Building an Effective Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Build an effective hybrid cloud deployment strategy that meets your businesses goals and ensures secure configuration of your applications in a cloud environment.
Hybrid Cloud, Public Cloud, and Private Cloud

You want to take advantage of the benefits of a public cloud environment, including cost savings and increased flexibility, but you’re not quite ready to relinquish complete control of your most sensitive data. A hybrid cloud strategy is the solution for organizations that want the best of both worlds. A hybrid environment allows companies to select which data is stored in which location, alleviating some of the concern over loss of control of sensitive data. It also allows companies to cost-efficiently scale up their storage without needing to invest in additional servers on premises.

According to Accenture’s 2021 Cloud Trends, 87% of enterprises have already adopted a hybrid cloud strategy. Making the transition to the cloud, however, can be a daunting task, and attempting to migrate to the cloud without a comprehensive strategy in place can be disastrous. Here are some of the key considerations for building an effective hybrid cloud strategy.

Defining Your Goals and Objectives

The cloud can provide businesses with increased flexibility, cost savings, disaster recovery options, and even increased security when implemented correctly. But before implementing a cloud transition, your organization’s key leaders should sit down to define the business objectives prompting the move so your team can effectively prioritize the goals that are most important to your organization’s growth. Hosting applications in the cloud is not free of cost, so there should be a legitimate business case for any workloads you migrate.

Conduct an Audit

Once you know what your goals from migration are, you should conduct an audit of your organization’s digital assets, including all data and applications currently being used, to determine the best location for these properties moving forward. Consider regulatory requirements that may dictate that sensitive data remain in a private cloud or on premises. Not all applications can be seamlessly moved to a public cloud. Your audit should evaluate the way your applications currently function and how much movement of data would be required between environments, as this will impact your costs. Develop definitive policies that categorize your assets and determine their cloud location, so there is a clear precedent for any new applications added down the line.

You should also assess the resources you have to invest in this project and how much this transition could shift resource needs down the line. Do you have the talent in-house to manage your cloud configuration, or would outsourcing as much of your cloud management as possible free up time for your overworked IT department? Will your applications need significant modification for you to get the most value out of moving to the cloud? The level of oversight you want to have and how much work will need to be done to optimize your applications for the cloud will determine whether you’re utilizing an Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platforms-as-a-Service, or Software-as-a-Service, service model .

During your audit would be a great time to consult your fellow RH-ISAC members if you have questions about where other companies are housing their data. In addition, RH-ISAC members have exclusive access to communities on the Member Exchange, where you can post questions and get responses from other security leaders who have experience with hybrid cloud transitions. Not a member? Learn more about how RH-ISAC can benefit you!

Determine Your Deployment Strategy

During your audit, you evaluated whether your applications can simply be shifted over to the cloud or if work should be done to make them better suited for a cloud environment. This is where companies will select a deployment strategy, commonly referred to as one of the “5 R’s”, which were first defined by Gartner in 2011 as rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild, and replace. Today these “R’s” vary slightly depending on who you talk to, but AWS has retained a similar list, plus one: rehost, replatform, repurchase, refactor, retire, and retain.

  • Rehost: Rehosting means taking everything as it was on your on-premises servers and moving it to the cloud as is. This is perhaps the easiest and least risky method, as you’re not changing very much, but will likely have less benefit down the road as you’re not adapting to take full advantage of cloud computing. This can be correlated with the Infrastructure-as-a-Service model, as all you’re getting from the cloud provider is the use of their equipment.
  • Replatform: Here, you’re making some slight adjustments, but you’re not fundamentally changing the architecture of what’s being moved. This might utilize a Platform-as-a-Service model. You’re taking advantage of some of the other cloud services offered by the provider to save time or money on something like database management.
  • Repurchase: This model involves getting rid of what is currently hosting your applications and moving to something that is already cloud-native, in other words, adopting a Software-as-a-Service platform.
  • Rearchitect: This is a risky, time-consuming, and costly option, but it may be worth the investment if you’re currently working with legacy systems that aren’t meeting your business needs. Rearchitecting means redesigning your applications to be cloud-native, taking advantage of all of the bells and whistles that cloud computing has to offer. This is not a quick fix but will set you up for future success as technology changes.
  • Retire and Retain: In a hybrid environment, not everything needs to move over to the cloud. In addition to migrating the parts of your business that are logical, you’ll also want to evaluate what can be retained in its current location, and what could be retired if it is no longer of use to the business.

Selecting a Cloud Service Provider to Match Your Goals

Understanding the key drivers behind your cloud migration, as well as your strategy for deployment, will help you select cloud infrastructure that will help you accomplish your goals. If your motivation for a hybrid transition is cost savings, it may be worth selecting services from multiple public cloud providers to get the best price for each service. Whereas organizations whose goal is increased performance in high-demand areas may choose a cloud provider based on the location of their services. Similarly, if you’re planning a rehost transition, you may just choose the platform where it is cheap and easy to host your data. But if you’re planning on utilizing additional services, you may need to do more shopping around to find ones that will support the changes you want to make.

Pay close attention to your service level agreement and be aware of the type of payment structure you’re selecting. Your bill can quickly become heftier than expected if you are not aware of the costs associated with increased usage or migration of data between cloud environments. In fact, according to Flexera’s 2022 State of the Cloud Report, organizations reported their public cloud spend was over budget by an average of 13%.

Plan for Secure Configuration

Once you have determined what cloud services to use and what data needs to be located where, you need to have a strategic plan in place for the migration itself. You’re likely going to be transferring a large volume of data, which will need to be effectively secured while in transit, as well as once it is successfully migrated to the cloud. Cloud misconfiguration is one of the leading causes of cloud security breaches.

Consider whether a Cloud Security Posture Management tool, which helps identify and prevent configuration mistakes and areas of non-compliance, may help fill in the gaps as you adjust to the new cloud environment. There are a multitude of different cloud-focused security solutions that fill different needs. When making the transition, you may also consider using a Cloud Access Security Broker, which can help you transition your security policies to a cloud environment. Learn more about security solutions in this blog post.

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