How to Build a Hybrid Cloud

In my last post, Is this the Start of a Hybrid Cloud Revolution? I talked about how hybrid cloud has advanced and how I believe it is on the verge of mass adoption by enterprises around the world. ​

At too many companies, new technology is adopted not because IT planned it or wanted it, but because they were forced into it. Luckily, there are solutions that are allowing IT to get ahead of the technology curve—hybrid cloud being one of them.​

In this article, I’d like to describe how easy a hybrid cloud is to implement. You may discover it’s much easier than you thought.

Step 1 – Know What You’re Working With

Of course, not all cloud offerings are the same. Some providers make hybrid cloud easy while some are much more difficult—and some don’t offer the solution at all. But as long as you are working with a provider that offers hybrid cloud, the basic steps I’m about to describe will be similar. ​

Figure 1 – Hybrid Cloud Basics

The primary concept here is that you are connecting your datacenter to a public cloud using a network connection. You don’t have to be using virtualization, or have a private cloud in your datacenter. You also don’t have to be a cloud expert or virtualization guru. You are simply making a connection between your datacenter and a provider.

Typically this is done over a secure IPsec VPN connection (i.e., a VPN tunnel) from your datacenter to the provider using your existing Internet connection. This option is normally used because these connections don’t trigger additional costs if you already have Internet access and a VPN device.

Figure 2 – A Secure IPsec VPN Connection, Creating a Hybrid Cloud

Another option is to use a private WAN circuit, which does offer some benefits, but will cost much more and take longer to implement.

Step 2 – Make the Connection

As illustrated above, what creates a hybrid cloud is when your infrastructure and the public cloud can work together using a VPN network connection.

The best public cloud providers have made creating that security connection between datacenters easy through self service. While the interface may look different between providers, the basics are that you provide the configuration parameters needed to make the VPN connection. Those typically include:

  • IP addresses
  • Security parameters (such as encryption algorithms)
  • Pre-shared security keys

These parameters will be paired up in the provider’s interface as well as on your side of the connection, in your VPN device. If you have ever used a VPN client on a remote laptop or desktop to connect to a VPN server at the office, making this connection is very similar.

With the configuration made, you should be able to press a button to test the VPN connection.

Successful results should look something like this:

Keep in mind that you aren’t limited to just a single connection. You could have many VPN connections from your numerous company sites, all connected to the hybrid cloud, so that users at all company sites can utilize your public cloud infrastructure.

Step 3 – Infrastructure: Working in Harmony

With the secure connection created between your company and the cloud provider, you can bring up new virtual machines and applications in the hybrid cloud, all securely accessible through the hybrid cloud VPN connection that you created.

Within minutes, you can create a new virtual machine from a shared template/catalog offered by the cloud provider and your employees can access the application.

Keep in mind that these servers and applications brought up in the cloud are servers that you didn’t have to order, unbox, install, provide power or cooling for. All the traditional server provisioning and maintenance is eliminated with hybrid cloud.

In the End

I don’t want to trivialize the importance or potential complexities related to hybrid clouds. For large enterprises looking to divert critical applications or bring up large elastic hybrid cloud infrastructures, hybrid cloud planning, testing, and proper configuration is critical and extensive. However, for medium to small enterprises that want to test hybrid cloud for proof of concept, bringing up a hybrid cloud really can be done more easily than ever before thanks to public cloud provider advancements in self-service related to the hybrid cloud configuration, testing, and monitoring. Hybrid cloud doesn’t have to be just for massive enterprises.

Today, hybrid cloud has become a common sense IT tool that can be used by companies of all sizes to make life easier and business more productive.

I’ll continue talking about this topic in two upcoming installments that will outline how enterprises are successfully using hybrid cloud and what you need to start using it yourself.

In the meantime, do you have any questions or insights on hybrid cloud? Feel free to comment below.

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