A hybrid cloud is a combination of two or more computing environments, including private clouds, public clouds and on-premises data centers, orchestrated as a unified, distributed computing environment. Hybrid clouds exist in many permutations, including:
An on-premises data center and at least one private or public cloud
A combination of two or more private clouds
A grouping of private and public clouds
When the cloud was first conceived, it was distinctly separate from on-premises data centers. You either worked on-premise or accessed online applications, such as Google apps, Amazon Web Services or Salesforce through a browser. The flexibility and easy scalability of the cloud meant it wasn't long before organizations also developed standalone cloud-based applications alongside their existing on-premises data centers. The need for system integration led to the development of virtual platforms that acted as a bridge between on-premises servers and the cloud. These platforms allowed users to shift workloads more freely to the cloud, while addressing security, privacy and compliance concerns. This became known as a hybrid cloud.
Key Terms and Concepts
Common terms associated with the hybrid cloud include:
Public cloud: Remote cloud computing infrastructure owned and operated by a third party and hosting publicly available services, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud
Private cloud: An exclusive internal cloud running behind an organization's firewall and managed and operated either in-house or through an external provider
Multi-cloud: The use of more than one cloud service, each with its own management tools; for example, multiple SaaS services from different cloud vendors
Intercloud: An advanced type of multi-cloud architecture that seamlessly connects and shares data between public, vendor-owned and private clouds
Hybrid IT: The use of legacy in-house resources for some applications and cloud services for others
Virtual private cloud (VPC): A logically isolated private virtual computing network located on a public cloud
Cloud bursting: A configuration that allows private cloud users to direct peak traffic to a public cloud
Cloud brokerage: A company providing intermediary services between a business and a public cloud service
Cloud management platform: A platform for managing hybrid cloud environments that includes tools for managing IT services, resources, governance and security
Cloud native: Applications specifically designed to take advantage of the scalability, resilience and flexibility of the cloud
Cloud Federation: A multinational program that connects public, community and private cloud providers into large scalable computing platforms using common standards
Data gravity: A term used to illustrate how large datasets tend to attract associated datasets and services and become increasingly difficult and expensive to move and manipulate
Orchestration: An orchestration layer that automates and coordinates the hybrid cloud environment
Disaster recovery: A hybrid cloud backup solution that recovers and restores data to current or new infrastructure after a total failure caused by cyber-attacks, equipment failure or natural disaster
How Does Hybrid Cloud Work?
The hybrid cloud comprises a collection of private, public and on-premises data centers operating as a single environment using a cloud management platform. This platform typically automates processes, such as resource management, services, governance and security. Users can interconnect hybrid cloud components in several ways:
Virtual private network (VPN): A VPN provides a secure encrypted connection over the internet between the different components of a hybrid cloud
Wide area network (WAN): Physical network connections between clouds are generally used over larger distances and often leased from network providers
API: An application programming interface that allows applications to communicate across the hybrid cloud
Architecture of Hybrid Cloud
The three primary architectural features of a hybrid cloud infrastructure are on-premises data centers, a private cloud and a public cloud.
On-premises data centers: On-premises data centers are usually the most secure part of the hybrid cloud and the preferred location for storing critical and sensitive information. They are also where legacy applications that are too old or difficult to deploy in the cloud sit.
Private cloud: A private cloud is a data center set up for the exclusive use of an organization. It may be a separate data center or part and parcel of an on-premises data center. The primary difference is that the architecture of a private data center complies with cloud-native principles.
Public cloud: The public cloud, owned and operated by third-party providers, offers (almost) unlimited opportunities for on-demand cloud-bursting applications and large-scale processor and memory-intensive applications. Data storage costs are lower, system reliability is excellent and users don't have to worry about provisioning and system maintenance.
Types of Hybrid Cloud
Organizations use hybrid clouds for different purposes. Typical applications include:
Integrated hybrid cloud: Primarily used to flexibly extend the organization's reach and computing capabilities by reserving more secure on-premises and private clouds for sensitive data and the public cloud for automated scaling of applications as needed
Hybrid cloud for disaster recovery: Using mirror imaging and replication between private and public clouds to constantly back up data as a fallback in the event of a catastrophic failure
Hybrid cloud for big data analytics: An ideal solution for large-scale data analytics and deep learning modeling that utilizes massive datasets and requires multiple processors and GPUs
Components of Hybrid Cloud
The hybrid cloud consists of several layers. At the bottom sits the hybrid cloud infrastructure layer that consists of the public and private cloud infrastructure as well as on-premises data centers. Sitting above that is a hybrid cloud platform that spans the cloud and on-premises environment. The next layer contains the hybrid cloud software layer, where applications run. The final layer is an observation layer that acts as a window to provide an overview of all applications running in the hybrid cloud.
Benefits of Hybrid Cloud
A hybrid cloud is an excellent way for companies to optimize workload resources and easily scale operations. Specific benefits of hybrid cloud include:
Increased flexibility: Hybrid cloud gives you the flexibility to work in the environment most suited to the application, such as running public-facing workloads in the cloud and keeping critical data on-premises or in a private cloud.
Workload portability: When working with a unified platform and supported by containers, it is easy to move workloads around the hybrid cloud.
Easy scalability: It's simple to scale dynamic workloads using cloud bursting, while the scalability of the public cloud easily adapts to hosting big data analytics and processor-intensive machine learning workloads.
Cost savings: The hybrid cloud allows you to optimize expenditure by balancing the fixed costs of in-house data centers against the variable and unforeseen operational costs associated with public cloud platforms.
Enhanced security and compliance: You can better secure critical workloads using the private cloud and on-premises data centers, while simultaneously benefiting from automated public cloud security solutions.
Support for innovation: The hybrid cloud supports innovation, allowing developers to easily experiment with different solutions without the need to invest in additional hardware and facilities.
Challenges of Hybrid Cloud
Despite many benefits, the hybrid cloud may not be the best solution, and you should be aware of and consider all the factors when choosing what is right for your business or enterprise.
Integration and compatibility: Organizations using legacy on-premises software face many difficulties migrating applications to the cloud, especially those requiring tightly connected services. Other concerns are incompatible cloud management interfaces and vendor-specific APIs.
Data management: Data management in a hybrid cloud is more complex because data may be spread out over different clouds. This impacts backup capabilities as well as how you manage data. Another factor to consider is data egress fees charged when you move data from one cloud to another.
Network latency and performance: Latency depends on the physical locations of private and public cloud data centers and users. These may lead to slow response times, especially on public-facing websites. It can also affect the speed of cloud data transfer and impede data backups.
Vendor lock-in: Vendor lock-in occurs when the cost of moving to another cloud provider is prohibitive. Reasons may include technical constraints, proprietary solutions and data transfer costs. You can counter lock-in by adopting open standards when developing cloud apps.
Governance and compliance: The different requirements of private and public clouds and on-premises solutions make it difficult to adopt standardized governance processes. Other difficulties include regulatory requirements, where your cloud provider stores data and compliance with data protection regulations.
Security and backups: Moving to a hybrid cloud can increase complexity and heighten security risks. It may impact data integrity and security, as well as backup strategies. It is crucial to implement hybrid cloud data security and backup solutions.
Best Practices for Building Hybrid Cloud Strategy
As with any major change, it's essential to develop a comprehensive business plan that carefully considers what you intend to achieve and the best way to proceed. This should take account of your business needs, your capabilities and whether you need outside assistance.
Assess business needs: Identify current limitations and determine how a hybrid strategy can help. Evaluate your current workloads and their dependencies. Identify the workloads you can migrate and those you cannot. Consider future plans, especially those regarding legacy systems you plan to replace.
Choose the right cloud providers: Carefully choose your cloud providers. Compare technologies, features, costs, scalability, security controls and reputation. Look at data migration costs and interoperability between your different services.
Choose a hybrid cloud platform: A hybrid cloud platform is essentially a software layer that facilitates hybrid cloud services. Alternatives include open-source solutions from Red Hat and OpenStack and proprietary options, such as VMWare. Also, many public cloud providers offer hybrid platforms that link their public platforms with private data centers. Examples include Google Anthos and AWS Outposts.
Create a migration plan: Plan when and how to move apps to the cloud. Set a comprehensive timeline. Allow time for testing, checking and app optimization before going live.
Monitor, evaluate and adjust: Continuously audit app performance, checking particularly for vulnerabilities. Rebalance and reconfigure workloads to optimize performance. Create a governance policy that enforces consistency and standardization — but not at the expense of flexibility.
Develop a hybrid cloud backup strategy: Create a comprehensive hybrid cloud backup plan. Establish sophisticated backup policies that ensure reliable backups and disaster recovery processes no matter where or how you store your data. Choose vendor platforms that offer the widest possible range of backup, replication and recovery solutions consistent with your current and future hybrid cloud partners.
Hybrid Cloud Use Cases
The hybrid cloud is increasingly attractive for companies that need the benefits of scalability, data security and high system availability. Business use cases for the hybrid cloud include:
Healthcare: The hybrid cloud is ideal for securely storing and processing electronic medical records while facilitating easy access by medical practitioners using mobile devices.
E-commerce: Retailers can scale capacity using hybrid clouds to meet buyer demand while storing critical data behind firewalls
Finance: Utilizing hybrid cloud technologies, banks can meet regulatory requirements to store customer data locally while minimizing latency and service disruptions
Government: Confidential computing in the hybrid cloud allows governments to rapidly scale services beyond traditional data centers while maintaining data privacy
Gaming: Using edge computing and hybrid clouds, gaming vendors can serve complex games, allowing gamers to play advanced games using virtual GPUs and CPUs
The Future of Hybrid Cloud
While growth in the public cloud seems to be declining, the hybrid cloud is still growing strongly. Although public clouds are highly scalable and readily accessible, large-scale use can become expensive, especially if there is no fallback to alternative strategies. The hybrid cloud ameliorates this problem, allowing IT to deploy workloads most efficiently and economically. The effectiveness of this approach is seen in industry forecasts that predict the hybrid cloud market will triple in size to $262 billion by 2027.
The adoption of standardized hybrid cloud architectures like Kubernetes and containers that run across multiple clouds simplifies hybrid cloud development and facilitates workload portability. Edge computing is fast becoming part and parcel of hybrid computing, with its ability to reduce latency, operate with reduced bandwidth and increase resiliency. The hybrid cloud allows organizations to create unified applications that can run anywhere.
How to Get Started With Veeam
The hybrid cloud provides greater resilience and stability, although the operation of on-premises data centers together with private and public clouds significantly increases system complexity. Data is more widely distributed and managing replication, backups and disaster recovery strategies is more difficult. You need a hybrid cloud backup solution that controls, protects and manages your data no matter where it is. Veeam's hybrid cloud backup provides native backups in all software environments. It has centralized management capabilities allowing full visibility, ownership and control of your data. To find out more, contact one of our cloud experts.