The benefits of cloud bursting for modern businesses

DE-CIX’s Christoph Dietzel ignites the conversation around cloud bursting, the dynamic scaling of IT resources from on-premises servers to the public cloud

How can businesses source flexible resource scaling for peak loads without blowing the budget? What if there is already excellent on-prem infrastructure in place, so moving everything to the cloud is off the cards?

Christoph Dietzel, Global Head of Products & Research at DE-CIX, believes that cloud bursting may be the answer. 

Cloud bursting, the dynamic scaling of IT resources from private cloud to the public cloud during data traffic or user demand peaks, can be used for the dynamic scaling of IT resources from on-prem servers to the public cloud for temporary peaks, careful planning of network capacity is needed, and the myths of high latency, a lack of interoperability, and crippling cloud egress costs need busting.

Here, Dr Dietzel opens up a discussion on what cloud bursting is and how it can boast a multitude of benefits.

Christoph Dietzel, Global Head of Products & Research at DE-CIX

What is cloud bursting, and why is it relevant for modern businesses?

Cloud bursting might sound complex at first, but it’s a relatively simple idea. It’s a solution that allows for the dynamic scaling of IT resources from on-premises servers to the public cloud during temporary peaks in data traffic, compute needs, or user demand. It's particularly beneficial for businesses that already have a robust on-prem infrastructure and don't want to shift everything to the cloud. Instead, they can leverage cloud bursting to handle sudden surges in demand without incurring the high costs of maintaining peak capacity all the time.

The relevance of cloud bursting for modern businesses lies in its flexibility and cost-efficiency. In today's digital age, companies can experience both predictable and unpredictable spikes in demand, such as when conducting big data analytics or during an unexpected run on the company homepage. Cloud bursting provides a solution to these challenges, allowing businesses to scale resources only when needed. 

This not only prevents potential service disruptions but also ensures that companies don't over-invest in on-prem infrastructure that might remain underutilised most of the time. Instead, they can maintain their critical data and workloads on-prem, aligning with their security and compliance policies, while still benefiting from the scalability of the cloud during peak periods.

How does cloud bursting differ from standard hybrid cloud scenarios?

Cloud bursting and hybrid cloud might seem similar at first glance, but they serve different purposes. 

Think of your company's IT setup as a bike for local errands, your on-premises infrastructure, and a car for longer journeys, the public cloud. In a standard hybrid cloud scenario, you use the bike for quick, nearby tasks, and the car for more extensive trips, each serving its unique purpose.

Now, imagine there's a big family reunion in a distant town. Your car isn't big enough to transport everyone. Instead of making multiple trips or renting multiple cars, you upgrade your car into a bus just for this event. Once the reunion is over, the bus reverts to a car, and you continue using it and the bike as before. Essentially, cloud bursting is like temporarily upgrading to a bus during high-demand periods, while hybrid cloud represents the regular use of both the bike and car for different tasks. It dynamically expands your capacity for short periods.

What are the key challenges associated with implementing cloud bursting?

Implementing cloud bursting comes with its own set of challenges that businesses need to navigate. One of the primary concerns is latency. When you're dynamically scaling resources from on-premises to the cloud, you need a seamless, fast connection. Any delay can impact performance, especially if real-time data access is required. This is why ensuring low-latency and high-bandwidth connectivity between the on-prem infrastructure, and the public cloud is crucial.

Another hurdle is interoperability. Public clouds aren't always designed to easily communicate with on-prem infrastructure or other clouds. It's like trying to fit pieces from different puzzle sets together; they might not naturally align. 

Lastly, there's the matter of cloud egress costs. While moving data into the cloud can be straightforward, pulling it back out can come with hefty fees, especially if large volumes of data are involved. Businesses need to be aware of these costs and plan their cloud bursting strategy accordingly to avoid unexpected expenses.

How can companies ensure low-latency and high-bandwidth connectivity for effective cloud bursting?

Ensuring a smooth and efficient cloud bursting experience hinges on having a robust connection between the on-premises infrastructure and the public cloud. It's like ensuring a highway between two cities is wide enough and free of traffic jams, so vehicles can move quickly and without interruption. 

