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Blog | Apr 13, 2017

The Five W's of Modern IT Infrastructure: Where is Your Cloud?

The Five W’s of Modern IT Infrastructure: Where is Your Cloud?

Our blog series discusses the foundational questions to consider for building your hybrid cloud environment today

Author: Dan Robinson, Senior Engagement Manager, TriCore Solutions

In the last year alone, public cloud has become an increasingly viable option for companies: security fears have subsided in exchange for a growing acceptance of the benefits public cloud environments offer. The cloud has reached a point of maturity as large enterprises begin putting tier 1 applications in third party public clouds such as AWS; something that even just a few years ago would have been unheard of. 

The Five W's of Modern IT Infrastructure: Where is Your Cloud?

Though companies are more willing than ever to consider migrating to the cloud, they shouldn’t join the movement without good reason. Too often, companies haven’t developed a strategy, even a loose one, as to their approach for adopting public cloud technologies and solutions. Once diving deeper into concrete goals and desired infrastructure design and results, IT leaders realize there are scenarios where the move makes sense – and yet, others where a local data center or working within a private cloud environment with a managed service provider carries more value. There’s no crystal ball to predict what will happen in the future, but with the right logic, companies can evaluate why they’re making the move, where different workloads, applications, and platforms are moving, what is most appropriate to move, who will help them get there, and how it’ll be accomplished.

All About Hybrid

If your company is considering moving to the cloud, you’ll almost always be creating a hybrid environment: whether leveraging a third party-hosted private cloud or working directly with a public cloud provider like Azure or AWS, a combination of private and public cloud will be leveraged. To complicate things further, multi-tenant instances via a third party proprietary cloud or even AWS can be considered a private cloud environment: either your data center is spinning up to AWS or a vendor’s cloud is hosted there, as well.

Though many standard definitions of private cloud describe it as on-premise, local virtualized servers, that is beginning to change. And, as more companies reduce their total cost of ownership by eliminating the requirement of owning and managing their own physical data centers and partnering with a managed service provider, IT leaders are afforded more room to explore alternatives that meet their needs.

However, as domain experts of their own infrastructure, IT leaders can be paralyzed by the “what-ifs” of cloud; when, in reality, a combination of public and private clouds provide more flexibility to make decisions as data demands as well as business and IT requirements change.

Companies will have different thresholds and barriers to entry: for example, companies who have created their own software, SaaS solutions or mobile apps can hit the ground running in public cloud, having established their foundation in this environment. Not all companies will be able to be as agile – nor do they need to be. What matters is that the conditions meet the outcomes, and that IT leaders think through the reasons why they’ve selected the environments they’re seeking. And as open source solutions become more prevalent, more companies can leverage the benefits of public cloud as part of their hybrid infrastructure right out of the gate, whether for a web, database or application server.

Leading cloud providers are eager to remove any obstacles preventing prolonged use of cloud. As they make the process easier and more secure, companies can let go of the perceived risks of the cloud. Then what?

Finding the Optimal Mix of Public and Private Cloud in Your Hybrid Environment

The decision to opt for information to reside in public over private cloud – or vice versa – is not inherently good or bad. There are benefits to both, based on the following factors:

1) Cost. Hosting your servers in the cloud isn’t always cheaper, nor can all of the perks of the cloud be applied in every scenario. Some applications aren't designed to take advantage of the bells and whistles available in the cloud, like auto-scaling, for example. What might make cloud more cost effective may be restricted by the applications or workloads being moved: for a high-volume, steady-state application, AWS could lead to exorbitant costs and usage-based platforms – like a global Oracle instance, for example – will have downsides, as well. Other third party hosted clouds offer a flat rate, which can pay dividends in this context. Different business cases require different solutions to build an optimal hybrid environment that saves IT teams time and money – it’s never a one-size-fits all approach to brokering the right cost that meets your needs.

2) Flexibility. Having the ability to flip the switch that moves data over to a cloud at a moment’s notice helps companies scale. For a company that relies on a few high-volume, seasonal peaks in e-commerce sales, for example, less than a dozen days per year may make up a predominant percentage of total online orders. Having the capability to manage volume overflow through as-needed “bursts” of orders processed in the cloud helps companies get through these peaks without breaking their sites. Hybrid cloud is the way to go in this case so that the day-to-day operations in the data center can be augmented by public cloud when the need arises.

3) Build or buy? At first glance, building your own data center can be appealing: again, the element of control is attractive, albeit to the most conservative IT leaders. Building your own virtual data center may be less expensive initially, as may working directly with AWS rather than through a third party. However, the devil is in the details: the success of these environments hinge on having the right talent to support them. Finding this talent can be the most costly and time, resource-intensive part of this process. No matter which route you choose to take, you’ll need people to manage the environment. Letting an outsourced expert handle the talent pool in addition to the ongoing capital investment required to maintain a data center can save a lot of headaches in the long run – and reduce total costs, in the process.

As you get closer to nailing down the balance between public and private cloud, you’ll need to consider what to migrate first to either environment. As this series continues, we will be breaking down “What’s in Your Cloud?” to consider migrating applications, ERP systems, communication and collaboration platforms and how to monitor for success. Stay tuned for more of the 5Ws of modern infrastructure, and download the full ebook here.

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