Cloud Integration: What Is a Hybrid Cloud Approach? How Do You Make the Choice?

Since the “Cloud First” policy was introduced in 2011, Federal Government agencies are working to transition their on-premise IT infrastructure and legacy applications to the cloud. However, there are significant challenges involved in this transition – commonly called Cloud Integration –making it an interesting technical and business endeavor. Cloud Integration must address multiple aspects of the transition to an end-state solution, including data security, compliance requirements, technology advancements, and budgetary constraints. While all these aspects are important, we would like to focus on the integration approach in this post.

At first, agencies tried to implement a complete transition approach to cloud implementation, designed to move over all infrastructure and applications. Over time, however, it has become evident that a hybrid cloud approach is inevitable due to large existing on-premises infrastructure supporting agency-critical legacy applications. A hybrid cloud approach transitions certain applications to the cloud while retaining on-premises infrastructure hosting for certain legacy applications that cannot easily be supported in a modern cloud environment. This approach simplifies operations and achieves agency goals with lower technical risk while executing within budgetary constraints. Various cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and Google are all provisioning mechanisms and architecture recommendations to enable a hybrid cloud implementation.

Making the Choice

The choice of integrating to a hybrid cloud environment is driven by an agency’s need to provide cloud efficiencies and cost savings while ensuring security and privacy. It also recognizes that certain legacy applications are prohibitively expensive to modernize.

The hybrid solution approach typically serves as a mid-point between private and public clouds and is typically a combination of at least one of each. The private cloud could be on-premise infrastructure or a combination of virtual/physical servers located at an agency’s datacenter.

Agencies should consider the hybrid option under the following conditions:

  • Legacy systems won’t port to a cloud environment (old/non-standard infrastructure requirements)
  • Insufficient budget to perform necessary porting/refactoring/modernizing of the application
  • Technical risk associated with the complexities of porting/refactoring/modernizing the application
  • Too many applications, which requires a move to the cloud over time while maintaining legacy applications along the way
  • Flexibility and scalability needs of large agencies
  • Services are being provided in vertical market such as healthcare, aerospace, finance, etc. where customer functions can be hosted in public cloud while data can be maintained within private on-premise infrastructure
  • Desire to leverage existing on-premise infrastructure investments

Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Approach

The benefits of choosing a hybrid cloud approach are multiple, especially as agencies and customers have found that one size does not fit all when they want to integrate cloud into their business operations. Benefits can be grouped into the following areas:

  • Performance: Agencies typically have workloads that have to meet performance requirements that only dedicated servers can offer.
  • Flexibility: Using a hybrid cloud provides greater flexibility to the architecture of IT systems.
  • Security: A common concern about the security concerns raised due to proprietary and PII data being on the cloud can be eased by leveraging a hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud approach provisions better compliance since security concerns are also being met.
  • Cost Control: The hybrid cloud provides the agencies to incur costs for only surges while owning the basic configurations.

In today’s dynamic and complex business environments, agencies have to constantly re-evaluate their plans and be open to change their cloud infrastructure whether it’s private, public, or hybrid to ensure their business needs are met. The agency requirements to ensure their applications and data are secure, available and scalable should drive the choice of the cloud approach.