This content is part of the Essential Guide: Modern data center strategy: Design, hardware and IT's changing role

How to become an internal hybrid cloud service provider

Working on a hybrid cloud project? Mike Matchett explains the steps an organization should take to become an internal hybrid cloud service provider.

One major key to success with a hybrid cloud project is to ensure that IT fundamentally transitions into an internal hybrid cloud service provider. This means understanding that business users are now your clients. You must now proactively create and offer services instead of the traditional reactive stance of working down an endless queue of end-user requests. It becomes critical to track and report on the service quality delivered and the business service utilization. Without those metrics, it's impossible to optimize the services for price, performance, surge capacity, availability or whatever factor might be important to the overall business.

Hallmarks of a successful hybrid organization include:

  • A renewed focus on implementing higher levels of automation, spurred by the need to provide clients ways to provision and scale services in an agile manner. This automation usually extends to other parts of IT, like helping to build non-disruptive maintenance processes.
  • An effective process monitoring and management scheme that works as cloud scales to help ensure service-level agreements.
  • Clients aware of what they are consuming and using, even if they're not actually seeing a bill for the services.

Practical steps on the hybrid cloud service journey

The best way to get started on the road to becoming a hybrid cloud service provider is to find an unmet business need rather than migrate something that is already working.

Perhaps the first step is to evaluate the involved workloads and their data sets to look for good hybrid opportunities.

If you find that workloads are currently fine or require specialized support, it might be best to leave them alone for now and focus instead on workloads that are based on common platforms.

Next, it's imperative to address the following implementation concerns before letting real data travel across hybrid boundaries:

  • Security. Look for offerings that provide easy integration with existing security domains (for example, LDAP and AD).
  • Performance. Ensure that methods for tracking I/O latency and throughput are avail­able, along with management visibility into hybrid data paths.
  • Resiliency. Architect the scheme for always-on service availability by leveraging cloud components.
  • Functional capability. Ensure all expected APIs are complete and accessible.
  • Geographic control and other compliance. Use cloud provider regions and data distribution products that offer fine-grained replication controls and auditing.

In particular, management solutions for hybrid storage can range from the simple to the hideously complex. Some schemes are almost transparent -- with all the cloud connectivity, data movement and issue resolution baked in. But the more custom the offering, the more likely you'll need to assemble a more complex set of management tools. Be sure to consider capacity planning management, as well as federated identity and access controls.

Of course, with any cloud project, the network will be a prime concern. Cloud connectivity requires enough bandwidth to move and replicate data smoothly, as well as speed to ensure low enough latency for the desired workload. You should encrypt data in motion on public networks, and data at rest in public clouds (wherever it might land). And pay attention to where the crypto keys are held in any scheme: in the cloud, on-premises or by a third party. Needless to say, encryption is worthless if the keys are vulnerable.

The best way to get started on the road to becoming a hybrid cloud service provider is to find an unmet business need rather than migrate something that is already working. And look for opportunities to increase corporate competitiveness and agility. Finally, understand your current storage costs and constraints today, and then choose a vision to drive your hybrid strategy. Your chief hybrid goal could be cost control, better IT alignment to the business, or even simply demonstrating leadership and innovation.

And don't forget: The hardest part will probably be the organizational change required for IT to become a real hybrid cloud service provider.

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