An Introduction To Hybrid Hosting

This post is part one of a two-part series that examines hybrid hosting, use cases and questions you should ask when considering a hybrid hosting environment. Stay tuned for part two, which will run November 14. For more detailed information on hybrid hosting check out the white paper “Nervous About Cloud? Go Hybrid Instead.”

When we talk about hybrid hosting, we talk about the combination of customer-dedicated servers and public cloud infrastructure used in parallel to meet a hosting objective. When used correctly, hybrid hosting can provide the security features, performance and customization of dedicated hardware along and couple it with the cost savings, utility and bursting aspects that cloud technology offers. How best to leverage this technology combination will be dictated by your specific business, industry/regulatory requirements, application capabilities and budget, among other things.

Let’s get started with an introduction to hybrid hosting and three use case examples.

What Is Hybrid Hosting?

Various marketing campaigns have helped increase public awareness of the cloud, but marketing speak has also inadvertently generated confusion and misperceptions about what the cloud is, and what it isn’t. Let’s set the record straight with this glossary:

  • Public Cloud Hosting: The hosting of content that resides on a shared/multitenant infrastructure that customers purchase as a service. Customers may have administrative access to complete virtual private servers (also referred to as virtual machines or VMs), or they may control content through a portal and not have actual access to the server operating system. Billing is usually a utility-based, month-to-month commitment with no long-term contractual obligation.
  • Dedicated Hosting: Content is hosted on physical servers that are dedicated to the customer. This can range from pure colocation — where customers procure and install the equipment, and support the content — to a fully managed service, where customers lease the equipment and own the content responsibilities, and the service provider installs and supports the network and server hardware. Pricing is usually based on the number of devices and other technologies that are deployed. Contract terms can range from 12 months to 36 months or longer. Customers pay for the hardware that is deployed regardless of how much it is used.
  • Private Cloud Hosting: Content hosted on virtualized servers that run on customer-dedicated hypervisors instead of multi-tenant devices. Private cloud is also referred to as “Dedicated Virtualization Hosting” (VMware, Hyper-V, Xen, etc.).
  • Hybrid Hosting: The combination of dedicated and/or private cloud hosting with public cloud hosting.

Why Consider A Hybrid Solution?

A common perception about virtualization is that moving from physical to virtual servers can lower your hosting costs. In many cases this is correct. There is also the perception that cloud hosting is still an emerging technology that lacks proper security features and therefore is not ready for mission-critical applications. In some cases, this is also correct. However, when properly planned, a hybrid configuration can help lower your costs without increasing your security risk or decreasing application performance. By working with a provider that offers both cloud and dedicated hosting — and the ability to securely connect the two — you can experience the “cure for the common cloud.” After conducting a proper internal analysis, you should be able to identify which of your servers can be virtualized, which need to remain physical and which can be consolidated or eliminated.

Reselling Hybrid Services

Consider the real-world case of an advertising agency taking advantage of a hybrid solution. Before coming to Rackspace, this company supported internal hardware and outsourced parts of its customer-facing infrastructure. It managed multiple contracts with multiple vendors with varying levels of support available, sometimes none at all. As the business grew, the company found teams distracted from focusing on core business objectives. Its clients were requesting project services of varying lengths, so paying for hardware not in use during slow periods was becoming expensive. Because its customers ranged from global brand names to niche players, almost all of them required additional capabilities and security features. Furthermore, sites need be 100 percent available when launching marketing campaigns or new products. A hybrid configuration can enable a customer like this to front online properties with public cloud web servers that can be protected by a dedicated physical firewall and supported by physical database and application clusters. Some projects can run completely on the public cloud while others dictate the need to run on a private cloud.

Large Physical To Virtual Migration/Consolidation

Hybrid configurations are not limited by scale. In the example below, several cabinets worth of servers and storage in a customer data center moved off-site while secure VPN tunneling enables access to internal and external applications. By deploying dedicated hypervisors and the necessary supporting infrastructure (high-speed storage, clustered databases, network security, etc.), much of the internal support burden is removed, internal resources are made available for other uses and operating expenses are lowered (power and cooling, support costs, etc.). Once migrated into our facility, Rackspace provides industry-leading support, network and power SLAs and hardware replacement guarantees, all for a monthly fee with no massive upfront capital expenditure. This example can be expanded to hundreds of servers or more; the benefits are consistent.

Modest Entry Points

Hybrid hosting can help businesses of all sizes, not just those looking for massive consolidation or hardware downsizing. A very basic configuration can move your business into a hybrid cloud. Take, for example, customer-facing public cloud servers connected to a dedicated physical database server. The firewall protects the

cloud servers while facilitating secure network communication between them and the database server. Rackspace provides its RackConnect™ solution for this secure network connection between dedicated and public cloud infrastructure. This combination provides the best of both worlds: public cloud flexibility and utility combined with a more secure dedicated infrastructure and server hardware.

In Conclusion

These three examples barely scratch the surface of the myriad scenarios out there. The main point is that there are plenty of reasons to move into a hybrid hosting configuration, including the benefits of virtualization with the security and performance of dedicated gear. Cloud is getting most of the hype these days, but many businesses still prefer to work with technologies and vendors they are familiar with. Fortunately, the Rackspace product portfolio can help no matter where in the technology adoption spectrum you fall. From dedicated to cloud; proprietary to open source; and dev, test, staging and product, there are options for you.


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