Deliver digital business capabilities

5 Challenges in Deploying Hybrid Cloud Environments

Dipti Parmar
© Shutterstock / Dilok Klaisataporn

What are the challenges you need to be aware of if you’re looking to adopt a hybrid architecture for your computing needs? How can you ensure consistent gains in flexibility, mobility, and ease-of-use across applications and workloads in your SMB or enterprise? There are five important areas of consideration.

The long-standing debate among cloud experts on public cloud vs. private cloud vs. on-premise data centers has pretty much been settled by the market itself.

The winner?

Hybrid cloud – by a long shot. According to the Flexera State of the Cloud Report 2020, 87% of all enterprise organizations now have a hybrid cloud deployment.

Data from research firm Gartner backs that up. However, the path to adopting a hybrid infrastructure is laden with complexities. “Organizations that adopt hybrid infrastructure will optimize costs and increase efficiency. However, it increases the complexity of selecting the right toolset to deliver end-to-end services in a multisourced environment,” proclaimed D. D. Mishra, Research Director at Gartner.

So what are the challenges you need to be aware of if you’re looking to adopt a hybrid architecture for your computing needs? How can you ensure consistent gains in flexibility, mobility, and ease-of-use across applications and workloads in your SMB or enterprise? There are five important areas of consideration here:

SEE ALSO: The four key requirements for building cloud-native apps

1. Migration

The first steps or pilot phase is the most difficult for most organizations when moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure from a data center or public cloud ecosystem. The primary requirement is that mission-critical applications should continue to run seamlessly without disruption.

Further, you need to make sure that associated tools and apps for automation, development and testing, monitoring systems, and databases are all ported to the new system, or that you find equivalent replacements for each of them.

Your CTO or IT team needs to make decisions about:

  • Carrying out the deployment with an in-house team or calling in MSPs or external consultants
  • Tweaking operational requirements of workloads and recalculating OPEX
  • Analyzing performance of business-critical applications
  • Choosing new platforms for testing and development
  • Capacity planning and provisioning of compute, network, and storage resources
  • Financial metering and chargebacks for internal/external tenants of consumption-based services

2. Costs

Any CIO considering the shift to hybrid cloud is probably worried about cost optimization in the IT infrastructure. If you’re migrating from a data center or even a private cloud, you can probably rationalize the shift. However, adding complexity to a public cloud ecosystem that works isn’t easy to justify. Pitfalls include:

  • Capacity utilization turns out to be lower or higher than expected or purchased up to now
  • Unanticipated requirements crop up in certain workloads
  • Smaller (but essential) OPEX for load balancing, data transfer, DR are overlooked
  • Resources are not de-provisioned on time
  • You need to include multiple providers or vendors to achieve your existing functionality or level of operations

The hybrid cloud gives you the ability to identify anomalies in forecasting, governance, and provisioning, while letting you choose a CAPEX or OPEX model for billing. Look for self-service analytics and monitoring tools that let you manage deployment and reduce utilization and costs.

3. Security

Ensuring hybrid cloud security is one of the most tedious, sensitive, and error-prone processes in computing itself. With great flexibility comes great uncertainty – the distributed public and private cloud systems and multiplicity of vendors poses difficulties even in enforcing a single, centralized security and compliance policy, let alone monitoring, configuration, and patching.

These vulnerabilities are amplified in multicloud environments, which is probably what you currently have in your organization. You need to address these security loopholes from the perspectives of visibility, control, and optimization. Here are some quick tips:

  • Data is most vulnerable when it is being transferred between a public and a private cloud from different vendors. Beware of DDoS and man-in-the-middle attacks. Fortify your hardware with hardware security modules (HSMs) and include native software encryption wherever possible.
  • If your workplace allows BYOD or remote work and employees log in to an on-premises data center from multiple remote locations, the threat is compounded by each device that connects to the network. Enforce a Zero Trust Architecture (which stipulates that all users must be verified and all devices validated every time they connect) with multi-factor authentication and conditional access granted in a least-privileged manner.
  • Take a close look at the service level agreement (SLA) that you have with each public and private cloud vendor or MSP that makes up your hybrid cloud environment. This document contains their terms and conditions of service as well as guarantees of system uptime and data availability. Have your legal department take a second look, so you know how to respond in the event of a customer data leak or other incident that can possibly affect your brand reputation.

4. Governance

It’s a given that hybrid cloud is more complex than standalone public cloud or data centers. Therefore, your primary goal should be standardization of processes and operations across each component and cloud system in the whole environment.

As per the RightScale State of the Cloud report, cloud governance was the top challenge for all companies, including SMBs and enterprises, three years in a row – 84 percent of respondents are concerned about governance in their hybrid, multicloud deployments.

More often than not, increased automation and self-service are the answers to governance issues. There are advanced cloud management platforms available today that enable granular and comprehensive management of data, applications, security policies, and resources across the private and public cloud components of the hybrid infrastructure, by creating a unified ‘single pane of glass’ abstraction layer between the admin user and platform-specific services.

5. Compliance

In industries such as health and finance, compliance regulations deem that each public or private component of a hybrid cloud environment needs to be evaluated as a separate system in its own. This means you need to plan for data storage, access, and transfer as well as availability, capacity, and disaster recovery right from the initial stages of consideration.

All these might call for additional training for IT personnel as well as department leaders in addition to re-skilling for compliance-specific tools, apps, and processes. You also need to make sure the vendors and providers you use meet the appropriate industry standards and possess the certificates required to comply with the applicable government regulations.

Finally, don’t ignore your own people; everyone who accesses company data at different levels and roles needs to understand how their tasks and actions on the company network affect business activities, government regulations, and larger outcomes.

SEE ALSO: Readjusting Cloud and Data Privacy Predictions

Over to You

“Demand for strategic cloud service outcomes signals an organizational shift toward digital business outcomes. The expectations of the outcomes associated with cloud investments, therefore, are also higher,” said Sid Nag, VP of Research at Gartner.

The more you understand overall business goals (and how various systems that make up your IT infrastructure help meet these goals), the better chances of success you will have in deploying a hybrid cloud model, because then you’ll be building on the immense strengths of cloud technology to deliver digital business capabilities.

Dipti Parmar
Dipti Parmar is an experienced marketing and technology consultant, helping startups, ecommerce companies and B2B SaaS brands establish thought leadership in their industry, with innovative strategies and digital transformation initiatives through her agency 99stairs. Dipti is also a columnist for leading business and tech publications such as IDG's, Entrepreneur Mag, Adobe's, and Inc. When she's not drinking her team's blood (figuratively), she is busy telling vampire stories to little girls who like Disney princesses. She is @dipTparmar on Twitter.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments