Executive Viewpoint 2017 Prediction: Quali – Forecast: Cloud Sandboxes to Enable Hybrid Clouds
As more enterprises seek the best of both worlds by adopting hybrid clouds, many IT managers are still struggling to balance the speed and scale of public clouds with the visibility and control of private clouds. That’s why we should expect more companies to explore hybrid cloud sandboxes in 2017 to bridge this public-private cloud divide.
No clear industry standards exist yet to govern software development and testing across the wide range of private and public cloud environments, creating a tricky problem for developers, testers and operations staff, as AWS, Azure, VMware, OpenStack, and the Google Cloud Platform all present unique operational models and implementation concerns.
For instance, software integration barriers can make it difficult to port apps and data between diverse cloud platforms, requiring costly systems integrators and consultants. In addition, most developers are challenged by the different architectures of various vendors, along with fragmented toolsets and ever-changing cost structures requiring manual mapping between different cloud templates, defeating the purpose of automation at times.
Even when enterprise developers can finally settle on a hybrid cloud platform, they often take a cautious, go-slow approach at first because there are no guarantees about app performance, latency, availability or security and these issues crop up during production. That’s why most early workloads in the hybrid cloud should focus on lower risk functions such as dev/test, disaster recovery, and data backup and archiving. As workloads become more portable across on-premise and public clouds as well as between public clouds, these issues are likely to exacerbate.
To simplify this and to de-risk the process, developers should consider the use of hybrid cloud sandboxes to help automate the process. Hybrid cloud sandboxes can provide an ideal platform to replicate production environments. Sandboxes are self-contained, on-demand infrastructure environments that are configured to behave exactly like the final target deployment environment, except they can be created once and deployed across any cloud.
For example, developers can spin up a sandbox that perfectly mimics the production environment – from network and hardware to OS versions, anonymized production data and software to cloud APIs. Developers can then use the sandbox to test their apps for a short period without risking any disruptions to the live environment. When they are done, they can easily tear down the sandbox and build a new one. Likewise, testers can run multiple tests in a sandbox which is configured to look like their internal IT environment. Then they can automatically reconfigure the sandbox on the fly to look like the external cloud environment and increase the robustness of the code and catch real-world issues upfront in a pre-production stage. This approach strengthens code quality, minimizes uncertainties and speeds up delivery without affecting actual production infrastructure while keeping options for a “production hand-off’ later on.
With cloud sandboxes, enterprise IT has a standardized way to create architectural blueprints, establish self-service workflows, and help their IT ops teams establish effective governance policies. In this way, users can get better visibility into application usage to help reduce the extent of shadow IT. The best part is these are all DevOps-enabled environments conducive to bring into any automation workflow that is DevOps centric and completely invoked via REST APIs or via other DevOps pipeline or configuration tools already present for a non-disruptive integration. Think of cloud sandboxes as a kind of safety net for companies that choose to adopt VMware-AWS, Azure, OpenStack or Google Cloud Platform. Sandboxes can serve as steppingstones for a move into hybrid clouds, and even into multi-cloud deployments. The possibilities are nearly endless.
When dev/test processes can be reviewed within the protected confines of a hybrid cloud sandbox, developers can quickly determine which settings and configurations would break when their applications get introduced to a live production environment. Such automation greatly reduces the cost, risk and complexity of software development, while protecting businesses against damaging network bottlenecks and software failures. I encourage enterprise IT to think inside the sandbox.