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What is Hybrid Cloud and how can it support SaaS delivery?

Nov 14

Posted November 26, 2014 by  Tim Pat Dufficy


For developers of SaaS apps, migrating to the cloud can be harder than for most.

Often, this is down to sensitive data preventing a wholesale move to Public, or even Private, cloud models. This is where a Hybrid Cloud solution can come to the rescue.

In this post, we explain what the Hybrid Cloud computing model is, the benefits it can deliver to all users, not just SaaS vendors, and the challenges that are frequently faced during roll-out and operation.

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What is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid Cloud is, in our book, any combination of a cloud computing model with another computing model, cloud or otherwise.

Each component in a Hybrid configuration may exist in different physical locations, be from different providers or even owned, in part or in full, by the user. To be considered Hybrid, the components would simply need to be connected to the same network and to interoperate with one another in some way.

Depending on the individual requirements of the user, the existence of a Hybrid Cloud could either be temporary, to alleviate some short term challenge, or on-going.

Hybrid Cloud objectives

In the majority of cases, the objective behind the deployment of a Hybrid Cloud is to provide access to the benefits offered by the Public Cloud model without applying it to the entire operation - typically for security or performance reasons.

In the case of a SaaS vendor, data security requirements, or even industry regulation, may dictate that certain data must be kept in a highly secure environment, either in a Private Cloud, on Colocated hardware or even on-site. Meanwhile, the cost and scalability of Public Cloud can still be attractive for other aspects of SaaS delivery, web serving for example.

The most common configuration of Hybrid Cloud in the SaaS space is Public Cloud combined with either Private Cloud or Colocated resources. In this configuration, data security commitments can still be met, while Public Cloud resources can be used to either:

  • Provide additional, short term capacity to cope with surges and spikes in workload
  • Lower the overall costs of meeting ongoing storage and/or computation requirements
  • Leverage bespoke or non-standard operating systems running on private resources

Potential benefits of Hybrid Cloud use in SaaS delivery

Depending on the actual configuration and your specific needs, the potential benefits of Hybrid Cloud to a typical SaaS vendor include:

  • Access to the security and exclusivity aspects of private systems
  • Access to the low cost and high flexibility of Public Cloud
  • Ability to burst capacity of your Private Cloud using capacity in a Public Cloud
  • Integration of your Colocated or on-site infrastructure with Private or Public Cloud
  • Maximisation of your existing investment with minimal additional cost
  • Phased and/or partial migration to the Cloud

Challenges facing SaaS deployment of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud deployments are, naturally, among the most complex of cloud solutions. As such, successful specification, deployment and use are subject to some unique challenges:

Definitions: There is perhaps more confusion around the terms associated with Hybrid Cloud than with any other model. Specification of the best solution can be hampered, or even prevented, by a lack of common understanding. The most important thing here is that you can describe exactly what you currently have and what you need or want in the future without the use of subjective terminology.

Understanding of requirements: Deployment of a Hybrid Cloud means that different parts of your operation will be performed on separate platforms. A thorough understanding of your requirements is therefore essential. Sound knowledge of how regulations affect your intended, or the proposed, plans as well as accurate historical data on resource usage would both be a good idea.

Networking and interconnection: Key to the successful use of a Hybrid Cloud is the safe and secure network connection between its component parts. If you are working with separate vendors or a dedicated Public Cloud supplier, this responsibility might well fall to you. Work with a hosting provider that has experience and expertise in Hybrid Cloud deployment to ensure you have help with this aspect.

Service and support: If your Hybrid Cloud combines owned and rented components, or is supplied by more than one provider, it can quickly become unclear who has the responsibility to provide service and support for what and when. The victim of this is your customer, who may suffer prolonged outages or service disruptions as internal staff and your vendor (or vendors) argue over who is responsible. Prevent this at the outset by consolidating services with a reputable supplier, if possible, and scrutinising SLAs for potential weaknesses.

Finances and contracts: Hybrid Cloud, under the right circumstances, can offer significant financial advantages. Harnessing these relies on putting a suitable contract in place. Understanding your requirements well and working with an experienced Hybrid Cloud vendor give you the best chance of arriving at a mutually favourable contract.

Taming the Hybrid model for your SaaS app

As you can see, if your SaaS app relies on any sensitive data, such as users' payment information, Hybrid Cloud may be your only realistic route to gain access to the favourable aspects of Public Cloud computing. Choosing an experienced supplier of Hybrid systems to help specify and deploy the ideal solution will make obtaining maximum benefits possible.

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