically designed to help them succeed.

Here's the rub: Going hybrid can be a headache. Data and workload migration can be arduous, and not all cloud workloads are interoperable from one cloud service provider to another. Identifying and overcoming these hybrid cloud challenges are key to maintaining an effective cloud environment. We answer several common hybrid cloud computing questions for enterprises looking to make the switch.

What are the biggest hybrid cloud challenges during integration?

When creating a hybrid cloud using AWS as the public cloud component, the long-term benefits -- scalability, app flexibility and resource management -- are delayed by the initial hybrid hurdles, such as application migration, management and API support. A misstep along the way can swiftly negate the benefits of a hybrid cloud and leave an enterprise with a disjointed, expensive and inefficient cloud operation. Remember: Enterprises with both public and private clouds that lack the ability to move workloads between the two, or lack visibility and control over all associated workloads, don't have a hybrid cloud; they just have two separate cloud environments.

Administrators should have a thorough plan in place before getting their hands dirty in deploying a hybrid cloud, right down to determining the cost benefit of going hybrid to identifying the proper workloads to move. It's particularly important to envision a plan for applications spanning a hybrid infrastructure, as numerous factors -- load balancing, I/O requirements and IP address allocation, for example -- need to be considered.

Should enterprises move legacy apps to the public cloud?

Many applications can benefit from a move to a scalable cloud environment, but some legacy apps are better served on-premises. Enterprises performing cost analyses sometimes find better performance per dollar running some workloads in their private data centers compared to the cost of regularly running EC2 instances. Lightweight applications can receive more direct performance and cost benefits in AWS, while large single-server workloads might run up the monthly cloud bill.

Contractual obligations for on-premises hardware can further limit app migration to the public cloud, as the cost to break a deal may be outweighed by any monetary benefit offered by AWS. Enterprises with these types of limitations can likely still find a hybrid cloud use case, such as cloud-based disaster recovery for apps and infrastructure.

How can we migrate data or workloads from one cloud to another?

Cloud customers using VMware can already import VMs into AWS using the AWS Management Portal for vCenter. Native tools for hybrid cloud migration are still somewhat limited in functionality, particularly as they apply to complex, multilayered applications from one cloud to another.

While both AWS and VMware are upping the ante with improved native tools, a healthy third-party market for migration tools exists to give enterprises a leg up on moving data and apps between cloud services. Some vendors, including Unitrends, Racemi and Zerto, are helping to piece together the migration puzzle and can inform admins which data and workflows will migrate more smoothly, though no one tool is a perfect fit for all businesses.

What networking and security complications can arise post-migration?

There's no time for a victory lap after deploying a hybrid cloud. Operating a hybrid cloud successfully means ensuring that data within both public and private clouds the enterprises runs are secure. And each cloud service provider has different features and philosophies regarding security.

For example, there are fundamental networking differences between VMware and AWS. And that doesn't even get into network bandwidth concerns going from on-premises to a public cloud when migrating data, which can further bog down workflows. All these complications, however, can pale in comparison to a rigid corporate culture. IT teams need to be flexible, constantly working to understand and integrate the full scope of services and technology available to improve the business.

What are some examples of successful hybrid cloud management?

With all these hybrid cloud challenges, it's easy to see how businesses can fail -- or, at least, stumble -- when it comes to establishing a hybrid environment. But succeeding in hybrid cloud management puts the business in a strong position to succeed.

FlightStats Inc., chose to operate a hybrid cloud with differentiated features between private and public environments; the global data service company aimed at the aviation space monitors a billion transactions per day. To accomplish this, the FlightStats IT team built custom modules for SaltStack, an open source configuration management tool, one of few deployment tools that lays across both of its environments. These modules, among other things, detect and can automatically fix errors.

Getty Images Inc., a visual communications company, switched from a VMware-centric approach -- adding AWS and OpenStack environments for its global operations. While the IT staff at Getty Images is readying for moving apps from AWS to OpenStack, it remains dependent on AWS and has the skills to back it up, building custom CloudFormation templates and Auto Scaling groups.

Where do containers fit into the hybrid cloud model?

Hybrid clouds can make sense for many businesses, helping them to avoid lock-in, providing more secure computing options and lowering cloud costs. The benefits of a hybrid environment point to increased demand in the future, and more tools will likely surface to overcome hybrid cloud barriers and meet business needs.

Docker is still in its infancy, but the containerization technology shows promise as a hybrid cloud tool, thanks to its portability between dissimilar infrastructures. Container management continues to develop with Docker and other cloud providers working on the next stages of the technology.

Native tools are sure to develop as well, as cloud providers become less concerned with finding wholesale options than helping customers find hybrid harmony. While AWS, Azure and other cloud providers certainly appreciate all the business they can get, the cloud culture is moving toward playing nice among providers.

Next Steps

Tools smooth move from VMware to AWS

AWS migration tools leave lock-in concerns

AWS CodeDeploy helps support hybrid environment

This was last published in December 2015

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