To achieve this, companies often opt for direct connectivity services offered by cloud providers. These services, such as Azure Express Route or AWS Direct Connect, bypass the public internet, which can be congested and unpredictable, and provide a dedicated pathway to the cloud.

Moreover, using a Cloud Exchange can be a game-changer. It's a platform that allows businesses to connect to multiple cloud providers over a single link. This not only streamlines the connectivity process but also ensures that the pathway to the cloud is as short and direct as possible. By prioritising these direct and private connectivity solutions, companies can significantly reduce latency, ensuring that data flows seamlessly and efficiently during the cloud bursting process.

How can companies avoid vendor lock-in and ensure interoperability between private and public clouds?

Vendor lock-in is naturally a concern for many businesses venturing into cloud solutions. If a company becomes overly reliant on a single cloud provider's tools and services, it can become challenging and costly to switch providers or integrate with other platforms. To avoid this, it's essential to design a cloud strategy that prioritises flexibility and interoperability from the outset.

Interoperability, the ability for different systems and organisations to work together seamlessly, is crucial for cloud bursting. Given that public clouds aren't always designed to easily communicate with on-prem infrastructure, companies need solutions that bridge the gap. 

One effective approach is using cloud routers or cloud routing services. These tools act as translators between different cloud infrastructures, ensuring a smooth transition between on-prem and public cloud environments. Whether it's a hardware device or a software-based service, the key is to choose a solution that can scale to the required bandwidth capacities, ensuring it doesn't become a bottleneck in the process. By prioritising interoperability and being cautious of vendor-specific solutions that don't play well with others, companies can maintain flexibility in their cloud strategies.

What are cloud egress costs, and how can they impact a company's budget?

Cloud egress costs refer to the fees associated with transferring data out of a cloud environment back to on-premises infrastructure or to another cloud. While uploading or moving data into the cloud is often straightforward and largely free of charge, pulling it back out can come with a price tag. 

It's similar to online shopping where you get free delivery, but if you need to return an item, you often have to pay for the postage. Another way to think about it is like attending an event with a complimentary shuttle bus service to get there but having to pay for a taxi to return home afterwards.

For businesses, these costs can quickly add up, especially if they're handling large volumes of data or frequently moving data in and out of the cloud. For instance, after a cloud bursting event, a company might want to pull processed data or results back to its primary infrastructure. If not anticipated and managed properly, these egress fees can become a significant line item in a company's cloud budget.

However, there's a silver lining. By using direct connectivity services offered by cloud providers, companies can significantly reduce these egress costs. These services often come with lower data transfer prices compared to using the public internet. So, while cloud egress costs are an essential factor to consider in cloud strategies, with the right planning and tools, they can be effectively managed to avoid unexpected budgetary impacts.

Can you provide real-world use cases where cloud bursting would be beneficial?

There are several. Cloud bursting shines in scenarios where businesses experience sudden and temporary spikes in demand or computational needs. One classic example is an e-commerce platform or web shop preparing for a big sale event, like Black Friday. Anticipating a surge in online traffic, the company can use cloud bursting to temporarily scale up its resources, ensuring the website remains responsive and provides a smooth shopping experience for customers.

Another use case is big data analytics. Companies might have vast amounts of data stored on-premises, and occasionally they need to process this data to gain insights. Instead of investing in expensive on-premises hardware that might be underutilised most of the time, they can burst into the cloud, leveraging its computational power for the duration of the analysis. The training of Machine Learning (ML) models is another area where cloud bursting can be invaluable. Training ML models, especially with large datasets, requires significant computational resources. Companies can use cloud bursting to access these resources on-demand, ensuring efficient model training without the need for constant high-capacity on-premises infrastructure.

Lastly, consider software development. Before rolling out a new application or software update, companies often conduct stress testing to see how the software performs under heavy loads. Cloud bursting allows them to simulate real-life traffic volumes or loads, ensuring the software is robust and ready for deployment.

In all these scenarios, cloud bursting offers a flexible, cost-effective solution, allowing businesses to scale resources as needed without overcommitting their budgets.

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