Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing strategy, whereby a user employs a combination of cloud environments – most usually public and private cloud, but it may incorporate any combination of virtualised, colocated or on-premises infrastructure – with orchestration between them.
Though often considered a way for an organisation to dip its toes into the cloud waters, the hybrid cloud model has proved a strategy with sticking power of its own. For instance, we recently discussed Dropbox’s hybrid cloud ambitions, an evolution for the company that previously relied almost entirely on Amazon's AWS public cloud.
How is Hybrid Cloud Used?
One example of a way an organisation might use a hybrid cloud approach is by using their own on-premises dedicated servers for the hosting of particularly sensitive workloads, with their less critical workloads hosted with a public cloud provider.
Most companies using a hybrid strategy tend to use the public cloud for their test/development applications, email, and CRM, it is also increasingly being used for business functions such as HR and accounting. Their private cloud workloads tend to be mission critical or sensitive items, plus heavy data analysis applications.
Hosting can be flexible, with workloads switching between public and private hosting, and vice versa, in line with business needs and budgets.
What are the Benefits of Hybrid Cloud?
We have recently discussed the benefits of private cloud and those of public cloud. A hybrid cloud strategy allows you to combine many of these benefits, whilst also allowing you to sidestep many of the disadvantages.
While public cloud can offer impressive flexibility, scalability and significant economies of scale, there are workloads that are best kept on-premises, for the maximum security and/or control. Further to this, unless an application has been architected specifically for Azure or AWS's Public Cloud, it really doesn't make much sense to run it there. Of course, you can just lift and shift an application from on premises/private cloud to the public cloud, but if it is not written to take advantage of public cloud functionality, there's really no benefit to running it there and it may well be more expensive to do so.
Private clouds, on the other hand, offer this optimum security and privacy, and potentially increased SLA, but may be overkill for many workloads, especially in cases where demand experiences significant peaks and troughs. In addition, private cloud upfront costs tend to be higher, but the expense does depend on specific requirement, with TCO lower when the workloads are right.
The real advantage of hybrid cloud lies in the ability to gain a comfortable and flexible middle ground to ensure all your workloads are treated appropriately and cost-effectively.
In a nutshell, hybrid cloud benefits include:
- Security – including private cloud in the mix gives reassurance when it comes to security of your most sensitive operations, and can make it easier to meet regulatory data handling and storage requirements.
- Cost efficiency – depending on your use, public cloud tends to offer a more cost-effective solution than private cloud. Hybrid cloud adopters can balance their need to be cost efficient with the security of keeping their most sensitive and critical workloads on private cloud.
- Scalability – private cloud is not necessarily un-scalable but public cloud will always be able to offer more in this regard. By moving those workloads that most benefit from scalability to the public cloud, you also reduce the demands on your private cloud.
- Flexibility – the “pick and mix” style of hybrid cloud gives organisations the chance to explore a variety of operational directions and find the optimum cloud solution for them.
- Preservation of investments – a hybrid cloud strategy enables you to continue using existing IT investments, whether on premises or colocated.
And Some Drawbacks?
There are considerable benefits to hybrid cloud, but it can also present a number of challenges. Being sure of API compatibility and robust network connectivity is key, since your workloads are spread across public and private cloud environments but many may be able to access, and interact with, one another.
Of course, by using public cloud, you also open yourself up to some of its drawbacks, such as the possibility of SLA breaches and connectivity problems. One way to mitigate these issues to use multiple public cloud providers, with workloads interoperating. But this in turn can bring its own problems, such as complications to workload testing and design.
Is Hybrid Cloud Right for Me?
The only way to answer this is to look at your own workloads and requirements. Each businesses needs are different and a “one-size-fits-all” solution may do the job but be far from the best options for your individual needs.
Dynamic or highly variable workloads can really benefit from hybrid cloud. For instance, eCommerce sites which experience significant spikes in demand at certain points in the year could run on private cloud but use cloud bursting to the public cloud when demand soars. This is far more cost-effective than having infrastructure designed to always accommodate peak requirements. If this sounds like your business, you may be a particularly good candidate for hybrid cloud.
Like any other strategic element of business, your cloud strategy must be considered in-line with the goals and objectives of your organisation. If your organisation is growing and you are considering the best way to evolve your infrastructure to meet its changing needs, download our e-book on how to scale up your infrastructure.