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What is a Hybrid Cloud?
Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment built on the interaction between an on-premises private cloud and third-party cloud services. A hybrid cloud service, using either private or public clouds, can adjust workload dependencies between public and private cloud platforms as computational requirements change. A hybrid cloud provides businesses with increased flexibility, and a wider array of data deployment options. A hybrid cloud will usually involve:
- A public IaaS platform, like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.
- An on-premises or independently hosted private cloud.
- Persistent high speed network connectivity between the two environments.
Hybrid Cloud Implementations
Hybrid cloud models can be applied in a variety of ways, as defined by the requirements of each user or organization:
- Multiple cloud providers are combined to provide both private and public services as a single integrated service.
- Individual cloud providers and larger Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings follow a hybrid cloud model and provide the user with data storage within a private cloud, and at the same time, allow collaboration on project planning documents in the public cloud.
- Organizations that manage their private clouds sign up to a public cloud service and integrate it into their infrastructure. In practice, a business can implement a hybrid cloud system to host their retail website within a secure and scalable private cloud, while hosting their resources (white papers, press releases, brochures) in a public cloud, where security and hosting costs are lower.
Hybrid Cloud Challenges
Despite its benefits, hybrid cloud computing can present technical, business, and management challenges. Private cloud workloads must access and interact with public cloud providers, and when integrated with external services, they require API compatibility and solid network connectivity. For the public cloud portion of a hybrid cloud, there are also potential connectivity concerns, service-level agreement breaches and other possible disruptions. To mitigate these risks, organizations can build hybrid cloud workloads that integrate with multiple public cloud providers, but this can complicate workload design and testing.
Another significant challenge with hybrid cloud computing is the construction of a private cloud. This requires a substantial investment in both IT and cloud architects. Any additional software systems like databases, service desks, or customized development tools can further increase the resource requirements of building a private cloud. This is an ongoing investment, because a business that builds its own private cloud is fully responsible for its technical support and security. This continued investment makes it a considerable undertaking to pursue.
Why Hybrid Clouds Are Important
Hybrid clouds can help enterprises build a cost-effective solution to managing their data. The combined infrastructure can help organizations in a number of ways:
- Scale: Private clouds provide scalability, when configured appropriately (internal vs. external hosting). Public cloud services will offer scalability with fewer boundaries because resources are pulled from the larger cloud infrastructure. Moving as many non-critical features as possible to the public cloud gives businesses the combined benefit of public cloud scalability and reduced resource costs on the private cloud.
- Security: A properly maintained private cloud can be perceived as providing better security for a business’ core resources and sensitive data, while public clouds may more effectively comply with regulatory requirements for data storage and collection.
- Cost Efficiency: Public clouds offer a greater economic benefit to organizations wanting to increase scale. Therefore, hybrid clouds allow organizations access to these savings for as many business functions as they can responsibly place in the public cloud, whilst still keeping sensitive operations secure.
- Flexibility: The availability of secure resources can provide organizations with more opportunities to explore different operational avenues.
Hybrid cloud computing lets businesses deploy an on-premises private cloud to store sensitive data and core services, while relying on their public cloud to host less essential resources, like staging or development workloads. Hybrid cloud is also particularly valuable for dynamic or highly changeable workloads.