Hybrid cloud infrastructure is the combination of cloud-based resources with on-premises IT infrastructure, where both cloud and on-premises systems are working together to achieve an organization’s IT goals to support business processes. Since on-premises infrastructure is increasingly referred to as a private cloud, hybrid cloud infrastructure typically refers to the combination of public cloud resources with private cloud/on-premises gear. All the elements in hybrid cloud infrastructure have a common orchestration to enable them to work together smoothly.
Hybrid cloud architecture often consists of cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms from hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, or VMware Cloud. These cloud providers connect to on-premises infrastructure through a broadband wide area network (WAN) connection to facilitate data transfer and migration of workloads to and from cloud provider as is necessary.
In its most basic definition, a hybrid cloud is a collection of cloud-based and on-premises IT resources that work together in concert, offering businesses enhanced agility, and flexibility for workload and data deployment.
Hybrid cloud solutions offer several benefits to the enterprise.
1. Investment protection. There are many legacy applications that are unsuitable for the public cloud, whether because of regulatory prohibitions, cost, technology, or other factors. A hybrid cloud approach lets an organization continue to leverage on-premises servers and legacy applications while taking advantage of public cloud offerings – IaaS or SaaS – to modernize applications and deploy new and enhanced features without impacting normal business operations.
2. Scalability and agility. While data gravity, regulations or governance mandates may demand that sensitive data or active databases on-premises, archival, disaster recovery, and less-sensitive data can be stored in the public cloud. A hybrid solution also supports the concept of ‘cloudbursting’ – utilizing cloud resources to handle increased demand whether seasonal, due to new product release, or growth-related. This eliminates the need for an enterprise to over-provision infrastructure to handle peaks, and cloud resources can be spun down if and when no longer needed.
3. Bottom-line savings. Hybrid architectures offer several cost savings opportunities. The costs of archival, disaster recovery, and other data storage costs are comparitively less than on-premises infrastructure. Additionally, since public cloud resources can be spun up or down virtually on demand, there is no need to provision – or pay for – cloud resources until they are needed, and then only when they are actually being used.
Many organizations today are said to be ‘born in the cloud’, meaning from inception they rely totally on cloud-based infrastructure to support their business goals. There are several terms that are applied to cloud-based systems, including ‘cloud-native’, ‘pure cloud’, and ‘cloud-first’. Here are some attributes of true cloud-based systems.
Cloud-based systems are typically designed solely with cloud deployment in mind. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are obviously cloud-based, however applications that are hosted on IaaS cloud infrastructure can also fall into that category if it meets certain criteria, such as anywhere, anytime, any device access, agile development approach providing frequent updates, high uptime guarantees, and performance SLAs ensuring user satisfaction with mission-critical applications.
Many organizations utilize on-premises infrastructure in a cloud-like fashion; for example standardizing on virtualization, containerization, and development tools that can be managed from a ‘single pane of glass’, whether the cloud infrastructure is in the public cloud or in on-premises infrastructure utilizing a cloud model.
Cloud-based systems provide flexibility, scalability, and agility enabling usage to scale up and down based on demand, and do so rapidly to ensure businesses have the resources needed to maintain a competitive stance in the marketplace, rather than having to order, configure, install, and maintain additional on-premises hardware and software as needs change.
The financial benefits of a true cloud-based system include elimination of maintenance and upgrade costs, as these are borne by the cloud vendor, which also eliminates the need for valuable IT resources to focus on those maintenance processes. By utilizing cloud resources, the business gains efficiency, since there is a single platform for all applications, unlike traditional on-premises based systems which often grow in complexity. A cloud-only focus thus simplifies overall business processes, enabling resources to be focused on activities that add to the bottom line.
One of the greatest benefits of a true cloud solution is its self-service simplicity, which enables DevSecOps teams and users alike tools to instantly provision, configure, and deploy instances of applications and development tools without IT intervention or the need to procure infrastructure for every task.
These are just a few reasons why 94 percent of enterprises currently utilize cloud computing.
- Off-site backup: Hybrid cloud provides for off-site backup of critical on-premises data without the need for a secondary site, with near-instantaneous retrieval of mission-critical data when disaster strikes. Applications that normally run on-premises can swiftly be spun up at a cloud provider to reduce downtime to a minimum.
- Meeting regulatory challenges: Multinational organizations or those that do business in multiple geographies may have to store data in a particular country or geography.
- Migrating between clouds: Hybrid infrastructure eases the challenges of migration between cloud vendors, helping to prevent vendor lock-in as new providers come to market or existing providers offer more attractive solutions that address emerging needs.
- Sandbox and DevTest: New or modified code can be tested in a ‘safe’ environment without affecting systems of record. As organizations increasingly modernize applications with microservices hybrid and multi-cloud hybrid architectures are becoming increasingly common.
- Startups: Young or smaller businesses with a limited IT budget may find that a SaaS and public-cloud only solution is more cost effective while meeting all their needs.
- Latency-sensitive: Hybrid infrastructure may also have a greater latency than totally on-premises or cloud-based applications, however many cloud provider data centers share common broadband backbones, which can reduce or eliminate this problem completely.
- YMMV: Every organization and their applications will have their own performance characteristics. As modern microservice-based applications often rely on API calls to off-premises services, it is critical to model each workload and its characteristics to determine whether public, private, or hybrid infrastructure is the best fit for that particular workload.
Although many organizations first adopted a hybrid cloud infrastructure to overcome shortcomings in their own data centers, there are many areas where hybrid clouds demonstrate their importance, as shown by a recent Everest Group survey stating that 72 percent of organizations describe their cloud strategy as hybrid-first or private-first.
Hybrid cloud infrastructure provides flexibility, scalability, and cost savings in many areas. Any organization that requires off-site backup of enterprise data can simply utilize a public cloud service and eliminate the need for multiple sites or shipping media to a third party like Iron Mountain.
Where the cloud excels in some applications, others thrive on-premises, especially older legacy infrastructure that is not readily re-platformed onto public cloud provider platforms. However, enterprises can begin refactoring those legacy applications with modern coding and deployment models while they continue to operate from private cloud/on-premises servers.
One major benefit of hybrid cloud infrastructure is leveraging public cloud provider service level agreements (SLAs) to offer those same high uptime levels to enterprise users and clients. Again, since private-cloud infrastructure needed to guarantee public-cloud class SLAs is expensive, many organizations will rely on the public cloud to offer the reliability they need.
Finally, by utilizing cloud-based disaster recovery (DR services), businesses can configure frequent snapshots of either virtual or physical servers being protected. Should disaster strike the on-premises infrastructure (or primary cloud IaaS provider), VM snapshots can be spun up creating a backup environment in minutes – and businesses do not start paying for that IaaS infrastructure until it is needed – saving the expense and headache of procuring, maintaining, upgrading, and servicing backup IT infrastructure that is rarely if ever needed.