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What is Hybrid Cloud?

Benefits, Security, Examples, and Management

A hybrid cloud lets you build your infrastructure across multiple environments, ranging from onsite servers to private and public clouds. This flexibility and interoperability has made hybrid cloud solutions a popular choice for businesses.

What is Hybrid Cloud?

Cloud is at the heart of most digital transformation efforts. However, it’s almost never easy for a company to fully migrate their infrastructure to a single cloud platform. There may be legacy applications that don’t work well in the cloud, there may be multiple clients with different platform preferences, and there may be compliance and/or compatibility challenges. This is why a vast majority of enterprises (82%) choose to build hybrid cloud infrastructures.

With hybrid cloud, you get the best of both worlds – or as many worlds as you want. You can store all your sensitive customer data inside a local server while all your customer-facing applications run on a public cloud platform. If ever a cloud application needs to access customer data, it can use a secure API to do so. You can also connect your onsite hardware or public cloud with a private cloud platform. In a well-architected hybrid cloud, cross-platform integrations and communication are not a problem.

Difference Between Hybrid Cloud and Cloud

“Cloud” typically represents a single platform where all your infrastructure and services are hosted. E.g. you may use various offerings of Amazon Web Services (AWS), like Lambda, S3 buckets, and API gateways, etc. to build your entire infrastructure.

Conversely, in a hybrid cloud, you don’t (or can’t) rely on just one platform. E.g. some of your applications/servers run on AWS, while others run on Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or a private cloud. A proprietary software enables you to orchestrate and integrate across these various environments seamlessly.

Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud

In a public cloud, you can provision infrastructure that’s managed by a third-party provider, e.g. AWS, GCP etc. Public clouds are typically multi-tenant platforms, where large resource pools are shared by multiple customers.

On the other hand, private clouds are typically single-tenant platforms. A company may build and manage a private cloud itself or outsource it to a third-party. In both cases, private clouds provide dedicated resources for the company, and are present within the organization’s firewall. Openstack is a convenient and feature-rich platform for building private clouds.

A hybrid cloud solution lets you work with different public and private clouds at the same time. Not only that, you can also orchestrate standalone onsite servers via a hybrid cloud solution.

Public cloud vs private cloud

Hybrid Cloud Examples

  1. To meet compliance requirements, a multinational financial services provider stores sensitive data inside localized data centers. They use AWS Lambda functions for registration and authentication of new customers. Some of their applications run best on GCP virtual machines. They use a hybrid cloud software to make everything work well together.
  2. A software house runs legacy applications on onsite hardware. The applications can’t be migrated to a public cloud without expensive refactoring and maintenance. However, to kick-start their digital transformation, they started building all new applications on AWS and adopted a hybrid cloud policy.
  3. Some of Company X’s customers are partnered with AWS, while others prefer GCP or Microsoft Azure. They have to build a hybrid cloud infrastructure to keep everyone happy.

Is Hybrid Cloud Secure?

A properly architected and integrated hybrid cloud is just as secure as an in-house data center. You can argue that hybrid clouds typically have a larger attack surface and are intrinsically more complex, but with the right security and management policies in place, you can keep malicious actors at bay.

A huge security advantage with hybrid clouds is the absence of a single point of failure. A compromise in a public cloud platform won’t (or shouldn’t) propagate to your local data center. Moreover, with hybrid clouds, you get to store your security-critical data inside local servers, which are far less exposed than public clouds.

Hybrid Cloud Benefits

  • Scalability: A hybrid cloud solution ensures that nothing stops you from onboarding new customers, or developing new solutions. You can add a new public (or private) cloud platform at will and seamlessly integrate it with your existing infrastructure.
  • Ease into digital transformation: No need to fully migrate your infrastructure to the cloud at once. Transform digitally, but at your own pace. Let legacy applications run on onsite hardware, and move everything else to the cloud.
  • Cost effectiveness: Hosting everything inside an onsite data center can be very expensive. With a hybrid cloud implementation, you can spread your resources across various onsite and cloud environments and significantly reduce your costs of ownership and maintenance.
  • Security: Store sensitive data locally and let everything else harness the maximum potential of the public cloud. Moreover, since your network elements are distributed across different platforms, the risk of total system compromise is minimal-to-none.
  • Enable remote access: Hybrid cloud solutions enable you to provide ubiquitous remote access to both cloud and onsite resources.

Hybrid Cloud Management Tips

  • Ensure maximum visibility: Using separate dashboards to view network assets for different platforms can be messy and error-prone. It’s recommended that you invest in a tool that can aggregate data from different environments and give you complete visibility over all your resources.
  • Establish SLAs: Invest in Service-level Agreement (SLA) tools that can monitor workflows across various cloud platforms and raise alerts in case performance and speed SLAs are ever breached. E.g., an SLA tool may issue an alert if the latency between your private and public clouds gets too high.
  • Establish secure connections: When connecting your sensitive local servers to public clouds, use secure protocols like SSL and TLS to form connections. Moreover, your access control lists (ACLs) should adhere to the principle of least privilege.
  • End-to-end orchestration: Your data and applications may be spread across multiple platforms, yet seamlessly integrated with each other. E.g. you may use APIs to connect your local databases to applications running in public cloud platforms.
  • Easy provisioning and migration: It should be easy for your developers and administrators to provision and/or migrate new infrastructure across different platforms.

Future of hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud market is booming. The main reason is that more and more companies are easing into digital transformation. If you want to start building cloud-native applications, which can integrate with legacy software running on onsite hardware, investing in a hybrid cloud solution is a prudent choice. We expect hybrid cloud adoption to increase even more in the years to come.

We also expect hybrid cloud management to become a lot easier in the future. As more sophisticated orchestration and integration platforms continue to emerge, companies will feel even more confident in using hybrid clouds.

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