Sep 3, 2013
Infrastructure-as-a-service initiatives are often associated with private cloud infrastructure.
Opting for a private cloud responds to issues such as cost reduction, current infrastructure transformation and also outsourcing evolution.
However, this choice doesn’t really mean a shift toward a service mode.
What if designing and building infrastructure-as-a-service really meant defining a hybrid cloud?
  • Moving to the cloud

    Entering the cloud means using services: companies often first decide to provide services in the form of virtual servers, storage spaces and databases because they master their use. But they are reluctant to switch their middleware and applications to a service mode because they are not yet industrialised.

    For these companies, a private cloud IaaS seems to be the right approach to facilitate the transition toward a service mode. It ensures data security and meets business line requirements thanks to accelerated time to market. So private cloud could be the ideal solution, in theory...

    But the first obstacle is the project budget.
    Indeed, building a private cloud represents an investment - a CAPEX optimisation only - while an OPEX, pay-for-use approach is a defining characteristic the cloud!
    To get around this obstacle, companies rely on cloud providers that support the custom build-and-run of private cloud.

    The second obstacle comes from dedicated infrastructure.
    As a dedicated infrastructure belonging to the company, it quickly reveals its limited capacity. However, for decentralised organisations (subsidiaries, agencies, factories, universities), a private cloud's infrastructure sharing can represent a substantial advantage.

    And the last obstacle: users are not accustomed to buying internal services. They can be especially reluctant when finding the same services easily available at lower prices in a public cloud.

  • The rise of hybrid cloud

    Under this scenario, companies include services combining private and public cloud in their IT roadmap, in their offers, and in their service catalog.  Hybrid cloud provides more flexibility, economies of scale and portability of data and applications.
    Public cloud services can efficiently provide virtual machines for a company's demonstrations, proofs of concept, short-term sandboxes, and development and test environments.  Marketing events and training sessions can also be easily organised in the public cloud.

    Another advantage of the hybrid cloud is better handling of peak activity. For example, connection restrictions and limited capacity to process e-commerce orders are common in a private cloud.  But these problems never occur with a hybrid approach.

  • Some concrete best practices

    1. Collect as much information as possible from business units: What infrastructure do they need? What current projects depend on infrastructure efficiency? Do they already use cloud services? How would hybrid cloud flexibility impact their daily work?

    2. The business model is key: define a commercial service offer with a price policy and different financing options (purchase, rental, service, etc.).
    Identify free public cloud services that already exist.
    Deploy an initial catalog of hybrid IT, anticipating the evolution of the infrastructure service provider(s).

    3. Use a competitive (RFP) process to make the right choice. In an emerging market, you need to define the evaluation criteria to compare apples with apples.
    Today, the trend is to choose only one provider to deliver all IaaS or PaaS services. But be careful!  Your provider is not a cloud service broker who will analyse your existing system and build you a tailor-made offer.  That job belongs to IT.

    4. Contracts: Public cloud deals must include a specific service level agreement such as IaaS on-time resource deployment.
    Minimum revenue or resource commitments are totally excluded in a service on demand.

    5. Be ready to change providers! Involve your internal staff in this change and make sure your new and previous providers coordinate with each other.

  • Optimise cloud infrastructure to provide value to business

    Using a dedicated IT infrastructure (private cloud) and consuming public cloud  technologies has many advantages, including performance, availability and cost reduction.
    And the hybrid approach enables the company to move to the cloud step by step, according to its own rhythm and needs.

    This transition requires cloud provider support. But it remains to be determined what kind of services they really offer and how mature those are. Can their services easily be integrated in a hybrid cloud model? What guarantees do they provide in terms of security?  How can enterprises recover their data?