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What is hybrid cloud?

Embracing a Hybrid Cloud Strategy For Dummies

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Hybrid cloud describes the use of both private and public cloud platforms, working in conjunction. It can refer to any combination of cloud solutions that work together on premises and off-site to provide cloud computing services to a company. A hybrid cloud environment allows organizations to benefit from the advantages of both types of cloud platforms and choose which cloud to use for different workloads and tasks based on specific data needs. 

Cloud service providers may provide both public and private cloud options in a hybrid cloud offering, and the private cloud may be hosted on or off premises. Or, an organization might host their own private cloud on site, and also use off-site public cloud services for different data requirements or during spikes in demand. Although there are many different options, tight integration between the private and public clouds is always critical to a successful hybrid cloud environment.

Why hybrid cloud?

Companies use hybrid cloud to quickly and cost-effectively enhance their existing resources. They can keep sensitive data secure within a private cloud and also quickly add more computing, network bandwidth or storage in a third-party public cloud to address temporary surges in demand.

What is hybrid cloud infrastructure? 

The infrastructure that supports hybrid cloud typically includes a network, servers and virtualization software. The servers host the data and display it remotely via the network. The virtualization software allows virtual resources like desktops to be displayed remotely. Because a hybrid cloud implies a combination of both in-house and third-party resources, these back-end components sit in two locations—on premises in the enterprise data center and with the third-party public cloud service provider. Because the cloud service provider supports multiple tenants with varying demands, they use powerful, high-density systems to host their cloud computing services. Virtualization software allows cloud service providers to host multiple operating systems on one server, maximizing their resources.

Benefits of hybrid cloud

The primary benefits of hybrid cloud—having access to both a public and private cloud—are flexibility and data storage options. 

  • Flexibility: Businesses that regularly experience spikes in demand might implement a hybrid cloud solution so that they can use a private cloud to run most of the workloads and access the public cloud only when usage spikes. 
  • Data separation and compliance: Hybrid cloud also offers an alternative for storing sensitive data—a company might provide services via a public cloud while keeping sensitive information safe on a private cloud.

Traditional hybrid cloud architecture 

Traditionally, hybrid clouds connected a public cloud to a private cloud and moved resources from one to another via complex middleware. Some public cloud service providers provide a preconfigured VPN to connect to customers’ private clouds, but moving data between the two clouds across a public network has security risks, and the middleware required to move the data was often complicated and expensive.

Modern hybrid cloud architecture

Modern hybrid cloud architecture takes a different approach to building a hybrid cloud. IT teams focus on making apps portable between the private and public cloud—no middleware required. Kubernetes and containerized apps are one way to accomplish this, along with building cloud-native apps. DevOps teams find the containerized approach especially useful because they can simultaneously develop components on public and private clouds.

What is hybrid cloud storage architecture?

A hybrid cloud storage architecture allows IT managers to choose from a variety of locations to store different kinds of data that have different requirements for access. An organization might use slower-performing but less expensive storage for data that does not need to be immediately available, and reserve the expensive, high-performing storage for application data that users frequently access.

Hybrid cloud easily supports such a tiered storage architecture. In a common model for hybrid cloud storage architecture, the primary storage system, for apps that users access most frequently, lives in the private cloud, closest to the users.

A second, lower-performing storage tier lives in the public cloud and acts as back-up for that primary tier or is used to store data that is infrequently accessed.

The third storage tier with the highest latency also lives in the public cloud, preferably with the least expensive storage subscription plan, and is used for archived data or as an extra back-up. 

Hybrid cloud vs multi-cloud

The definition of hybrid cloud is the use of a public cloud service or services in conjunction with a private cloud. Hybrid cloud can also refer to a single solution that incorporates multiple cloud platforms. In this case, there is a single management system to access and operate all of the cloud computing elements.

Multi-cloud is the use of multiple public cloud service providers. A multi-cloud environment includes two or more public cloud vendors that provide cloud-based services to a business that may or may not have a private cloud. In this way, a hybrid cloud environment might also be a multi-cloud environment.

What are the biggest challenges of hybrid cloud adoption? 

While there are clear advantages to adopting a hybrid cloud solution, implementing a hybrid cloud is not without challenges. A hybrid cloud solution works best when workloads can seamlessly move back and forth between the private cloud and the public cloud. This coordination is essential, but not always easy to set up or manage, especially when working with a third-party public cloud services provider.

Because servers in the public cloud share data from multiple companies, security is a top concern when using public cloud computing services. Encrypting data is a good way to ensure stronger security in hybrid cloud environments, but not all encryption platforms work with both public and private clouds. Choosing a vendor that offers public cloud computing services that are compatible with both your private cloud set-up and your security measures requires careful consideration.  

Public cloud vendors not only offer a diverse range of services—their pricing structures can also vary quite a bit. Careful planning can help to keep costs down on monthly cloud services bills, but organizations with unpredictable public cloud usage may find it hard to avoid spending a lot of money on public cloud services when usage suddenly surges.

Lastly, because hybrid cloud is more complex than using either a public or private cloud alone, organizations must carefully plan how a hybrid cloud will scale when more or fewer resources are required. 

Is hybrid cloud right for you?

Hybrid cloud is a good choice for businesses that require rapid scaling or different types of storage. A business might choose to start with a private cloud because it is less expensive than using a public cloud (after an initial investment in the infrastructure). However, private clouds do not scale easily. Growing the infrastructure requires the purchase of additional equipment. This is where a hybrid cloud environment has a clear advantage. Businesses can use a private cloud for everyday functionality and then burst into the public cloud only when needed without purchasing additional hardware.

Hybrid clouds can also be a more cost-effective solution if a business has different storage needs. IT organizations can choose to use a public cloud as the primary data storage location, keeping only sensitive data in a small private cloud. As applications, business needs and consumer demands continue to grow in complexity, more and more businesses are finding multi-faceted cloud solutions like hybrid cloud to be worth the investment.

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