Imagine an online retail store preparing for its biggest sales event of the year. The IT team knows they’ll encounter an immense surge in website traffic and transactions, and their existing infrastructure won’t be sufficient to handle the load. But they have a secret weapon: cloud bursting. As the event kicks off, the website experiences an unprecedented influx of visitors. Without skipping a beat, the IT team seamlessly scales their on-premises resources to the cloud, harnessing the power of elastic compute and storage capabilities. The website remains responsive, offering customers a smooth and delightful shopping experience. As the event ends, the workload seamlessly scales back down, leaving the IT team satisfied with their ability to handle the unexpected workload surge.
Now replace the retail scenario with the media and streaming industry and a major live streaming event. Imagine the energy and utilities sector during a major weather event such as a heatwave or financial services during a global economic crisis. In each scenario, organizations leverage cloud bursting to optimize costs by only paying for additional resources during peak periods while ensuring enhanced performance and resilience. Let’s dive into the concept of cloud bursting, explore its benefits and challenges, and provide practical insights for IT practitioners to leverage this technology effectively.
Understanding cloud bursting
Cloud bursting has emerged as a powerful solution, enabling businesses to seamlessly scale their computing resources from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. Companies can dynamically expand computing resources by extending on-premises infrastructure to the cloud during peak demand. When workloads increase, companies have an “overflow” bucket to ensure optimum performance but can quickly scale back once the peak period is over to avoid wasting resources.
Key components for successful cloud bursting are:
- Workload monitoring: Track resource utilization and identify peak demand periods.
- Auto-scaling policies: Automate provisioning and deprovisioning of cloud resources based on predefined thresholds.
- Data synchronization: Ensure consistent data access and minimize latency when bursting.
- Networking considerations: Establish secure and efficient communication channels between on-premises infrastructure and the cloud environment.
Benefits of cloud bursting and one big surprise
- Scalability and Flexibility: Handling sudden workload surges without permanent infrastructure expansions, ensuring cost-effective scalability and operational flexibility.
- Enhanced Performance: Leveraging the elastic resources of the cloud during peak demand, improving application performance and user experience by reducing response times, increasing system throughput, and efficiently distributing workloads.
- Cost Optimization: Enabling cost savings by avoiding over-provisioning expenses, i.e., paying for additional resources when needed and aligning infrastructure costs with actual workload demands.
Surprisingly, many IT practitioners may not be aware that cloud bursting is not limited to scaling only to public cloud environments. While the common perception is that cloud bursting involves expanding resources to a public cloud provider, it can also involve scaling to a private cloud or even a different on-premises infrastructure.
This concept, known as reverse cloud bursting or reverse-bursting, enables organizations to dynamically redirect workload from a public cloud back to their private infrastructure or a secondary on-premises data center when specific conditions are met. This flexibility allows organizations to optimize costs, maintain data sovereignty, or address compliance requirements while benefiting from the elasticity of cloud bursting.
Reverse cloud bursting offers several advantages, including:
- Data Localization and Compliance: In industries with strict data governance regulations or where data sovereignty is critical, reverse cloud bursting gives organizations more control over their data by bringing it back in-house or to a compliant, private infrastructure.
- Enhanced Performance and Latency: In certain scenarios where low latency is essential, such as real-time data processing or high-frequency trading, reverse cloud bursting allows organizations to keep their workloads closer to their data sources, reducing network latency and improving overall application performance.
- Hybrid Cloud Flexibility: Reverse cloud bursting complements the hybrid cloud strategy by providing additional options for workload distribution across different infrastructure environments. It allows organizations to leverage the strengths of both public and private cloud environments, optimizing resource utilization and maintaining a flexible and scalable infrastructure.
By understanding the potential of reverse cloud bursting, IT practitioners can expand their options for workload management and explore innovative ways to optimize their infrastructure, address compliance requirements, and achieve a balance between cost, performance, and data control.
Challenges and considerations
One potential negative surprise for IT practitioners exploring cloud bursting is the complexity and potential challenges associated with implementing and managing the technology effectively. While cloud bursting offers numerous benefits, certain considerations can catch organizations off guard:
- Workload Burst Detection: Accurately detecting workload bursts is crucial for effective resource scaling. Strategies include utilizing monitoring tools, analyzing historical data, and employing machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and trigger cloud bursting. This can be a considerable challenge requiring advanced monitoring and analysis techniques.
- Data Consistency and Latency: Data synchronization and network optimization may present technical challenges and require careful planning and configuration. Robust data synchronization mechanisms are needed to maintain consistent access to data across on-premises and cloud environments. Optimizing network connectivity between environments helps reduce latency and improve overall system performance.
- Application Compatibility: Some applications may not be designed to scale seamlessly across different infrastructure environments. Certain legacy applications or those tightly coupled with specific on-premises systems may require modifications or redesign to leverage cloud bursting capabilities fully. The need for application refactoring or redesign can introduce additional complexities and potential disruptions to the overall ecosystem.
- Operational Complexity: Managing a hybrid infrastructure that involves on-premises resources and multiple cloud providers can be operationally complex. IT practitioners must navigate different management interfaces, monitoring tools, and orchestration frameworks to ensure consistent visibility and control across the hybrid environment. Training and expertise may be required to handle the intricacies of managing and troubleshooting a hybrid infrastructure effectively.
- Security: Cloud bursting introduces security implications that need to be addressed. Organizations must implement robust data protection measures to secure data during transit and storage in the cloud. Employing identity and access management practices ensures proper authorization and authentication.
- Compliance: Compliance with industry regulations and a comprehensive security posture across hybrid environments are vital for data privacy and protection. Ensuring security and compliance in a hybrid environment can be complex, requiring a deep understanding of relevant regulations and best practices.
Cloud bursting best practices
There are three key components to managing a successful cloud-bursting strategy.
1. Workload Analysis and Planning
Performing a thorough workload analysis is vital to identify suitable workloads for cloud bursting. Consider factors such as resource requirements, performance thresholds, and data sensitivity to determine which workloads can benefit most from cloud bursting.
2. Hybrid Architecture Design
Building a robust hybrid infrastructure is crucial for seamless cloud bursting. Considerations include establishing reliable network connectivity, implementing efficient data synchronization mechanisms, and incorporating disaster recovery mechanisms to ensure high availability and data integrity across environments.
3. Automation and Orchestration
Automation and orchestration tools are pivotal in managing cloud-bursting operations efficiently. Leveraging these tools enables dynamic scaling, automates resource provisioning, and ensures smooth transitions between on-premises and cloud environments.
Mastering unpredictability for smoother operations
Much like our hypothetical retail company in the introduction or any of our other examples, companies can create flexible processing options for unpredictable demand through a cloud-bursting strategy. Understanding the nuances and best practices of cloud bursting is crucial for successfully navigating the dynamic landscape of modern infrastructure. Implementing cloud bursting can empower businesses to seamlessly scale their operations and confidently tackle the challenges posed by unpredictable workload fluctuations, thereby gaining a competitive edge in today’s digital realm.
Elizabeth Wallace is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for data science and AI and a background in linguistics. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain – clearly – what it is they do.