Harnessing Hybrid Cloud for Business Continuity and Performance

In the ever-evolving landscape of IT operations, the pursuit of robust business continuity plans and optimal infrastructure resiliency is paramount. The implementation of an Information Security program that adheres to SANS best practices and industry standards, coupled with external consultation, represents a significant stride in this direction. This comprehensive analysis explores the journey of an IT team as they navigated the complexities of hybrid cloud adoption to fortify their business continuity plan, optimize performance, and manage costs efficiently.

The Need for a Hot Site:

The pivotal starting point of this journey was the recognition of the need for a hot site, a site equipped with compatible hardware, software, and network infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted operations in the face of severe disruptions. Such a site would be instrumental in achieving minimal to no downtime during failover events, a critical component of any business continuity plan.

The existing workloads were distributed evenly across two production sites, each hosting approximately 150 mixed-use virtual machines (VMs), encompassing file and web servers, SQL clusters, load balancers, and other mission-critical systems. These production clusters, designed by in-house systems engineers, mirrored each other in terms of network, storage, and compute capabilities. Building a hot site seemed like a straightforward task, requiring little more than contacting a hardware reseller for identical components and making arrangements for installation.

Reevaluating Legacy IT Architecture:

However, a preplanning meeting injected a dose of complexity into the process. It came to light that the existing stacks were three years into their lifecycles and would need replacement in the upcoming year. This revelation sparked passionate arguments in favor of transitioning to a hyper-converged infrastructure.

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Hyper-converged infrastructure promised to integrate hardware components (network, storage, and compute) into a single chassis, constructed with commodity hardware. This solution not only simplified vendor management by consolidating three separate components into one but also enhanced performance by collapsing compute and storage into a unified box, eliminating the need for intricate storage network connections.

The decision was made to let the new equipment undergo a thorough proof-of-concept phase in a preproduction environment before running production systems on the hot site. This presented a valuable opportunity to evaluate the feasibility of this new hardware and its potential for future deployment.

Exploring a Cloud Solution:

Following weeks of exhaustive research, analyst consultations, sales meetings, and sizing discussions, a vendor was selected, and pricing was requested. However, the pricing received exceeded initial expectations due to support and hardware costs. The team was then faced with a pivotal decision: proceed with the hyper-converged solution, replete with performance benefits and a simplified support model, or navigate the intricacies of building out the existing commodity architecture at a lower cost.

The fact that the existing setup already allowed for failover of business-critical applications between production sites provided some respite. This relieved the pressure to make an immediate decision, permitting the team to reconsider their approach and capital allocation strategy. It was during this period of introspection that they realized they had access to secure, dedicated cloud solutions within their own data center ecosystem.

The Migration to Hybrid Cloud:

This revelation marked the genesis of their journey into the realm of hybrid cloud computing. The team embarked on the process of offloading specific workloads to cloud providers housed within their own facilities. This approach promised streamlined performance, reduced vendor complexity, and addressed the challenges related to cost and capital expenses.

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Unlike the quandary faced when selecting a hardware vendor, the principal challenge in implementing a hybrid IT solution was the scarcity of subject matter expertise in cloud migration services. This was the team’s inaugural foray into such an environment, and they grappled with where to commence. Once again, they turned to their extensive data center ecosystem, engaging managed service providers to bridge the knowledge gap throughout the planning, deployment, and post-deployment phases.

Reaping the Benefits of Hybrid Cloud:

While their journey into the cloud was still unfolding, the benefits of adopting a multi-vendor, hybrid cloud environment began to surface. The IT department witnessed cost reductions and performance improvements, but the advantages extended beyond infrastructure enhancements.

By embracing their selected cloud platforms, the team was able to provide employees with increased options due to improved licensing structures and feature-rich offerings. For instance, users, who were previously licensed for application suite services on one device, now had the flexibility to run applications on up to five devices while maintaining on-prem hardware performance. This adjustment catered to the predominantly mobile era, where users employ an array of devices, including laptops, phones, and tablets. Additionally, a new enterprise storage platform fostered organization-wide collaboration on documents, accessible seamlessly from mobile devices.

While the initial impetus for change was rooted in business continuity planning, the team managed to substantially enhance their IT infrastructure by embracing a hybrid cloud strategy. This brings us full circle to the Business Continuity Plan (BCP), as users retain access to critical systems, such as email and file storage, even during outages associated with on-premises equipment. The successful implementation of a business continuity plan not only ensures the availability of critical systems but also augments performance and streamlines solutions for the entire organization.

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In conclusion, the journey detailed in this analysis exemplifies the potential of hybrid cloud adoption as a catalyst for business continuity, cost efficiency, and performance optimization. As the team continues to leverage their data center ecosystem and managed service providers, the full spectrum of benefits from this hybrid cloud strategy is yet to be fully realized. Nevertheless, it serves as a compelling case study on how thoughtful technology adoption can transform an organization’s IT landscape, offering a brighter, more resilient future.


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