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Most enterprise corporations have a long history of managing IT operations both internally and externally through an in-house data centre. On-premise data centre facilities are used to run databases and software for clients, customer relations, and staff. As hardware becomes outdated, web standards change and software platforms require updating, business organisations often choose to migrate to public cloud platforms for modernisation. Hybrid cloud networking permits enterprise companies to maintain their legacy operations in an on-premise data centre while gradually migrating to new products and services on a public cloud host.

Why the hybrid cloud model is the best approach? One common method of a hybrid cloud implementation is cloud bursting. With this method, an enterprise organisation uses a local private cloud until it requires more resources, storage, or processing than is available on the network. At this point, it “bursts” onto the public cloud, temporarily leasing resources to continue its work in support of websites, SaaS, or mobile applications. Once this work is completed, proprietary data and code is moved back onto the private cloud.

Whether the combination of cloud bursting and Azure managed services is suitable for your business depends on the nature of the data that would be hosted on the public cloud. This is because the security considerations will vary from those of your local private cloud. For example, if you are a business with access to sensitive financial data such as an individual’s personal identity information and financial account details, you should ensure only non-sensitive resources are moved to a public cloud and that the sensitive data remains hosted securely on your local private cloud to remain compliant with the relevant legislation and/or internal policies you would have in place to protect the data.

What are the most common use cases for a Hybrid Cloud?

The most common use cases for hybrid cloud are support for full data centre outsourcing, productivity software, manufacturing processes, IoT devices, websites, and mobile applications. Many businesses are forced to adopt hybrid cloud architecture solutions in order to maintain in-house support for local computer operations in a private cloud, while making use of other SaaS/PaaS products from public cloud and third-party software vendors in their workflow. Multi-CAD and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) enable more companies to migrate traditionally local computing processes to cloud hardware for various business cost advantages.

Another example of hybrid cloud orchestration is containerising legacy software applications from mainframes or locally running database processes on in-house servers in tandem with remote hosted code on public cloud hardware for modernisation. Many businesses choose Microsoft Azure for hybrid cloud orchestration in order to implement network integration with the Windows operating system installed across all hardware resources. Other companies may choose VMware software tools for hybrid cloud networking requirements to implement solutions using virtualisation that will support multiple operating systems in production.

Common examples of industries that can greatly benefit from implementing a hybrid cloud solution include:

1. Healthcare

Healthcare sector is increasingly adopting hybrid cloud solutions due to their flexibility and ability to move applications seamlessly between private or public clouds.

Hybrid clouds also provide the increased security the industry needs to protect sensitive patient data and meet regulatory compliance. Hybrid cloud use is expected to grow as attacks on network systems increase and compliance regulations become more stringent.

One of the major benefits of hybrid cloud use in healthcare is the ability to fully digitise healthcare delivery, encompassing everything from automation to telehealth and remote monitoring, and the sharing capabilities of required data with other healthcare providers/organisations, such as Medicare.

According to Nutanix,

… healthcare organisations need to address a variety of critical IT needs, including a need for increased security, protection of sensitive patient data and meeting regulatory compliance. Over 28% of healthcare respondents named security and compliance as their number one decision criterion in choosing where to run workloads. With hackers targeting medical records containing sought-after personal details such as patient healthcare and insurance information, healthcare organisations require technology solutions that can handle the movement of sensitive data compliantly, and without security risk.

Source: Gov Tech Review

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2. Finance

The financial services industry is increasingly leveraging hybrid clouds due to their flexibility, power, scale, and seamless connectivity.

Hybrid cloud solutions offer financial services companies significant benefits including the ability to extend existing infrastructure without a huge cost for capacity and still retain certain data on-premises, as required by regulatory guidelines. Hybrid clouds also let them take advantage of new cloud services such as the rapidly growing enterprise container platforms without having to rewrite applications, allowing them to continue cost-effectively producing new financial products and services to meet every growing consumer demand.

Container solutions are used in banking and finance to support online applications with millions of simultaneous users for increased isolation, such as by a neobank.

Another example of how a banking giant has used the cloud to revolutionise their operations is the migration to Microsoft Dynamics 365 (hosted in Microsoft Azure) made by Westpac New Zealand. They did this in a bid to streamline and automate their sales and business processes.

According to Downs and Quinn, Westpac employees used to spend up to 80 percent of their time on data entry and managing systems, but with Dynamics 365, they can now spend that time building relationships with customers. “The ability to sync customer data in real time has changed what our relationship managers can achieve,” says Downs. “From our front-line customer service staff to the back office, we’re using Dynamics 365 to change the way we operate.”

