Going Hybrid: Cloud Considerations for Database Management and Integration

As more and more organizations migrate database management and integration to the cloud, various use cases and best practices are beginning to take shape around the timing, cost, and extent to which workloads are moved.

Some companies opt to move the entirety of their database operations to the cloud in what could be called a “cloud-exclusive” approach. Others forgo (or delay) cloud migrations entirely, opting instead for an on-premise technology stack to manage data. However, most organizations today are selecting a hybrid approach, in which they weigh the value of migration for each application of the business, and divvy up data assets across a private cloud, public cloud, and/or on-prem solutions. 

In fact, a staggering 87% of businesses run or plan to run a mixed form of infrastructure according to a recent Aptum hybrid IT survey, which sought responses from more than 500 individuals employed by U.S.-based mid-range organizations involved in the procurement of IT solutions and services.

Companies have unique challenges, and navigating the details and costs can be difficult. In every case, there are advantages and disadvantages to evaluate.

On-Premise

There are valid reasons for an organization to eschew the industry trend toward cloud migration and look instead to maintain its database management operations on-premise. Companies often have to make a decision about the investment they’ve already made in servers, along with the challenges for clients and employees during a transition.

Other companies look at compliance requirements and security concerns and decide that the risks outweigh the benefits. Some just don’t feel comfortable with production environments existing in the cloud and want to possess exclusive control of test beds and other key environments. In fact, Aptum’s survey found that data security and network stability are the top two priorities for decision makers in terms of what matters most to their businesses and overall strategies. There is often power in maintaining the status quo and, until technologies or services are offered that motivate them to adopt a cloud migration strategy, sometimes the best and most risk-averse move may be to stand pat.

Cloud Exclusive

On the other end of the spectrum are brands that see the great cloud migration as a game-changing opportunity to gain efficiency, reduce costs, and achieve greater results. Organizations that view the cloud this way are often fast to double down on as large a migration of data operations to the cloud as possible.

The research showed that moving exclusively to the cloud is the number-one IT investment strategy for businesses focused on AI and IoT. And for good reason: Cloud-based services benefit businesses in so many ways, including the flexibility to scale server environments in response to demand in real time, disaster recovery, automatic updates, reduced cost, increased collaboration, global access, and even (despite what the on-premise folks might say) improved data security.

On that last point, it’s worth noting that lost laptops, aging hardware, and poorly written security parameters are far greater security risks in self-hosted environments than they are through cloud-based mega offerings from AWS, Azure, and the like. Those organizations dedicate entire teams to ensure that cloud environments are secure in an ongoing and continuously monitored capacity. In nearly every reported case of data breach, including Capital One, it was something other than a lack of infrastructural security in the cloud that led to the data loss.

Hybrid IT

For many businesses and data centers with a healthy amount of risk aversion or those with already-deployed data management assets, the mixture of on-prem and a private cloud can allow the company to tailor the perfect technology stack for its needs. The hybrid model allows an organization to keep some on-premise infrastructure while blending in the best capabilities from the cloud. It’s a best-of-both-worlds approach born out of pragmatism.

And, because cloud deployments are so flexible, changeable, and fluid, businesses are starting to see that they don’t have to make just one decision. Companies can design their infrastructure to fit today’s needs and scale up or down in the future as it evolves.

For example, adtech mogul The Trade Desk is known for providing agencies and advertisers with the best technology, information, and performance available today—and that level of competitiveness doesn’t come easy. In fact, The Trade Desk sees up to 9 million queries per second on average.

Requiring a network complex and fast enough to deal with a petabyte of data a month, The Trade Desk relies on a managed, hybrid approach with a telecommunications-grade, fully customizable infrastructure and fast network to connect its database, web servers, and partners at scale and across its global footprint.

These shifting needs are increasingly less about cost and more about improved functionality. Historically, businesses were restricted in what they could achieve technologically by the performance of their own IT divisions. Teams were limited in scope based on budgets and overall cost-reduction incentives for maintaining onsite systems.

Today, with the cloud just a few DevOps engineers away, businesses are changing how they think about infrastructure and IT. It is less about cost reduction—that can happen as a simple function of cloud migration—and more about maximized business outcomes. When an organization begins to plan potential cloud migration, it may look at the business value, the potential savings, and the performance increases promised with a cloud-based application. Perhaps it can serve more clicks or deliver faster performance as a result of a migration. The incremental improvements many organizations find possible in the cloud often can be the difference in millions of dollars.

But, to achieve impressive results and build out a healthy mix with hybrid IT, there is one critical step that nearly every organization must get right: its partners.

Pick the Right Partners

Most organizations moving from on-premise database environments to hybrid ones will require the support of several partners.  Figuring out who those partners should be is half the battle.

For instance, Centro, the automated digital media buying platform, needed an IT business partner it could rely on for state-of-the-art hardware and a lightning-fast network to support its high-frequency trading business model. By finding the right managed services provider, the brand found a true partner with give and take on both sides—a provider that has taken the time to know its business, preferences, and what it is looking for specifically to meet its needs.

However, it can be very difficult to identify and map out the broader migration and ongoing cloud infrastructure strategy. Questions abound regarding cost, ROI, efficiency, and best practices. It may seem desirable for organizations to avoid the partnership step and try to start solving the cloud riddle themselves. Too often, however, these organizations will over-engineer their clouds and build environments that are too large and expansive because they are unsure of which services to skip. It’s a common mistake, and one that will ultimately overprice their technology stacks and reduce the ROI for their projects.

A good partnership with cloud experts can help avoid these common kinds of pitfalls. And, luckily, there are some telltale signs that allow organizations to judge whether a cloud solution provider is the right one. Consider these questions when considering a provider: Is the consultant selling a true partnership at the heart of its offering? Is it an ecosystem partner on a single contract? Is there a single conduit for problem resolution? Is it business outcome-focused?

If the cloud solutions provider can address these questions to meet an organization’s needs, then the odds are that the partner has enough expertise to get the job done and to serve the business instead of exploiting a rush to the cloud.

The fact is, all of the challenges that businesses face as they consider cloud migrations are ultimately worth the effort. Cloud IT environments can grow a company’s revenue substantially if deployed at the right time. And, this kind of growth opportunity just doesn’t come around very often. It happened a generation ago when the internet first came to the forefront, and it is happening now with the cloud.

This is why, for all of the corporate dialogue about cloud infrastructure—how to migrate, in what capacity, to which platform, and with which partners—the fact remains that today, right here and now, we are at the onset of a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

It is true for enterprise-level operations of all kinds—for adtech, hospitality, ecommerce, and fintech. It is also an opportunity for any organization seeking stronger security, and it’s a chance to streamline a business with major compliance considerations.

Understanding the “You don’t want to miss this” quality of the great rush to the cloud in essentially every industry, the question then becomes less about whether to migrate to the cloud, and more a question of when. And a better question still is, with whom by your side?

Today, with the cloud just a few DevOps engineers away, businesses are changing how they think about infrastructure and IT.

It’s worth noting that lost laptops, aging hardware, and poorly written security parameters are far greater security risks in self-hosted environments than they are through cloud-based mega offerings from AWS, Azure, and the like.



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