What is a Hybrid Cloud Strategy and Why Do I Need One?

Posted by Dustin Keib, Head of Cloud Enablement, - Dec 10, 2019

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “hybrid cloud” mentioned in conversations. But do you know what it is — and why you should explore it?

You’ve come to the right place. The cloud computing world is full of lingo, solutions and strategies, and it’s often confusing to sort out what might be right for your organization. We’ve already discussed a multi-cloud strategy. Now let’s take a look at what it takes to build a hybrid cloud strategy.

Public vs. Private Cloud

Before we dive into the ins and outs of hybrid cloud architecture, it’s important to understand the components that make up the approach to cloud infrastructure services, as part of a basic Cloud Adoption 101 review.

First, there’s no single, accepted definition for “hybrid cloud.” It can best be explained as a computing infrastructure that’s made up of two or more environments, which could include on-premise bare metal servers and/or private or public cloud services. These components work together to create a seamless hybrid cloud architecture, taking advantage of the features inherent in the different platforms.

As the market transforms from primarily on-premise to a cloud-native model, understanding how to best take advantage of hybrid cloud strategies requires some understanding of the features of private and public clouds, and what feature trade-offs they provide. It's a great thing to understand when you are migrating to the cloud.

This detailed article from CRN Magazine shares different analysts’ perspectives on public and private clouds; it’s worth a deeper dive when you have some time. For now, here’s a quick rundown of what each cloud is, and how it works.

The Public Cloud

A public cloud is what people typically mean when they are talking about taking their computing capabilities “to the cloud.” This means organizations move their computing infrastructure, data and services away from the traditional on-premise servers and access these servers via the internet through cloud service providers like Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In a public cloud, you typically share the provider’s physical hardware with other customers, potentially streamlining costs, though dedicated options now exist in the major clouds. Providers offer these services to enterprise users on a subscription basis, or on a pay-as-you-go usage-based model. This ongoing (operational) model is favored by many organizations over an upfront (capital) expenditure as it can constrain costs if careful governance is put into place early in the process.

Scalable and self-service, a public cloud delivers a reliable, secure and accessible platform, and supports dynamic workloads across organizations of all sizes. This allows you to harness immense computing power and choose from a variety of services, including compute, big data, storage, networking, and other tools that allow you to build and deliver nearly any application, large or small. You can manage these entirely in-house — or turn to the expertise of a cloud managed services provider to oversee part or all of these services, including backup and disaster recovery.

Public cloud deployment is on the rise, increasingly replacing on-premise servers. According to the latest update from International Data Corp.’s (IDC), Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Spending Guide, global spending on public cloud services and infrastructure should reach $210 billion this year. That’s an increase of 23.8% over 2018, the study notes.

The Private Cloud

For some organizations, sharing infrastructure might not be the right answer, or perhaps they may have an existing hardware or datacenter lease. But at the same time, they still want to start enjoying some of the benefits the cloud offers while launching their cloud-native journey.

That’s where the private cloud comes in. As previously noted, it’s similar to the public cloud in most ways. The primary difference is that the organization will be responsible for delivering the underlying infrastructure — storage, networking, power, essentially all of the basic datacenter services.

For all this additional effort and cost, there is one primary advantage; your organization would be the only one using its resources. Private clouds can be hosted on-site, or can be located in your colocation provider’s datacenter. In the latter scenario, the colocation provider will operate the underlying infrastructure such as network or power, and your staff will be responsible for things like the hypervisor (VMware, etc), storage,VMs, operating systems and applications.

Regardless of which you choose, the infrastructure and storage capacity is all yours, and can be tailored to meet your specific needs. Your sensitive data is directly accessible only to your organization, limiting any public exposure to what your team defines. It is important to note that when you control your own cloud, you are responsible for your own cloud security.

Building a Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Creating a well-defined hybrid cloud strategy focuses on combining the best parts of your public cloud infrastructure with those of a private cloud, providing you with a completely customized cloud computing experience.

In a hybrid cloud environment, the public and private cloud computing infrastructures remain as separate entities, but they are connected by technology that allows you to transfer data between them, and to share applications and services. You’ll also have more control over all of your cloud components than you would with a pre-packaged solution.

A variety of management and automation platform solutions exist that help to span the distinct infrastructures, making management of the individual solutions easier and giving you a scalable, dynamic and seamless computing experience.

For example, you can use the private cloud not only for sensitive data, but also for managing your day-to-day workloads — such as testing development code, or building and training ML models — and then to run the code and ML models, etc., in the public cloud for production. Because you have a hybrid cloud strategy in place, you can more efficiently manage capacity, selectively deploying workloads in the public cloud when they exceed the computing power of your private cloud, or when cloud native tools are more cost-effective.

These types of use cases vary at each organization. Because of this, a hybrid cloud strategy allows you to build a cloud computing environment that is unique to your organization’s digital needs today — and in the future.

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Meet the Author

Dustin Keib, Head of Cloud Enablement

Dustin Keib, Head of Cloud Enablement

Dustin is a software engineer, systems architect, and cloud scalability expert at Onix. His deep understanding of the full SaaS and Paas stack comes from 20+ years of enterprise IT experience. Dustin is a Certified Google Cloud Solutions Architect, AWS Solutions Architect - Associate, and Puppet Professional and has a deep knowledge of infrastructure automation, containers, and CI/CD system design and implementation.

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