Source: Microsoft Dynamics

3. Government

Government agencies around the world are slowly coming to embrace cloud-based services. Some now use cloud email and collaboration tools and a mixture of public and private cloud infrastructure, but highly classified systems are likely to remain on-premise for the foreseeable future.

Apart from security concerns, the biggest obstacle to faster government migration to a hybrid cloud infrastructure are the internal cultural barriers that must be overcome and the huge number of legacy systems that need to be adapted or replaced.

This has in turn resulted in the creation of The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).

The DTA has mandated the move to the cloud for certain services by Australian government entities. Their goal is to facilitate the move to online for the betterment of government processes, which in turn will positively impact the Australian community.

An example of this is:

In June 2019 it was announced that Amazon Web Services have signed a whole-of-government deal to help simplify cloud procurement for federal, state and territory agencies in Australia. According to AWS, the primary benefits come from cost-savings by leveraging demand across government agencies, and removing some of the barriers of adopting and expanding cloud use in the public sector.

Source: AWS

As another example, IBM’s cloud services are used extensively for government services worldwide, with HPE and Oracle Cloud services supporting many ministry-level regulatory departments for industry as contract suppliers.

4. Education

The global cloud computing market in the education sector is growing rapidly, with institutions keen to enhance their productivity and improve the learning experience. The cloud is changing education by eliminating the need for expensive textbooks, doing away with on-premise hardware and eliminating paper, thus reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Cloud education also offers easy accessibility, greater mobility, and more opportunities for collaboration, creating a better overall environment for students and educators.

  • Hybrid cloud architecture can be configured using software-defined networking (SDN) standards and virtualisation in order to maximise the efficiency of hardware utilisation in large-scale education and campus network administration.

  • Container-based virtualisation using Docker and Kubernetes can support millions of simultaneous web server runtimes for cloud SaaS applications in hyper-scale data centres used in high-performance computing (HPC) research.

  • Kubernetes can be installed on public cloud hardware or private cloud data centres in a vendor-agnostic fashion for elastic web server architecture on open source licensing.

  • Service Mesh solutions are implemented by many colleges & universities for complex hybrid cloud orchestration requirements, integrating Microsoft Azure, OpenStack, VMware, and Kubernetes products for academic requirements.

A recent example of hybrid cloud uptake in Australia is the NSW Department of Education, which is currently adding public cloud accessibility to its private cloud usage to maximise the scalability, reliability, and cost-efficiency of its application testing. Deakin University has taken to revolutionising their online learning structure through a custom cloud computing system. By developing and integrating multiple cloud tools, educational institutions like Deakin can connect students to all their most important apps and have them available at any endpoint.

Their platforms are shown in the diagram below:

Hybrid cloud solutions

Source: Crucial

According to Deakin University Senior Project Manager Martin Brandwyk, the benefits they expected this integration of tools to bring were:

  • Research collaboration improvement, mostly achieved through Lync and SharePoint that represent secure sharing and collaboration spaces.
  • A consistent set of tools for all students and researchers regardless of their actual, physical location.
  • Enhanced student experience that enables everyone to work efficiently from anywhere.
  • Innovative use of technologies among both students and academics.

5. Retail

Many retailers need to support hundreds of brands and domain names where each may be managed by a separate development team on different code and infrastructure fundamentals. Hybrid cloud architecture improves enterprise support for microservices to enable development teams and programmers to build on separate public cloud resources under a unified IT management department. For example, CRM software can be run in the cloud or on private servers on-premises to support customer orders, shipping, and logistics in retail supply operations.

Hybrid cloud architecture implements best practices in virtualisation and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) solutions, while corporate internet traffic maintains unified firewall security settings across data connections. Many enterprise organisations implement VPN encryption on version control, database backups, and other network transfer communications. Data centre orchestration across multiple international facilities is used to enable High-Availability (HA) requirements.

The use of multiple international data centres from public cloud hosting companies has the advantage of positioning web servers in closer geo-proximity to major retail markets for better connection speeds. Multiple data centres are also required for “Five Nine” (99.999%) uptime support in ecommerce operations.

