Developing an effective hybrid cloud strategy allows SMBs to have the best of both worlds.  They can keep their most sensitive data and applications in their own private clouds and use public cloud services for everything else.  This balances the optimum security of private clouds with the cost effectiveness of public clouds.  These benefits do, however, come at a price, which is that hybrid cloud infrastructure takes a lot of advance planning to implement effectively.

Hybrid cloud strategy is more complex to build and manage than either private or public clouds.

As the old saying goes, “complexity is the enemy of execution”.  In other words, the more difficult it is to do something, the more likely it is that you’ll make a mistake.  A hybrid cloud model is more complex to implement than either a private cloud or a public cloud on its own.  That shouldn’t put you off implementing one.  There is a very good reason why hybrid cloud environments are hugely popular.  It should, however, act as a red flag that you need to make sure you think everything through carefully before you take action.

With that in mind, here is a guide to the building blocks of an effective hybrid cloud strategy

Everything starts with a clear overview of your existing computing resources.

This is true of any cloud migration, however it holds particular relevance for hybrid cloud infrastructures as it is often much more difficult to make changes later, hence it is even more important to do everything you can to get it right first time.

You also need a clear overview of your existing work processes

It is absolutely impossible to overstate the importance of this step.  You need to know far more than who does what, where and when.  You need to know how and why.  The core of any effective hybrid cloud strategy is getting everything in the right place (or places) and keeping it there as much as possible.  As a rule of thumb, it is usually most cost effective to put data and applications in the public cloud unless there is a very compelling reason to put them within the private cloud.  The reason for this is that public cloud services are usually massively more scalable than private clouds.

Keep cost effectiveness front and center in your planning

One of the quirks of hybrid cloud (multicloud) infrastructure is that cost effectiveness has totally different implications in the private and public clouds. 

In the private cloud, cost effectiveness is all about effective capacity planning and making sure you are covered for spikes in demand.  This often means investing in hardware which will lie idle for most of the time purely and simply so that it is there when you need it.  Cost effectiveness, therefore, generally means aiming to make purchases at the most attractive price, so negotiating with suppliers, looking for bulk discounts and so forth.

In the public cloud, cost effectiveness basically means cost optimization.  In other words you aim to buy exactly what you need, no less and no more, at the best, possible price.  Established skills like capacity planning do very much still come into play, just in a different manner.  In short, you use your best estimates of traffic volumes to take advantage of the discounts available to those who pay in advance (for example, reserved instances in Amazon Web Services), knowing that, if necessary, you can top this up with on-demand usage.

You need to do everything possible to minimize traffic between the private and public clouds

First of all, for the most part, data should never travel from the private cloud to the public cloud.  If it’s in the private cloud, it’s presumably there for security reasons and therefore sending it to the public cloud would defeat the purpose of putting it in the private cloud in the first place.  There may be some exceptions to this, such as when data is cleansed and stored, but for the most part, if you’re putting data in the private cloud then it’s there for a reason and it should probably stay there.

Secondly, although all the public cloud services have their own prices and terms, it’s probably safe to assume that any traffic from the public cloud to the private cloud will incur charges from the public cloud vendor.  This being so, the principle of cost effectiveness dictates that you should minimize it. 

It’s also worth noting that some traffic within the public cloud may incur charges.  For example in Amazon Web Services, intrazonal traffic is free but interzonal traffic is charged.  You therefore not only want to minimize traffic between the private and public clouds but also traffic within the public-cloud zones.

This is all perfectly possible, it just requires an in-depth understanding of your existing infrastructure and your existing work processes, hence the fact that they were the first two points in this guide.