When Cloud technology breached the mainstream in the mid-2000s, battle lines were quickly drawn between the providers of public cloud solutions and the providers of colocation services. For businesses wishing to optimise their network performance, it was a choice between one or the other.
The stand-off between cloud and colocation persisted for the best part of two decades. However, in recent years an interesting development has taken hold - some of the largest public cloud providers have begun offering their customers new types of hybrid cloud solutions. These next generation solutions allow customers to access public cloud services even if their workloads are housed in entirely separate data centres.
In this piece, we unpack the terms hybrid colocation and hybrid cloud technology, explain how the line between cloud and colocation has become blurred, and how organisations can look to capitalise on the potency of hybrid colocation.
Introduction to hybrid colocation
Such is the scale of the hardware and the security and performance requirements of the major public cloud providers; it is common for them to acquire overflow rack space for their mission-critical infrastructure within approved colocation data centres. Inside these same facilities, organisations of every type and size also occupy racks, cages, even entire halls.
Through innovative engineering and high bandwidth connections, major public cloud providers can link their infrastructure to their fellow enterprise incumbents thereby giving them access to low latency, high performance alternative networks. All at a fraction of the usual cost.
Though these benefits are every bit as compelling as they sound, many business leaders are wary of either migrating their hardware to a separate facility or linking their infrastructure to another third party cloud provider once migration is complete. On the first concern, though housing hardware in a colocation data centre does involve some initial upheaval, once complete, it is vanishingly rare for businesses to ever bring it back in house.
For organisations cautious of linking up to a third part public cloud provider, alleviate fears by looking for a colocation data centre that hosts a range of managed service providers. Together, they will facilitate the process for you, including everything from easy data transfer and migration, to onboarding and orchestration.
Introduction to hybrid cloud technology
Hybrid cloud technology (more commonly referred to simply as ‘hybrid cloud’) is a computing environment that comprises an orchestrated blend of on-premise, private cloud, and third-party public cloud services. Typically, this involves a connection from a data centre to a public cloud but the connection often includes other assets such as edge devices.
Using a hybrid cloud model, organisations spread their workloads across private IT environments and public clouds, switching between them according to requirements and cost restraints.
Though the two are similar, it’s important to recognise the distinction between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud models. While a hybrid cloud provides a single environment in which to operate across on-premise, private, and public cloud resources, a multi-cloud environment comprises at least two public cloud providers but does not require a private or on-premise solution.
The choice between cloud and colocation
That such a clear line in the sand had been drawn between cloud and colocation is simple enough to understand. Those businesses that ran their workloads in the public cloud had access to a whole suite of diverse services that could be made almost instantly available. However, the shared nature of public cloud meant that privacy and control were sacrificed, removing the organisation’s ability to choose what hardware was used and how it could be configured.
Meanwhile, though businesses that had opted for colocation enjoyed this privacy and control, they missed out on the sheer flexibility public cloud confers as well as the countless additional services.
Up until recently, momentum had been with the public cloud providers but their efforts to increase their own market presence ended up altering the landscape in a way that was perhaps unintended. By introducing new hybrid cloud frameworks, the public cloud providers made it possible for businesses to use their services while housing their workloads within colocation data centres.
These new hybrid solutions opened vast opportunities for bridging the gap that had traditionally separated public cloud from colocation data centres. As long as the colocation provider could meet the organisation’s hardware requirements, and the organisation was comfortable managing the software side of things if necessary (many instead hire third-party service providers), it became easy to deploy public cloud services on servers located in a colocation centre.
Once established, hybrid cloud solutions provide access to a range of public cloud services, supporting standard IaaS processes and storage, serverless functions, and the PaaS software platforms built into public cloud environments.
For budget-sensitive organisations, this option rarely affects outlay and often ends up costing less to access the public cloud services, even with colocation pricing factored in. Indeed, many organisations discover that a hybrid cloud framework, contained within a colocation centre, represents a lower TCO than exclusively using either a public cloud or colocation service.
Incorporating cloud into a colocation setup
As organisations have no direct control over a public cloud provider’s architecture, they must instead adapt their own resources and environments to the providers services, resources, and APIs. This requires implementing hardware within the data centre such as servers, storage, load balancers, and a LAN. With integration and interoperability established, a highly effective hybrid model is soon up and running.
Although hybrid cloud architecture encompasses various environments and components, making its management fairly complex, there are strategies that can remove this sting from the tail.
For example, the development of a cloud governance policy to outline standard processes for the likes of resource configurations and access control creates a consistent blueprint for the various touchpoints within the hybrid architecture.
There are also a number of tools that can be used to centralise control of on-premise and cloud resources that allow for such capability as cost and performance monitoring, reporting, analytics, and security. Infrastructure-as-code tools, containers, and Kubernetes orchestration can also provide effective and unified hybrid cloud management capabilities.
Exactly how hybrid cloud platforms will shape the future of colocation is yet to be determined - these are technologies still in their emergent phase.
What we can say is that the line in the sand alluded to earlier is fainter than it’s ever been. This new generation of hybrid cloud frameworks has brought about a depth of integration between public cloud and colocation that was unfathomable only a few years ago.