Choosing a cloud provider is complicated enough when you plan to run all of your workloads within a single public cloud: You have to compare the various features and pricing schedules that different cloud providers offer to determine the best fit for your workloads. But if you’ve adopted a hybrid cloud solution, selecting a public cloud platform to help power your strategy is even more challenging. It requires comparing not only the core features of public clouds themselves, but also the services they offer related to hybrid cloud.
Here’s some advice on how to choose a cloud provider when you’re building a hybrid cloud solution strategy.
Public Clouds and Hybrid Cloud Solutions
The meaning of hybrid cloud is a bit blurry. That makes it hard to determine what even counts as a hybrid cloud in some cases. The extent to which workload deployment, management and monitoring are centralized within a hybrid cloud can vary.
However, all hybrid cloud solutions share one core feature in common: They combine services from a public cloud platform with private infrastructure. Public clouds are therefore a necessary building-block for hybrid clouds.
Choosing the Right Public Cloud for Your Hybrid Cloud Solution
If you want to build a hybrid cloud solution, then, one of the first steps is to decide which public cloud platform to use to deliver the public cloud services and/or infrastructure that will help power your hybrid cloud. As we’ve noted, this is a complex decision, given the many considerations at play in areas like features and pricing. You also need to think about not just how a cloud provider’s services work within its cloud, but also how they integrate with private infrastructure as part of a hybrid strategy.
Here are some questions to ask as you navigate this tricky terrain.
1. Does the cloud vendor have an official hybrid cloud framework?
Today, many cloud vendors--including all of the Big Three public clouds--have frameworks specifically designed to help businesses deploy and manage hybrid cloud environments. Amazon has AWS Outposts and EKS Anywhere. Google has Anthos. Microsoft offers Azure Stack and Azure Arc.
These frameworks are usually the easiest means of building a hybrid cloud. But they are not necessarily the most cost-effective, and they tend to lock you into a particular public cloud platform’s management tooling for your hybrid environment. In addition, some of these frameworks require the use of specific hardware, rather than allowing you to build your hybrid cloud using infrastructure you already own.
For these reasons, you may also want to look at public cloud platforms that can be used to build hybrid cloud environments but don’t necessarily offer frameworks purpose-built for this use case. If you take this route, you’ll likely end up using management tooling from a third-party vendor, like ServiceNow or ManageEngine. These solutions will be more complicated to integrate, but they are more cloud-neutral. They may also cost less.
2. Will you use Kubernetes?
Deploying applications via Kubernetes can be an easy way to build a hybrid cloud. It allows you to use Kubernetes to centralize and standardize your deployment and management processes, regardless of which infrastructure--public or private--happens to be hosting your applications.
If you adopt a Kubernetes-based hybrid cloud strategy, your primary consideration when selecting a public cloud platform will be which features the platform’s Kubernetes service offers, and how well the service integrates with third-party infrastructure. Kubernetes services like Google Anthos, which Google launched with the explicit goal of allowing Kubernetes to work with any infrastructure, are arguably better suited for a hybrid strategy than services such as AWS EKS, which is not currently as infrastructure-agnostic (although it has become more so through the launch of EKS Anywhere).
3. Which IaC tooling does the cloud support?
Being able to use the same infrastructure-as-code (IaC) templates across a hybrid cloud environment makes it much easier to deploy workloads than it would be if you had to use one set of IaC templates for your public cloud platform and another for workloads hosted on private infrastructure.
Most third-party IaC tools can be used on any public cloud or on-premises environment. However, native IaC solutions from public cloud platforms, like AWS CloudFormation, may have limited hybrid cloud support, so you'll want to check which hybrid cloud platforms and features your IaC toolset can handle.
4. How well does the cloud’s IAM platform support hybrid cloud?
In general, public cloud platforms’ identity and access management (IAM) frameworks are designed to manage access only for workloads running within those clouds. But it’s sometimes possible to extend IAM roles into hybrid environments, too, which simplifies access management. You can do this with AWS, for example, or with Azure Active Directory.
5. Have you considered egress fees?
Since egress fees (the fees that cloud providers charge for certain types of data movement) can be a major part of your cloud computing bill, you should carefully evaluate the egress fees schedules of any public cloud platforms you are considering.
Pay particular attention to how their egress pricing could impact the hybrid architecture you plan to build. For instance, if you’ll be using a virtual private cloud (VPC), assess the cost implications of moving data into and out of the VPC.
6. What networking services are offered?
Speaking of VPCs, VPCs and other networking services are often an important building-block for integrating private infrastructure with public clouds. Networking services also tend to be highly complex and nuanced; for example, Azure VPN Gateway and Azure ExpressRoute both let you connect private infrastructure with the Azure public cloud, but they do so in slightly different ways.
The point here is that you should do your research to determine exactly which types of networking services each public cloud offers, and which is the best fit for your hybrid cloud plans based on features and pricing.
Any public cloud platform can function as part of a hybrid architecture. However, public clouds differ significantly in areas ranging from egress pricing and networking features to hybrid cloud management and Kubernetes services. Evaluate all of these areas as you decide which public cloud platform is the best fit for your hybrid cloud vision.