What is cloud bursting? Definition and features explained

Peak loads caused by sudden increases in site traffic can quickly cause storage and computing resources to reach their capacity. While having your own powerful cloud infrastructure may be ideal, it costs time and money. With cloud bursting, you can spread cloud resources from your private cloud onto external cloud services when needed. They can then be reduced when the peak load decreases.

What is cloud bursting?

Cloud bursting is a cloud-computing technology that allows you to expand and reduce cloud resources as needed. It’s predominantly used by businesses using a private cloud and an on-site data center. If there is high demand or a seasonal peak load, internal computing capacity can quickly reach its limits. This is where cloud bursting comes in. It allows internal resources to be expanded using external cloud capacity from third parties. Any connection to external resources only occurs for a limited time and when needed. By using this technology, you can process high workloads, seasonal load and demand peaks without having to invest in costly on-site IT systems.

What does cloud bursting do for companies?

Businesses that outsource their storage and computing resources to the cloud save money on expensive, physical IT infrastructure and get more performance capacity at the same time. To understand what cloud bursting means for a business’ cloud capacity, it’s important to first understand the difference between a private and public cloud:

Private cloud

The advantage of a private cloud is that you have dedicated cloud infrastructure that can only be used by your business. In most cases, it involves on-site infrastructure which includes a cloud server that you manage yourself. However, you can also use private clouds from third-party suppliers with external cloud servers like IaaS (infrastructure as a service). Virtual cloud resources are used for this, which reduces costs and workload despite it being a flexible cloud computing service.

Public cloud

A public cloud also works on the IaaS principle, or depending on what’s available, as XaaS (anything as a service). Public cloud solutions such as AWS from Amazon, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Services provide on-demand services for cloud computing. By using the IT infrastructure of third-party providers, businesses benefit from wide-spread and reliable availability thanks to shared, flexible resources that allow for scalability.

Simply speaking, cloud bursting technology makes it possible for a private cloud to temporarily become a public cloud. In this way, a business’ IT infrastructure is able to absorb peak loads when needed.

How does cloud bursting work?

The way cloud bursting works is based on a hybrid deployment model and is as simple as it is effective. Businesses that prefer to use on-site IT infrastructure in the form of a private cloud use external cloud resources only when needed. If demand, workloads or traffic become too much, a cloud burst occurs. This essentially “bursts” the private cloud and automatically shares the computing performance across external third-party cloud services. As soon as the workload and peak loads reduce, the external resources are disconnected, and the cloud capacity returns to the on-site data center.

By doing this, cloud bursting offers flexible scalability using pre-defined capacity limits on internal resources. Scaling listeners as well as other cloud bursting tools and cloud APIs decide when capacity should be expanded. They automate the outsourcing of resources in a flexible and secure manner. In contrast to permanent infrastructure, there are no on-going maintenance costs to pay in order to connect to these resources. In other words, you only pay when you need it.

Common processes and approaches include:

  • Automatic bursting: Pre-defined load limits automatically increase and decrease capacity. Applications and workloads that are usually used in the private cloud will be processed in external clouds for the time needed.
  • Manual bursting: Expected peak loads, for example, seasonal peaks or internal software updates, can be manually connected and disconnected to and from external capacity.
  • Shared load bursting: With a load-balancing approach, applications can be made available using an identical environment in both private and public clouds. If the pre-defined load is reached, the application’s workload will be shared to external capacity without any downtime. Once the load reduces, the workload will go back to using internal capacity.

Who uses cloud bursting?

Cloud bursting can be used across all industries and flexibly employed, catering to businesses that have no use for large cloud infrastructures as well as those that prefer to have on-premises data centers. In addition to adding resources for a short period of time to handle increased demand, cloud bursting can also be used for big data and machine learning models and simulations without incurring high costs.

Cloud bursting is particularly useful for applications that are not business critical and for data that doesn’t contain sensitive information. If you do use external capacity, data flows containing business-critical applications should be kept on a private cloud while non-critical workloads can be shared on public clouds. This ensures businesses comply with data protection regulations while maintaining performance and scalability.

What are some examples of cloud bursting use cases?

Cloud bursting is often used for seasonal peaks that online stores encounter. These seasonal increases in demand require scalable capacity, making cloud bursting useful. However, it is also important to ensure that sensitive customer data, such as payment information, is not transferred to third parties when using cloud bursting.

When it comes to analyzing big data and creating models and simulations, the comprehensive infrastructure offered by providers such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud reduces the time needed to process data. Research facilities that have limited local IT infrastructure can also benefit from cloud bursting technology by using global cloud capacity.

What are the benefits of cloud bursting?

Cloud bursting can benefit businesses and institutions in the following ways:

  • Cost savings: The construction, maintenance and protection of a local, physical IT infrastructure for cloud computing can be costly in terms of material, energy and staff. Small and medium-sized businesses as well as entities with limited financial resources may not be able to afford their own cloud infrastructure. By using cloud bursting, they can better plan financially and reduce capacity to their respective needs.
  • Effort: Alongside the financial burden of maintaining the IT infrastructure, there is also the time it requires. The maintenance and the daily operation of a data center requires an in-house IT department with specialty knowledge. Since many businesses lack the time and money to search for and hire personnel, cloud bursting makes for a practical solution.
  • Flexibility and scalability: Cloud bursting offers flexible IT resources for storage and computing capacity when you need it. Instead of operating your own data center, you can connect resources to meet your demands. By doing so, you can flexibly share and process workloads and make use of needs-based scalability.
  • Capacity: Cloud bursting technologies can help maintain performance during peak loads and avoid IT outages. You can increase performance limits and outsource workloads to external resources. This gives your public cloud and on-site data center more capacity.
  • Customer and operator friendliness: By maintaining performance and capacity, you also improve your customer friendliness and your user experience design. This makes an app or online store more appealing to customers as well as more reliable and easier to use.
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