Cloud bursting: A step toward uninterrupted computing

A unique form of hybrid cloud deployment is helping organisations tackle sporadic workloads

From storing terabytes of data to providing valuable insights, modern data centers make high-performance computing a breeze. But business needs are seldom consistent and subject to change without warning. What’s more, a seasonal spike in application demand can overwhelm servers, disrupting critical business operations.

Businesses often remedy the situation by moving full or partial instances of data and applications to a public cloud. Sizable capital investment goes into the process of purchasing a physical infrastructure capable of handling surplus storage and computing needs. 

Although the new infrastructure is only used during a hike in application demand, operational costs remain constant. Fortunately, cloud bursting offers a solution to this problem. 

What is cloud bursting?

Cloud bursting describes intermittent use of cloud resources. A key benefit of the “burst” technique is enterprises can meet varying computing demands without additional infrastructure or paying for unutilized capacity. 

An online food delivery service is a good case in point. Consider a delivery app running on a private cloud. The app owners will announce a heavy discount to boost sales. Based on certain assumptions and data gathered from a user activity log, the company decides customers can use the offer between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. 

As expected, the web application reaches peak capacity around 5 p.m. The proprietors are faced with the challenge of deciding between two possible actions: burst and resume. Resuming operations just as is can cut costs, but there’s a risk of failure or system crash. On the other hand, Bursting the cloud allows the additional load to flow in so the company can process orders on time. 

In its entirety, cloud bursting helps organizations get the cloud power they need to provide extra resources. Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr defines cloud bursting as an application-hosting model that combines pre-existing corporate infrastructure with pay-as-you-go cloud infrastructure to create scalable cloud computing capacity.

"The conservative side advocates keeping core business processes inside of the firewall. The enthusiasts want to run on the cloud. They argue back and forth for a while and eventually settle on a really nice hybrid solution. In a nutshell, they plan to run the steady state business processing on existing systems, and then use the cloud for periodic or overflow processing."

Do all apps work well in a multi-cloud environment?

The modus operandi of cloud bursting architecture might be seen as exemplary — when demand exceeds supply, data and applications are moved to a public cloud to free up space in the primary data center. Yet, not all applications are created equal. 

It’s important to identify compatible applications across platforms to make cloud bursting work. You must also have a way to analyze trends in traffic spikes. An application delivery controller, or load balancer, is the most efficient way of knowing whether or not your applications are inching toward peak capacity.

Any application that’s configured to support multiple instances simultaneously will prove to be a good fit. As for integration, the fewer ties an application has with other applications, the easier it is to burst. Applications that run static data blend well with both public and private cloud environments. However, dynamic or transactional data requires synchronization. 

Nearly all high-achieving applications are engineered to resolve latency issues associated with moving between the public and private cloud. The hindrance to cloud bursting mostly comes in the form of setting up security policies. Certain security policies and compliance standards, such as HIPAA, prevent apps and data from leaving the private cloud, making the transfer to a public cloud almost impossible. 

Popular cloud bursting service providers 

Bursting a cloud brings a great deal of agility, saving time and money during rush hours. Since workloads will be monitored across two loud environments at the same time, it’s understandable why cloud bursting is profound and onerous 

Furthermore, keeping the applications consistent for the end-user is an important piece of the puzzle — one that cannot be compromised. 

Here are a few promising cloud service providers to consider, should you wish to make the leap.

Having a service provider manage a hybrid cloud for you goes a long way in helping you call the shots on expanding and recalling services. Based on changes in capacity needs, you can set parameters to automate critical tasks, such as load balancing and scaling. This eliminates the need for costly procurement of resources to meet temporary demand.

The importance of planning ahead

Keeping supply and demand continually balanced is no mean feat. And as IT environments continue to transform and become more sophisticated, the ability to outsource cloud services may become more and more useful, if not necessary. NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite is a living testimony of the same. 

When faced with an acute challenge of processing petabyte-scale data, NASA had to contemplate the possibility of waiting for 100 days to get the refined data, which meant a $200,000 bill using their on-premise data center. But NASA decided to go with Amazon Web Services (AWS) instead and achieved the same thing for $7,000 in under six days.

Proactive planning is arguably one of the best approaches to achieving unwavering IT performance. With cloud bursting, enterprises can auto-deploy additional computing resources on public cloud, ensuring that resources in the private cloud remain available and undeterred during a surge in application demand. 

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