Cloud Bursting building momentum in the region

Organisations need to be aware of several key factors around cloud bursting

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Cloud Bursting building momentum in the region Cloud bursting can give more flexibility to adopters, says Bamatraf.
By  Hatem Bamatraf Published  May 9, 2013

Cloud bursting offers companies the flexibility to meet peak demand periods, but organisations need to be aware of several key factors, writes Hatem Bamatraf, Executive Vice President, Enterprise, du

As a relatively new concept, cloud bursting certainly is getting a lot of attention in the Middle East. It’s something that most people can comprehend as an immediate benefit of cloud computing. Cloud bursting is an application deployment model in which an application runs in a private cloud or data centre and ‘bursts’ into a public cloud when the demand for computing capacity spikes. The advantage of such a hybrid cloud deployment is that an organisation only pays for extra compute resources when they are needed.

Cloud bursting is typically suited for high performance, non-critical applications that handle non-sensitive information. An application can be deployed locally and then burst to the cloud to meet peak demands, or the application can be moved to the public cloud to free up local resources for business-critical applications. Cloud bursting works best for applications that don’t depend on a complex application delivery infrastructure or integration with other applications, components and systems internal to the data centre.

Considerations for adoption:
When considering cloud bursting, an organisation must consider security and regulatory compliance requirements. For example, cloud bursting is often cited as a viable option for retailers that experience peaks in demand during the holiday shopping season. However, cloud computing service providers do not necessarily offer a PCI DSS-compliant environment and retailers could be putting sensitive data at risk by bursting it to the public cloud.

Other issues related to cloud bursting arise from the potential for incompatibility between the different environments and the limited availability of management tools. Cloud computing service providers and virtualisation vendors have developed tools to send workloads to the cloud and manage hybrid environments, but they often require all environments to be based on the same platform.

The principles of cloud computing — limitless scale, dynamic provisioning, on-demand resources, etc. — are present with cloud bursting, but they’re only invoked after resources within the physical data centre are exhausted. For example, an IT department may host a website in its own data centre, but can only handle approximately 10,000 connections per minute. During a spike that drives connections over that threshold, IT can send the additional connections to an on-demand cloud environment dynamically and seamlessly. When demand dies down, the cloud environment is de-provisioned and the on-premises web hosting manages the normal load.

Ideally, cloud bursting provides the best of both worlds. It allows the enterprise to maintain ownership and control over its application on-premises while having a fail-safe off-premises solution when needed. But there’s a trade off: That flexibility comes with a more complex computing environment to manage. First, there’s building the cloud bursting environment and keeping it current. Since the bursting environment is only used based on need, it’s conceivable that it may not be used for months at a time — great for the budget but a challenge to keep current. Every change to the on-premises application needs to be replicated to the mostly dormant bursting environment. While many IT departments are struggling with virtualisation challenges such as managing virtual machines and virtual sprawl, adding an extra off-premises virtual environment can compound management challenges.

Managing the bursting environment as an extension of the on-premises data centre is one of the most important, and difficult, design factors. Much of the pre-planning comes down to choosing a provider that understands the bursting environment is basically a disaster avoidance solution rather than a full managed cloud. This minor difference is important: A cloud bursting environment is basically always on deck, but may never see any action. It’s the special team of the data centre world. The cloud provider needs to offer an environment where that team can be called up at any time in an automated, programmatic way, from the management platform as if the resources were on-premises. It does no good to keep resources at the ready if you can’t spin them up on your terms. Choosing a provider that can tie into your event management system is a make-or-break decision.

The third consideration for cloud bursting is integration. By definition, cloud bursting is tied to another, existing data centre environment. Applications only need to burst into the cloud when there’s a demand that is exhausting existing resources. The bursting event depends on a threshold trigger that starts the event, a workflow that can flip the switch to turn up the burst environment, and a network that can manage connections as they move from on-premises to off-premises. All of that logic needs to be based on the existing infrastructure. Bursting is triggered based on a dynamic change in demand, but that demand will come from the existing infrastructure. It’s critical that both on- and off-premises environments be integrated so they can function as one network to deliver applications.

These are just three major considerations for cloud bursting; there are many other smaller but equally critical components to a successful bursting architecture. Virtual platform choice, VM management, dynamic routing, application monitoring, SLAs, centralised message bus, dynamic DNS — the list goes on and on. There are some cloud providers that are offering pre-packaged cloud bursting solutions.

These can be excellent choices provided they match your current management environment and can integrate with your data centre out of the box, or the provider offers a la carte solutions that can be compiled to match your specific environment. Other providers are offering internal bursting options for traditional managed and hosted customers, building an architecture that allows those customer environments to burst as needed but keeping everything localised to the provider’s network — also excellent options if you’re already using an MSP or hosting provider that offers those solutions.

The Middle East market is still nascent in the adoption of bursting as a tool to augment on-premise capacity, however the rapid growth of cloud adoption will propel cloud bursting into IT’s standard toolbox. Critical yet simple decisions during the design process with your cloud provider will make the difference between a seamless disaster avoidance solution vs. one that does everything but avoids a disaster.

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