Cloud

Hybrid cloud: The smart person's guide

This comprehensive guide covers the common use cases, technical benefits and limitations, and what to know for adopting hybrid cloud in your organization.

While business workloads are increasingly being moved to the cloud, certain situations—such as regulatory hurdles, security concerns, or abnormal data sets or workflows—have been encumbrances to migrating entire organizations to public cloud providers. The solution is the hybrid cloud model, which leverages the advantages of public cloud providers (rapid resource provisioning and usage-based billing), while retaining the speed and reliability of private cloud solutions.

This guide is both an easily digestible introduction to hybrid cloud, as well as a "living" guide that will be updated periodically to keep IT leaders in the loop on new ways in which hybrid cloud can be leveraged.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is hybrid cloud? Hybrid cloud is the combination of public cloud providers and private, on-premise hardware.
  • Why does hybrid cloud matter? Hybrid cloud systems do not have a single point of failure, and can be very effectively utilized for industries with variable workloads.
  • Who does hybrid cloud affect? Any industry with at minimum a need to safeguard data against loss can utilize a hybrid cloud solution.
  • When is hybrid cloud happening? Vendors are becoming more responsive to the complexities of managing hybrid cloud deployments, and are offering more solutions and tools to assist in transition and deployment.
  • How do I get hybrid cloud? Building a hybrid cloud for your organization requires planning and forethought. Working with vendors to find solutions to your needs is advisable.

SEE: Executive's guide to integrating the hybrid cloud (free ebook) (TechRepublic)

Image: iStock

What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud is the combination of public cloud services (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure) with a private cloud infrastructure—servers that are generally on-premises running a cloud software stack. The public and private components operate effectively independently of each other, and communicate over an encrypted connection, either through the public internet or through a private, dedicated link.

The way in which public cloud services and private cloud operations are utilized is dependent on organizational needs and priorities. The extent to which public cloud services are utilized can be as minimal as offsite backup, or as extensive as being the primary component of data storage and processing. The process of finding an appropriate balance between public and private should take into consideration your organization's IT budget, the strength of internet infrastructure in the areas in which your organization operates, and needs for regulatory compliance.

Note the difference between hybrid cloud and multicloud: Hybrid cloud requires both public and private cloud components, whereas multicloud is the practice of using cloud services from multiple heterogeneous public cloud services, optionally including private cloud and hybrid clouds with more than one public cloud component.

Additional resources:

SEE: Ebook—The cloud v. data center decision (TechRepublic)

Why does hybrid cloud matter?

In optimal deployments, hybrid cloud provides the best of both worlds of computing. Public cloud providers offer the ability to instantly provision computing resources on demand, without the extensive upfront costs and time needed to build on-premise solutions.

The private cloud component delivers information quickly, and does not rely on internet connectivity to operate—an important consideration as ISPs consolidate, and struggle to provide service. Having a private cloud component provides peace of mind; with an on-premise server, a disruption to internet connectivity will not bring your business to a complete standstill.

Cost is a substantial factor for many organizations. For industries with seasonal or variable workloads, assembling a private cloud to handle normal workloads while relying on public cloud providers to handle burst workloads can be a budget-friendly IT strategy.

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Who does hybrid cloud affect?

Hybrid cloud technology is used in a variety of industries; foremost among these is the financial sector, where proximity to network edges (such as adjacency to a trading floor) is vital. As trade orders and high-frequency trading (HFT) algorithms have sensitivities to the millisecond level, the optimal solution is to put the necessary hardware on-premises for trading, while relying on the public cloud component for analytics and projections. Considering the premium of physical space in urban centers where such businesses reside, leveraging a hybrid cloud model substantively decreases the physical footprint needed for investment firms.

SEE: Infographic: Most companies predict hybrid cloud use in next 5 years (TechRepublic)

Hybrid cloud also has a firm foothold in the healthcare industry, due in part to the decentralized nature of healthcare—the task of relaying patient information between multiple healthcare providers and insurance companies is a singularly challenging endeavor. The attention that must be paid to regulatory compliance is also quite high, as HIPAA (Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) patient privacy provisions require substantive effort in limiting information sharing and compartmentalizing information to prevent unlawful disclosure.

In general, any organization that has an acute need to safeguard against potential loss of data, resulting from hardware failure, misplaced or stolen hardware, or natural disaster has a reasonable use case for a hybrid cloud deployment.

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When is hybrid cloud happening?

More vendors are becoming responsive to the need for hybrid cloud solutions, with public cloud operators like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Rackspace offering software (some through third-party partners) to ease with deployment of a hybrid cloud solution.

Other vendors offer more tailored solutions, such as Fujitsu Hybrid Cloud Services, which combines Fujitsu's private cloud services with Microsoft Azure. The Japanese telecom company NTT offers hybrid cloud solutions focused on compliance with HIPAA, FISMA, and PCI regulations. Hitachi Data Systems offers customized cloud storage and computing offerings, and is a gold member of OpenStack.

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How do I get hybrid cloud?

While migrating to hybrid cloud is not a particularly difficult task, it can be a laborious one. Relative to other areas of technology, the equation is not as straightforward as swiping a credit card, opening a box, and plugging it in. Determining what balance to strike between delegating roles to public and private cloud components is a task that should be given a great deal of forethought before reaching the implementation stage.

Various vendors provide hybrid cloud services, with hardware or strategies for the private cloud component of this buildout. Finding a vendor that specializes in your industry area, and that has expertise in compliance with any regulatory frameworks your organization is subject to is an important first step to cloud adoption.

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About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

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