“More than many industries, retailers are acutely aware of how IT strategy and execution directly impact the customer experience and the bottom line. The high adoption and planned growth of hybrid cloud in retail shows that retailers understand that hybrid cloud is the best solution for keeping up with customer demands while keeping flexibility, security and costs in line. I expect the retail industry to keep its lead in IT innovation as they form new strategies to delight their customers in the retail experience.”

Chris Kozup, senior vice president of Global Marketing at Nutanix

As a live example, Chumbak – a fast-growing and leading retailer of lifestyle products in India – used a hybrid cloud solution to assist them with building beyond the 40 stores they operated across the country and move more into the online commerce realm. With a need for quick integration across all platforms, a reduction in IT-generated costs and to reduce operational inefficiencies, the choice of a hybrid cloud solution to host and run its enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, a cloud computing solution was the answer.

6. e-Commerce

Enterprise brands and popular online marketplaces need to support complex eCommerce operations with thousands or millions of simultaneous, logged in users at a time. This type of web traffic places enormous burdens on web server hardware in database support or when generating customised, dynamic content for web pages. Elastic cloud web server platforms are designed to scale with user traffic automatically, booting up virtual machines or new containers during times of peak traffic, and automatically degrading resources during downtimes. CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) are primarily used in ecommerce for anonymous browsing support, however do not provide all of the functions of a cloud computing solution.

Public cloud hosting companies also offer many Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) products like Amazon Aurora, DynamoDB, or Microsoft’s Cosmos DB that are designed for the unique needs of large ecommerce websites. Aurora allows businesses to run MySQL or PostgreSQL databases for web/mobile applications in synchronisation with the AWS EC2 platform. DynamoDB is a NoSQL solution that allows businesses to build upon the same ecommerce tools used by to support their customers during peak-time traffic such as holiday season shopping. Cosmos DB is a NoSQL solution that competes with MongoDB and Cassandra for use with customised ecommerce applications at the highest scale.

“Zero trust” policies implemented at public cloud facilities ensure the use of encryption on data connections across web applications, storage facilities, and backups in ecommerce operations.

For example, in 2016 eCommerce retail giant ASOS made the decision as a business to migrate to a microservices architecture powered by Microsoft Azure.

ASOS now uses Azure Cosmos DB across the company, such as for product machine learning models to generate real-time recommendations (the ‘you may also like’ model) and as a low-latency data store for tasks such as storing and retrieving precalculated user profiles (‘you previously bought and this is like that’ model). It also uses Microsoft Azure SQL Database to store relational customer data.

"We chose Azure Cosmos DB because of its global distribution and ability to handle heavy seasonal bursts like Black Friday. We can distribute our data models to be near the microservices they’re serving—wherever that is in the world.”

Source:Bob Strudwick, Chief Technology Officer at ASOS

7. Machine Learning (ML)

Retail websites use product recommendation engines based upon consumer browsing habits, likes, and previous purchases to display dynamic content on websites that is customised to every user. Enterprise companies increasingly adopt Machine Learning (ML) solutions to generate content and product recommendations to users. Public cloud hosts like Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google all offer cutting-edge machine learning platforms that can be integrated into ecommerce websites through hybrid cloud methodologies.

Many businesses prefer Microsoft Azure machine learning resources because of the ease of building functionality into existing Windows environments. AWS offers the Sagemaker service to speed up the use of the most common algorithms in product recommendations, text translation, or image recognition via Jupyter notebooks. The company also offers GPU servers for running AI/ML apps in the cloud. Google has designed their own TPU chips for TensorFlow applications utilising machine learning and deep learning that can be integrated into hybrid cloud constructs for web/mobile app support or industrial manufacturing requirements.

A great example, which is also linked to our previous example of ASOS making the move to Microsoft Azure for microservices, also showcases how this move assisted them with their machine learning challenges.

In order to create a ‘brand recommender’ (creating brand recommendations using datasets of ASOS’ 19.2 million customers, drawing on gigabytes of data each day and then publishing to Azure Cosmos DB for global scalability), ASOS and Microsoft paired up for a 4-week ‘hackathon’ that resulted in an agnostic platform using Azure’s Machine Learning to tie it all together.

The ASOS teams wanted tools that would help them do more than just accelerate the modelling process. They envisioned a new, enterprise-wide ethos—breaking down barriers for teams and developing best practices for dealing with data science and modelling.

"We chose Azure Cosmos DB because of its global distribution and ability to handle heavy seasonal bursts like Black Friday. We can distribute our data models to be near the microservices they’re serving—wherever that is in the world.”

You can read the full breakdown of the use case here.

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