[This article was written by John Gray]
The hybrid cloud model, which combines public cloud services and private (on-premises) resources, is an increasingly popular approach for companies looking to take advantage of cloud computing power, efficiency, and flexibility. According to a report by Gartner,50% of enterprises are expected to move to hybrid cloud deployments by 2017. Additionally, Gartner predicts that nearly 75% of the largest enterprises plan to have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of this year.
That migration to the cloud has many implications, not least of which are important changes in the role and rules of the SLA, or service level agreement. Traditionally, enterprise IT teams have complete control over their resources and are able to define their SLAs according to the capabilities of their closed, on-premises domains. The introduction of the public cloud, however, breaks down traditional data center boundaries. And with the hybrid cloud—comprising both on-premises and multiple off-premises resources and platforms—SLAs have to cover the performance of multiple IT environments.
Enterprise IT leaders need to examine the SLA implications of their application and service portfolios. Modern SLAs must deal with increasing complexity before, during, and after the great cloud migration. One challenge is the need to maintain application SLAs throughout the transition—while maintaining optimal performance every step of the way. At the same time, integration with public cloud environments creates an added level of complexity when it comes to defining and enforcing even a single SLA.
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Before the cloud migration: Important questions
The journey to the cloud involves a fair amount of uncertainty. Business leaders want to know the answers to questions such as: What applications should be moved first, and what apps should be kept on-premises? What public cloud platform providers do I want to work with? What are the costs and potential risks? Careful planning is essential, and your SLAs must be part of the plan.
Cloud migration planning involves mapping your enterprise application repository, and then deciding which apps should be moved or kept on-premises. It’s essential to understand the SLAs of your legacy applications and how moving them to the cloud could affect agreed-upon performance levels.
Understanding each business unit or application’s requirements helps you decide which pieces of data can be securely moved to a public, shared environment and which should be kept behind the firewall of your private cloud or data center.
This is the stage to investigate and negotiate your potential cloud vendors’ SLAs. What are your expectations? What are the vendor’s commitments? What liability and indemnification are provided against any failures?
During the cloud migration: Noisy neighbors and coordination
When running an application in-house, you have 100% control over how it is hosted, managed, and run. In the public cloud, you hand over your data and application to run in an environment managed by someone else. That environment also hosts and manages many other applications—meet your new noisy neighbors.
Public cloud providers’ economies of scale are driven not only by scalable online business models, but also by efficient hardware operations, hosting applications, and data in multi-tenant environments. In the public cloud, you lose visibility of what additional applications may be rendered on your application’s host servers. You could end up with a burst of co-hosted applications that adversely affect your own applications’ performance. That makes it essential to define and deploy a realistic SLA that reflects the end-user experiences you expect to be delivered.
Application interoperability is another key element of successfully migrating application workloads to cloud platforms. Your hybrid cloud SLAs also need to be able to “interoperate,” coordinating between your private cloud and public cloud environments. A successful hybrid cloud deployment includes in/out resource migration, load balancing between the different environments, and maintaining a single secure network. Automating the processes and data stream based on your defined SLAs helps you decide where specific workloads need to run at any point in time, maintaining system policies and thresholds accordingly.
After the cloud migration: SLA management
Monitoring a modern application is complicated; running it in a hybrid environment creates even more complexities. This is due to the fact that each cloud vendor provides its own APIs, tools, and SLAs.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for SLAs in the hybrid cloud is linking each of the hybrid cloud’s underlying components to end-user experiences. In an environment composed of multiple platforms, the boundaries between them can be weak points and need to be tightly monitored.
Monitoring application data from various platforms is no easy feat, particularly when you need to isolate and fix a specific issue. Data from a variety of sources needs to be aggregated, unified, and analyzed.
Once an issue is identified and isolated, it has to be managed and administered throughout its life cycle, from the initial notification through remediation. Integrating modern monitoring solutions is crucial to bridge gaps between the different environments. If done right, you will be able to correlate between the functionality of every environment and application performance, making sure all parties are abiding by their SLAs.
Enjoy your hybrid cloud journey
Modern cloud monitoring and management solutions can track systems from underlying infrastructure all the way to the top of your application stack. In addition, cloud managed service providers (MSPs) play a significant role in supporting enterprise moves to the cloud by offering SLA deployment and management as value-added services.
Although creating and enforcing SLAs clearly becomes more complex in hybrid cloud environments, careful attention and the right tools and partners can help you prepare the way and navigate the journey to a hybrid cloud environment. Once there, the right SLAs are essential for monitoring and managing hybrid cloud environments.