Data center colocation providers have in recent years focused a lot on making hybrid cloud architectures easy to stand up using their facilities. It’s become a lot easier to do, and not using hybrid cloud may even feel like being on the wrong side of history.
But the reality is more complex than it may seem. Despite the real benefits that hybrid architectures confer in many situations, there are use cases where colocation and hybrid frameworks don’t mix well. Assessing the drawbacks of hybrid architectures for colocated infrastructure is important before blindly jumping onto the hybrid cloud bandwagon.
The Advantages of Hybrid Cloud and Colocation
Before spelling out why you might not want to use hybrid architectures in conjunction with colocation, it’s worth walking through the reasons why many organizations do consider this strategy.
One is that hybrid cloud architectures are an obvious onramp to the cloud for companies that need to keep their servers in colocation facilities but still want to take advantage of the scalability and convenience of cloud-based services.
At the same time the emergence over the past few years of a new generation of hybrid cloud frameworks, like Azure Stack and Google Anthos, has lowered the barrier to entry for organizations that want to include colocated infrastructure in hybrid cloud architectures. No longer do you need to go through the trouble of building your own integrations between public cloud services and your servers inside a colocation data center. With these frameworks you can use the same deployment and management tools and even the same exact cloud services that you get in the public cloud, even if your workloads reside on your own servers.
Plus, thanks to the investments by colocation providers in interconnection solutions tailored for hybrid cloud you can in many cases achieve the same level of network performance between your colocation facility and the public cloud if you use a hybrid architecture. You might even be able to reduce your carbon footprint by leveraging hybrid cloud and colocation, to boot.
From these perspectives, there are plenty of great reasons to see hybrid cloud as part and parcel of the future of colocation strategies. Colocation users that don’t connect their servers in some way to the public cloud may appear almost backwards.
Why Hybrid Cloud Isn’t Always the Right Choice
But that assessment isn’t always fair. There are some key considerations that might lead organizations with colocated infrastructure to steer clear of hybrid cloud architectures despite the apparent advantages.
Perhaps the biggest factor today is that most modern hybrid cloud frameworks are not very vendor-agnostic. Azure Stack (and Azure Arc, a more flexible but less mature variant of the solution) locks you into the Azure ecosystem. Google Anthos, despite being compatible with public clouds beyond just Google’s and being based on open source Kubernetes, is also arguably less vendor-neutral than it may seem: Anthos is a Google product without any real alternatives that you can easily migrate to if you don’t like Anthos. Likewise, VMware’s hybrid cloud solutions, despite enabling integration between private infrastructure and multiple public clouds, are baked into the VMware ecosystem.
If you’re wary of lock-in, then hybrid cloud strategies may not seem like the best choice for organizations that use colocated infrastructure. Such companies might feel safer sticking with private clouds built on genuinely open source platforms, like OpenStack or Kubernetes.
Along similar lines, most of the modern hybrid cloud frameworks and interconnection services that help power them come with significant price tags. You’ll be paying public cloud vendors even if your workloads are hosted on servers in a colocation facility. The idea of paying both a cloud bill and a colocation bill may be a turnoff for some organizations.
Network performance, too, could be a barrier in some cases. Although interconnection solutions enable high-speed, highly available network connections between colocated infrastructure and the public cloud, the solutions don’t support every type of public cloud service. They are also complex to manage. And depending on who your colocation provider is, there may be no interconnection available at all for the public cloud you want to integrate with.
On top of all of this, there is the simple fact that the benefits that hybrid cloud stands to offer may just not matter to all companies. Not everyone needs to leverage cloud architectures. For some businesses — especially those that don’t need the ability to scale quickly, or that rely on legacy applications that the cloud can’t replace — building colocated servers into a hybrid strategy offers little benefit.
Just as there are many reasons why hybrid cloud architectures are a boon to colocation users, there are also disadvantages that make hybrid cloud a poor choice in some contexts. Hybrid cloud may seem like the wave of the future for the colocation industry, but don’t expect traditional architectures to disappear altogether.