What is Cloud Bursting and When Should IT Leaders Use It?


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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The barriers between on-premises or private cloud systems and public cloud are thinning in the hybrid era. For all IT’s flexibility, a cloud-bursting plan can come into play when rapid growth or peak demand threatens to overwhelm your traditional IT.

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What is Cloud Bursting and When Should IT Leaders Use It?
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Cloud computing is an infinite resource that many businesses and enterprises take advantage of. Yet for many large firms focused on their data center or private cloud services, the public cloud, typically provided by Amazon AWS, Google, Microsoft or other providers, is often overlooked due to compliance or security reasons.

As demand exceeds capacity and there’s no time to consider an upgrade or look at costly additions to your private cloud resources, making use of the public cloud – or, cloud bursting – as it is known, is an efficient and low-cost way to meet those spikes without impacting business operations or efficiency.

What is cloud bursting?

Cloud bursts can be triggered automatically during unexpected peaks, or mandated as part of IT’s management resources when there are seasonal or other regular boosts for demand or activity. Consider the approach similar to that employed by load balancers to ensure the smooth running of a network.

Cloud bursting provides many benefits as an ad hoc solution to business problems, helping keep costs down and improving the flexibility of the company to respond to changing conditions. This also supports business continuity efforts, and helps firms that see large spikes cope with increased demand.

Services firms that are growing fast may also find demand for their digital products or applications outstrips their available resources. Cloud bursting can be one way to mitigate this until they can get more permanent resources on board.

Typical examples of cloud bursting usage may be the launch of a big data or analytics project where the initial volume of data overwhelms the originally assigned resources. Another would be a new marketing effort for a fresh product or service that generates huge interest and sees large numbers of new sign-ups consuming storage or resources.

The risks and challenges of cloud bursting

Many businesses still avoid the public cloud due to the security or compliance challenges, and these remain the same even when a business believes that occasional use of cloud bursting doesn’t create any risks.

Any cloud bursting efforts must be scoped out beforehand to ensure:

The IT team must also ensure:

  • Clouds or on-premises systems are interoperable
  • There’s no risk of data duplication
  • Cloud bursting can be achieved either by moving the whole application to the public cloud, or data can be streamed between resources effectively

Finally, the business needs to test its cloud bursting efforts before using them to ensure that any public cloud assets can meet the bandwidth and load demands without impacting latency or business applications.

While cloud bursting may be relatively low-cost, operators need to monitor usage and charges, as providers tend to charge a premium for ad hoc usage of cloud services that can impact other operations. If cloud bursting starts happening more regularly, then the business will need to consider expanding its current private cloud or moving more operations to the public cloud on a permanent basis. 

How to enable cloud bursting

Depending on the business need, cloud bursting can be enabled typically by creating new virtual machines or assigned resources within the public cloud to handle a specific workload.

Applications and their data files need to be able to support flexible operations. Examples not suitable for cloud bursting include those that leverage legacy databases, dependencies or multiple interfaces.

Most other cloud-native or on-premises applications can make the transition to public cloud environments. The virtual machines can support and run existing applications, and handle all the data in the public cloud. This approach is cheaper and faster than adding a new server or expanding the data center in response to demand.

Alternatively, some applications can dynamically move the application data between on-premises or private clouds and the public cloud bursts. Ensuring a consistent view of that data and metadata is critical, and there are tools to ensure data currency. However, these add to the overall complexity of the task.

To protect the business, IT security teams should create an isolated network between public and private networks, use a secure VPN or tunnel between on-premises data centers and assign security groups and rules-based monitoring to protect the workflows.

Cloud bursting in the hybrid era

As hybrid cloud environments become more common, the ease with which cloud bursting can be enabled will simplify the option for business. Providers like AWS are building the gateways and connectors to deliver cloud bursting in a more dynamic, self-service fashion, enabling IT to maintain control and visibility into any processes.

If the business is expanding fast, it can also move non-critical applications and resources to the public cloud via a cloud burst, enabling it to keep new mission-critical or sensitive applications stored and operating on faster local resources.

Cloud bursting is just one example of how a business can take advantage of public cloud resources on a temporary basis. But the move can also highlight the benefits to the business of the public cloud, and demonstrate the security and compatibility that some leaders remain concerned about.

And, as hybrid cloud becomes the way that many businesses operate their IT environment, mixing and matching clouds for certain types of applications will be the way to go by default, helping reduce the need for seasonal and other cloud bursting efforts.

Further Reading

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