What is a Hybrid Cloud?
In the loosest definition, a hybrid cloud combines on-premises IT (traditional infrastructure and private cloud) with off-premises resources or services from a public cloud—such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Microsoft Azure—or at a cloud service provider (CSP) or software-asa-service (SaaS) provider.
In a stricter definition of hybrid cloud, a service is built from a combination of different clouds that could include both private and public clouds as well as CSPs. In a three-tier application stack, the presentation service might be on a public cloud, the application service might reside on a managed private cloud, and the database service might reside on-premises.
Flexibility and agility
By far the most important benefit of a properly architected hybrid cloud is increased business agility. You have ready access to resources to support new applications, accommodate development and testing projects, or to quickly address unanticipated needs. In an ideal world, workloads can be moved quickly between on-premises and cloud locations, and leverage resources from multiple locations. (Unfortunately, API and architectural differences between different cloud providers make this challenging).
Many industries experience big variations in resource demand. One clear example is retail, where activity spikes before the December holidays. A hybrid cloud model gives you the ability to respond elastically to resource demands. In a similar vein, many individual applications have big fluctuations in resource demand. Such applications need to run in an environment where they can grab resources when they are needed and release them when they are not, reducing overall expenses.
A well-designed hybrid cloud can allow IT users—such as developers and line-of-business managers—to gain access to IT infrastructure and services through a self-service portal. This not only gives them immediate access to services, it reduces the burden on IT since it no longer has to serve as the middleman.
Faster delivery of new products and services
Hybrid cloud can help you deliver new products and services more quickly by eliminating barriers that slow your business and development teams down. New digital services become easier to create and deploy, and developers and test engineers can better access the resources they need when they need them.
A hybrid cloud model lets you run every application as efficiently as possible, while adopting a pay-as-you-go model that reduces your capital investments in infrastructure and datacenters. Designing datacenters to accommodate peak loads only to have infrastructure sitting idle much of the time is a poor choice versus adding cloud resources when needed to accommodate peak periods.
Avoidance of lock-in
If you adopt a cloud-only model, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting locked into one or two cloud vendors. It can be cost prohibitive to get your data out of the cloud, so you need to exercise caution before you move data from datacenters into the cloud.
Access to the latest technology
In today’s competitive business environment, enterprises cannot afford to find themselves in a situation where they are unable to gain immediate access to technologies that could provide a business advantage. One example of this is AI. The large public clouds are innovating rapidly and offering competing services. A hybrid cloud model gives you the flexibility to use the best technology to seize opportunities.
A variety of evidence points to hybrid cloud as the preferred model for the enterprise. According to the RightScale 2017 “State of the Cloud” report, hybrid cloud is the preferred enterprise strategy; 85 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy in place, up from 82 percent in 2016.
Regionally, the Americas reported greater use of hybrid clouds now (22%) and within 12 months' time (31%). However, the two-year outlook has EMEA (43%) surpassing the Americas' hybrid plans (39%) and APJ (39%) catching up.
More hybrid cloud users reported that all their needs were being met (49%) as opposed to those using a single public cloud (37%).
Despite an earlier reluctance, major IaaS vendors have in recent years embraced integrating their public cloud infrastructure with customers’ on-premises resources. Vendors are creating tools that work across these environments, and they’re partnering with companies that have strong ties in enterprise datacenters.
What is the best strategy for creating a hybrid cloud?
Your enterprise needs a cloud operating system that gives you the ability to monitor, manage, and orchestrate across all environments using a single set of tools. Most approaches to hybrid cloud are based on a strategy of trying to determine the best way to make all the disparate pieces—legacy infrastructure in your datacenters, public clouds, and cloud service providers—somehow work together. Based on the realities of the current cloud environment, this approach has a higher likelihood of success:
Choose a single framework—a “cloud operating system”—that will allow you to manage workloads on-premise and in the cloud.
Modernize your on-premises environments in accordance with that framework.
Choose only public clouds and CSPs compatible with that framework