Cloud bursting can help businesses manage spikes in demand

Cloud bursting can help businesses manage spikes in demand Duncan is an award-winning technology industry analyst, specialising in cloud computing, blockchain, martech and edge computing.


Perry Krug, director of shared services at Couchbase, explains how cloud bursting is essential for those businesses that need to suddenly handle large spikes in demand.

Businesses in all sectors are continuing to migrate to the cloud as they look to capture and analyse large volumes of data, improve collaboration between staff, and streamline their overall digital transformations. Worldwide, 95% of enterprises say increased movement of infrastructure to the cloud is “inevitable”, including 99% of UK enterprises. 

One particularly useful cloud strategy for running business applications is “cloud bursting”. This means that once a business app’s demand for computing capacity reaches a certain predetermined threshold, the app “bursts” from that business’ private cloud into a public cloud, and is run there. By using private and public cloud resources in this way, cloud bursting might sound sophisticated. And, as a way of helping businesses streamline their cloud migrations, it certainly is. But what practical benefits does it offer?  

The business advantages of cloud bursting

One of the main advantages of cloud bursting is its ability to help businesses manage spikes in demand. When an app is used heavily and suddenly, as it might be at Christmas in industries like retail, or in July for industries like hospitality, private cloud capacity is often maxed out. Businesses need a way to ensure extra cloud capacity on demand. Cloud bursting offers this by ‘bursting’ the app onto a public cloud to be run there temporarily. When demand drops off, the app returns to being run on a private cloud. 

A second advantage of cloud bursting is that it helps minimise cloud infrastructure costs. Cloud infrastructure expenditure can be kept to a minimum if there’s the option of bursting apps on the public cloud. Cloud bursting also ensures extra compute resources are only paid for when needed.A business’ cloud spending can be neatly aligned with real-time peaks and troughs in demand. 

Cloud bursting also aids business continuity. If a popular business app can burst onto a public cloud and back again, any customer using that app can enjoy a seamless experience with round-the-clock availability. The app is less likely to malfunction under the weight of its own popularity. It’s worth noting, though, that this seamlessness is dependent on bursting being thoroughly tested beforehand.

Cloud bursting is additionally attractive to many businesses whose database infrastructure supports it. Because NoSQL databases offer higher performance and lower latency for many applications, the applications NoSQL tends to support are well-suited to cloud bursting. Businesses that employ NoSQL databases, such as many retailers and hospitality firms, can benefit from cloud bursting, provided their apps don’t handle extremely large volumes of data.

It’s clear that cloud bursting is a useful tactic for businesses as they manage activity spikes in an efficient way. But cloud bursting will not suit all use cases, and enterprises must do their due diligence before committing to using it.

Issues businesses should consider

Firstly, there’s the issue of security. For some applications that can only use private clouds for security reasons, cloud bursting will not be appropriate. By bursting apps onto a public cloud, businesses place the security of those apps’ data into the hands of a public cloud provider.In itself, this isn’t a problem, but it does mean apps temporarily cede control of proprietary data. Cloud bursting can therefore be unsuitable for apps that handle highly sensitive data, such as banking or healthcare apps. 

There’s also the unavoidable fact that, in a public cloud provider’s ideal world, cloud bursting wouldn’t exist. It’s only natural that public cloud providers aren’t enamoured with cloud bursting because it means the public clouds they run are only used temporarily, or during peak demand. Because of this, public cloud providers may charge businesses more on an hour-by-hour basis to use a public cloud for bursting than they’d charge to use it full-time.  

The amount of data used by certain apps is another consideration; cloud bursting may not be realistic for apps that handle large volumes of data. This is because apps that come with large volumes may not be able to burst from private to public and cloud without major delays in data transferral, making cloud bursting a non-starter.

Finally, businesses should remember that cloud bursting isn’t a quick fix.IT departments must budget, plan when and where bursting will take place, and ensure that when it does, apps run smoothly and meet demand. As well as this groundwork being costly and time-consuming, it also requires that the private and public cloud architectures being used for cloud bursting are compatible with each other. As such, further IT infrastructural work may be needed before bursting is feasible. 

Cloud bursting: a down-to-earth approach 

For some businesses, such as those handling very large volumes of sensitive data, cloud bursting is off the table, at least in the short term. But for businesses that have practised bursting before implementation, using apps that don’t need high latency and have predictable spikes in demand, it can be highly beneficial. For those businesses, cloud bursting is no head-in-the-clouds pipe dream, but a sensible, down-to-earth approach that keeps costs low, and users happy.

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