Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

Hybrid public/private cloud

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Article from ADMIN 55/2020
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Extending your data center temporarily into the cloud during a customer rush might not be easy, but it can be done, thanks to Ansible's Playbooks and some AWS scripts.

Companies often do not exclusively use public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) [1], Microsoft Azure [2], or Google Cloud [3]. Instead, they rely on a mix, known as a hybrid cloud. In this scenario, you connect your data centers (private cloud) with the resources of a public cloud provider. The term "private cloud" is somewhat misleading, in that the operation of many data centers has little to do with cloud-based working methods, but it looks like the name is here to stay.

The advantage of a hybrid cloud is that companies can use it to absorb peak loads or special requirements without having to procure new hardware for five- or six-digit figures.

In this article, I show how you can add a cloud extension to an Ansible [4] role that addresses local servers. To do this, you extend a local Playbook for an Elasticsearch cluster so that it can also be used in the cloud, and the resources disappear again after use.

Cloudy Servers

In classical data center operation, a server is typically used for a project and installed by an admin. It then runs through a life cycle in which it receives regular patches. At some point, it is no longer needed or is outdated. In the virtualized world, the same thing happens in principle, only with virtual servers. However, for performance reasons, you no longer necessarily retire them. With a few commands or clicks, you can simply assign more and faster resources.

Things are different in the cloud, where you have a service in mind. To operate it, you have to provide defined resources for a certain period of time, build these services in an automated process, to the extent possible (sometimes even from scratch), use them, and only pay the public cloud providers for the period of use. Then, you shut down the machines, reducing resource requirements to zero.

If these resources include virtual machines (VMs), you again build them automatically, use them, and delete them. The classic server life cycle is therefore irrelevant and is degraded to a component in an architecture that an admin brings to life at the push of a button.

Visible for Everyone?

One popular misconception about the use of public cloud services is that these services are "freely accessible on the Internet." This statement is not entirely true, because most cloud providers leave it to the admin to decide whether to provide a service or a VM with a publicly accessible IP address. Additionally, you usually have to activate explicitly all the services you want to be accessible from outside, although this usually does not apply to the services required for administration – that is, Secure Shell (SSH) for Linux VMs and the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) for Windows VMs. By way of an example, when an AWS admin picks a database from the Database-as-a-Service offerings, they can only access it through the IP address they use to control the AWS Console.

If you set up the virtual networks in the public cloud with private addresses only, they are just as invisible from the Internet as the servers in your own data center.

Cloudbnb

At AWS, but also in the Google and Microsoft clouds, for example, the concept of the virtual private cloud (VPC) acts as the account's backbone. With an AWS account in each region, you can even operate several VPC instances side by side.

To connect to this network, the cloud providers offer a site-to-site VPN service. Alternatively, you can set up your own VPN gateway (e.g., in the form of a VM, such as Linux with IPsec/OpenVPN) or a virtual firewall appliance, the latter of which offers a higher level of security, but usually comes at a price.

This service ultimately creates a structure, that, conceptually, does not differ fundamentally from the way in which you would connect branch offices to the head office – with one difference: The public cloud provider can potentially access the data on the machines and in the containers.

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