Planning for Hybrid Cloud Deployments

For organizations that don’t have any immediate strategic plans for a full migration to the public cloud but want to leverage some of the innovative cloud service offerings, there is a hybrid alternative available.  The hybrid cloud provides companies with a higher degree of flexibility without forcing a choice between either an on-premises or cloud model.  With minimal configuration, an organization can integrate their current enterprise on-premises applications with their choice of a la carte cloud services and products.  The time and infrastructure investment it takes to move to a hybrid cloud model is minuscule compared to the sheer value-add that Office 365 and Microsoft Azure bring to the table. 

Typically, Microsoft will release a new on-premises product every 2-3 years.  Compare that to a 3-6 month release cycle in Microsoft Azure or Office 365 (O365), and organizations quickly begin to see a product that is continually evolving.  In this post we are going to discuss why a move to a hybrid cloud model is a good first step in your organization's cloud adoption strategy.  This post is geared towards organizations who have already made on-premises investments in SharePoint 2013 / 2016 but want to leverage cloud services where it makes sense for the business.

Enabling the SharePoint Hybrid Cloud

Moving to a hybrid SharePoint environment will provide additional enhancements and integration points for on-premises installations of SharePoint 2013 and 2016.  In fact, Microsoft is now releasing on-premises feature packs for SharePoint 2016.  These feature packs contain cloud features and capabilities that can be deployed into your SharePoint 2016 on-premises environment.  This means that on-premises customers can enjoy product updates based on all the current innovative cloud service offerings happening in Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Enabling the hybrid cloud doesn’t require lengthy investments or migration efforts.  It can be thought of as an add-on enhancement to your existing SharePoint implementation.  This is a win-win for organizations who are new to the cloud and would like to see what the cloud has to offer.  In most cases, companies can continue to leverage existing on-premises application deployments (SharePoint, Exchange, etc.) and cloud service add-ons together without impacting current SharePoint deployments.  If down the road you decide to begin migrating some on-premises workloads to the cloud you will already have positioned yourself to make that move more seamless.

The hybrid cloud is the integration of on-premises resources with cloud resources.  Organizations today with on-premises SharePoint 2013 / 2016 investments that are wondering how they can begin adopting the cloud should first think about adopting a hybrid cloud model.  With the hybrid cloud organizations can leverage the strengths of both on-premises and cloud workloads.  All the while providing a robust and consistent user experience for the users.

Planning Your Move

When planning a move to the hybrid cloud for SharePoint there are a few key areas that require special attention.  Your trusted Cloud Service Provider has the experience needed to guide your organization to the hybrid cloud model.  They should have the right questions lined up to ask in order to match the proposed SharePoint hybrid solutions to the business requirements.

With the proper planning, and with some of the new advancements from the Azure AD Connect onboarding tool, getting through the initial hybrid cloud setup is easier than it has ever been.  Listed below are a couple of important topics that should be discussed when planning and configuring on-premises hybrid connectivity:

  1. Azure / O365 tenant deployment planning
    1. Which Azure / O365 plan works best for my organization
    2. Domain name planning / routing
    3. Tenant name and administration delegation
  2. Integration of on-premises directories with Azure AD
    1. Will user passwords be synced up to Azure AD?
    2. Pass-through Authentication (PTA), provides the same corporate credential access to cloud based services.  This does not require a ADFS deployment.
    3. Is single sign on (SSO) between O365 / Azure and on-premises resources a requirement?  Integrating your on-premises directories with Azure AD makes your users more productive by providing a common identity for accessing both cloud and on-premises resources. 
    4. Is Active Directory Federations Services (ADFS) deployed currently?  If not Pass-through Authentication (PTA) w/ SSO enabled is a new option that should be evaluated.
  3. Authentication topology planning
    1. One-way Inbound
    2. One-way Outbound
    3. Bi-Directional Authentication
    4. Server to Server Authentication
  4. SharePoint hybrid cloud integration points
    1. Centralized user profile deployment
    2. OneDrive for Business deployment
    3. Hybrid search deployment
    4. Extranet website deployment
    5. Seamless on-premises disaster recovery environment in Azure
    6. Hybrid self-service site creation
    7. Enhanced hybrid auditing capabilities

In the next blog post of this Hybrid SharePoint series, I will begin to dive into each of the higher-level planning items mentioned above.  The first one up will be planning your organization's O365 tenant and choosing the best integration option for your organization's on-premises directories.

To assist in your planning process, be sure to download your free copy of the Hybrid SharePoint research report, sponsored by Microsoft, B&R Business Solutions, and other leading partners. And if you'd like to learn more about how B&R can help your organization move to the cloud, please contact us.