In this article you will read about,
- which stumbling blocks can stand in the way of companies setting up a hybrid cloud,
- how the set-up, operation, and security of a hybrid cloud can be mastered,
- why the Open Telekom Cloud with its uniform hardware and software environment significantly simplifies the management of a hybrid cloud.
Hybrid cloud is becoming increasingly popular as the operating mode for companies’ IT landscapes. This has been shown by a number of analyst surveys in recent years, including those from IDC and PAC. The trade publication ZDNet even sees Germany on the verge of a "hybrid cloud wave." No wonder, since companies with hybrid cloud benefit from cost-effective pay-as-you-go models, almost limitless scalability, and the greatest possible reliability. But beware: when setting up hybrid cloud solutions, some stumbling blocks can arise. The following tips show how decision-makers and IT managers can recognize and master potential problems related to operation, availability, security, and data protection.
Uniform hardware and software environment facilitates the set-up and management of hybrid cloud solutions
It sounds quite simple: just quickly add public cloud services to the existing private corporate cloud to create a hybrid cloud. However, experience shows that IT departments and decision-makers have to plan carefully. The most important point is that the hardware and software in the private and public clouds must fit together. Otherwise, there is a risk of permanent problems during the operation of the hybrid cloud environment, which will affect the ability to run and process data. For example, the installation of new releases, security updates, and patches can be very time-consuming and cause downtime – especially for companies that set up and manage their cloud environments themselves.
A typical hybrid scenario is cloud bursting – actually an ideal field of application: sensitive databases and backend systems are hosted in the private cloud or on-premises, while the public cloud with additional cost-effective and scalable storage and computing resources is used for seasonal or regular load peaks – such as for online stores during the Christmas season.
If the hybrid cloud environment consists of components from different hardware and software vendors or different cloud providers, in-depth expertise is required to successfully apply cloud bursting. It is important to ensure data consistency across systems and environments, the protection of personal data, and consistent compliance with corporate policies – while at the same time ensuring that latencies remain low, sufficient bandwidth is always available, and required resources are automatically scaled and provisioned. "If hardware and software environments in the hybrid cloud are based on the same technologies, systems, and resources – as in the Open Telekom Cloud – the effort required to design and implement a hybrid solution is significantly reduced," says Sascha Smets, Senior Product Manager Open Telekom Cloud at T-Systems.
Save valuable resources for the core business – with a managed and future-proof hybrid solution
The operation of a private cloud or an on-premises installation usually has nothing to do with a company's core business, yet it ties up human resources. This is especially true if the company's own IT department wants to set up a hybrid cloud itself. For example, if a company were to introduce a hybrid scenario such as the Open Telekom Cloud size “M” with 748 physical cores, 11 terabytes of RAM, and 112 terabytes of OBS (Object Storage Service), which is suitable for particularly resource-intensive real-time applications, they would need around half a dozen full-time employees.
If, on the other hand, the company uses the hybrid solution as a managed solution from the Open Telekom Cloud, there is no need for additional personnel, as T-Systems takes over the complete service. "Put simply, a customer only needs to provide power and a network cable so that we can set up a solution for them. Alternatively, we can also host their entire cloud environment in our data center," says Sascha Smets. In this way, IT departments in the companies are relieved of the task and valuable human resources can be focused on the core business: while T-Systems takes over the management and operation of the cloud environments, the corporate IT can take care of the development of business applications and strategic IT issues. In addition, customers benefit from the fact that the Open Telekom Cloud solution offering is constantly being further developed: "It is simply not feasible for most IT departments to future-proof cloud environments in their own operations because they lack the human resources," says Sascha Smets.
Simplify operation and use of cloud environments with integrated tools
Container solutions such as Docker and the Kubernetes control tool are useful aids for quickly scaling and deploying applications for a wide range of cloud environments. Their use requires the appropriate knowledge of the systems. In addition, they have to be tested and integrated. Therefore, it usually takes some effort to acquire and implement these kinds of container solutions and control tools yourself.
If companies use the Open Telekom Cloud, they can use Docker & Co. as ready-made container engines in plug-and-play mode or apply a container engine managed by T-Systems. In addition, numerous other infrastructure tools such as Terraform are available for use, which no longer need to be tested and integrated by the companies themselves. The community area of the Open Telekom Cloud offers additional support for working with these tools, in the form of tutorials and instructions.
Working with containers has considerable practical advantages – for example in the application development with the agile DevOps method: "An application can be developed in the public cloud and moved via container to the sealed-off private cloud – and back again. In the Open Telekom Cloud, the workloads run the same on both systems," explains Sascha Smets. Due to the uniform hardware and software environment, every developed application can run in the public cloud as well as in the private cloud.
Achieving security, data protection, and compliance in hybrid environments
Adhering to the European Union’s strict rules and directives, such as the GDPR, across hybrid cloud environments requires deep expertise. Regularly updating and patching operating system images or newly discovered attack points is also essential in cloud environments. In addition, it is important to keep an eye on the cloud platform’s updates. Mastering all these security aspects is a Herculean task for corporate IT. For example, updating the cloud platform requires prior testing. In addition to the relevant knowledge, this also requires a separate test environment – which companies usually do not have. The Open Telekom Cloud, on the other hand, has such a pre-production test environment for the OpenStack cloud architecture. "We take care of all aspects of IT security," says Sascha Smets.
This also includes the right network design or the right topology for a hybrid cloud. Should all requests from outside (customers) and inside (employees) end up in the private cloud? Or should only employees have access to private instances, while customers are served in the public cloud? Should there be no connection at all between private and public or should all connection paths even be possible, depending on the request? "Finding the best solution design that complies with all the security regulations is not an easy task. That is why we offer special consultations and workshops on this topic," says Sascha Smets.
Finally, physical location and availability zones are also part of the security parameters of a hybrid solution. With its new twin-core data center in the Netherlands, the Open Telekom Cloud can now offer companies geo-redundant hosting in two geographical regions (Biere/Magdeburg and Amsterdam) with six availability zones – with a free choice of location and availability for the customer. This allows the public cloud to be used in a hybrid model for backup and disaster recovery: "For example, if a customer runs their private OpenStack cloud instance in Munich, they can designate the data center in Biere/Magdeburg as the location for disaster recovery," Sascha Smets explains.
Pay attention to the number of contractual partners and possible vendor lock-in
Companies that set up their hybrid cloud completely on their own usually have numerous contracts with different partners: for example, with a US hyperscaler for the public cloud, with a hardware supplier, and with several providers of software and managed services. In the event of a failure, the search for the cause can be protracted if each contractual party suspects the fault lies with a different partner.
In the Open Telekom Cloud, on the other hand, all the services are provided by the contractual partner, T-Systems. Customers do not have to fear a vendor lock-in: Their cloud systems can be ported at any time, as the Open Telekom Cloud is based on the open cloud architecture OpenStack.
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