What Does a Hybrid Cloud Look Like?

In the last two posts of this series, I posed the question Is this the Start of a Hybrid Cloud Revolution? and then described How to Build a Hybrid Cloud. Building off of that base knowledge, I’d like to demonstrate what exactly a hybrid cloud looks like. It’s one thing to see a simple hybrid cloud diagram with your datacenter, a public cloud datacenter, and a line connecting the two, but it’s quite another to explore what a hybrid cloud scenario looks like within a real-world application.


Hybrid Cloud Scenario – Multi-tiered SharePoint Infrastructure

I’m a big fan of demonstrating how technology works in the real world. If you have ever watched any of my virtualization training from TrainSignal, you know that for a few years now I have used the example of the quickly expanding ‘Wired Brain Coffee Co.’ I won’t go into the extensive scenario in this blog post, but instead use an abbreviated version to demonstrate how hybrid cloud helps Wired Brain Coffee.

More and more companies are implementing Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration. While it certainly has its benefits, implementing an enterprise-wide SharePoint infrastructure is no small task. The typical environment consists of multiple web servers, one or more (clustered) database servers, and one or more application servers (such as the index, workflow, service application, and sandbox server). Even when virtualized, the number of virtual machines (VMs) for an enterprise-grade SharePoint environment can be made up of five or more servers. At most enterprises, they opt to customize SharePoint, and that means they will need multiple environments.

At Wired Brain Coffee, they were no different than any other enterprise implementing SharePoint. To start out, they estimated that they would need roughly ten virtual machines to create their production and development environments, and that they might need more if the demand on their virtual SharePoint infrastructure grew.

Because the SharePoint developers couldn’t define the exact number of virtual machines they needed, the amount of RAM and CPU required—and were concerned that their capacity needs would grow drastically in a short period of time—they felt that a hybrid cloud implementation would be ideal.

In addition to agility, the developers and virtualization admins at Wired Brain Coffee preferred the hybrid cloud option because they could easily create templates of the various virtual machines that made up the SharePoint infrastructure, then deploy a new VM of that type, at any time. Additionally, these types of new VM deployments from templates could all be done by the developers, as needed, using the self-service portal (Note: IT management had authorized that capability).

The developers also liked the idea of ‘snapshots’ of virtual machines that allowed them to take a snapshot of their SharePoint VMs before patching the application or implementing customizations.

We’ve been covering the virtual datacenter/cloud infrastructure required for this SharePoint infrastructure, but the developers also needed multiple client machines with different operating systems and web browsers to test their SharePoint customizations. The hybrid cloud allowed them to keep their library of client machines in a suspended state that they could resume and use whenever application testing was required.


Hybrid Cloud Scenario – Multi-tiered SharePoint Infrastructure

In my last article of this series, I discussed how you would implement a hybrid cloud with the following steps:

  • Plan
  • Know the Basics
  • Make the Connection
  • Infrastructure Working Together

The same concepts applied in our scenario with Wired Brain Coffee. They used their cloud service provider’s self-service portal to:

Plan The team first took a few minutes to plan the IP addressing and Windows Active Directory infrastructure prior to building the hybrid cloud. It wasn’t complex for a hybrid development infrastructure.

Connect The team created a secure VPN connection from the public cloud to their private network VPN device. (Note that this could be a Windows 2012 Server configured for remote VPN access; a Cisco router; or any other variety of brand and device that supports IPsec VPN tunnel connections. Of course, for a production hybrid cloud, that device needs to have the throughput required, so it should be sized correctly.) Build Templates The team built their virtual machine templates in the cloud, which were running the Windows OS and SharePoint applications in our scenario. There are a variety of options for building these. They could have uploaded production SharePoint virtual machines to the public cloud. They also could have upload ISO files and built them from scratch in the public cloud. Or, they could have used a pre-built template virtual machine from their cloud provider (which would save them the most time).

If you are using a cloud provider with similar capabilities to Skytap Cloud, here’s what your hybrid cloud might look like:

Figure 1 – SharePoint Hybrid Cloud for Your Infrastructure.

In the end, I believe that all parties involved are happier with a hybrid cloud implementation. Developers gain self-service, agility, fast deployment, and snapshot features. Datacenter managers offload the demands for infrastructure services to the application owners, freeing their time for more important tasks. And the financial wizards love the ‘pay as you go’ model because they don’t have to make a large capital outlay for datacenter infrastructure. In many cases, hybrid cloud is a win-win.

Have you had experience with a hybrid cloud implementation? Feel free to share your observations below. I’d be happy to include part of your story, or answer any questions you may have, in my next blog piece: How People are Using Hybrid Cloud Today.

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