Hybrid Cloud: A Complete Intro and Guide for IT Leadership

Jul 26, 2019

The use of the cloud is inevitable for most companies because cloud computing is necessary for a company that wants to keep up to date with the industry and remain competitive. According to the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report by Flexera™, 94% of the 786 technical professionals from across a broad cross-section of organizations surveyed use some form of cloud strategy. And the cloud they use can be public, private, or hybrid.

The latest State of the Cloud Report also tells us that 84% of the respondents use a multi-cloud strategy, leveraging nearly five clouds on average. And enterprises that use a hybrid strategy make up 58% of the respondents, up from 51% in 2018.

This post provides a definition of a hybrid cloud and easy-to-follow use cases. After that, we’ll dive deeper into the benefits, disadvantages, best practices, and pitfalls of utilizing a hybrid cloud.

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Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds

It’s important to know the difference between public, private, and hybrid clouds.

hybrid cloud

Private Cloud: A private cloud serves the needs of a single organization. It’s often hosted on-prem and is optimized to fit a particular infrastructure use case.

Public Cloud: Generally speaking, a public cloud is hosted by a cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or IBM Cloud. It provides on-demand cloud services for which you pay per usage. The benefit of a public cloud is that it’s accessible over the internet.

Hybrid Cloud: A hybrid cloud spans at least one private and one public cloud. More information about this type follows.

What Is a Hybrid Cloud?

A hybrid cloud is a computing environment that combines one or more public cloud providers with a private cloud by allowing data and applications to be shared between them. Whenever the demand for storage and compute resources exceeds the capacities of the on-prem private cloud, hybrid cloud computing gives businesses the ability to seamlessly scale up their on-prem infrastructure to the public cloud to handle any overflow.

It’s important to keep in mind that third-party data centers won’t get access to all of a company’s data through this partnership. This is one of the reasons why the hybrid cloud has gained popularity in recent years. Most companies prefer to have their valuable data stored on-prem and to host their own applications. However, sometimes their current storage capacity just doesn’t meet the demand. In such cases, a company used to have to throw everything into a public cloud infrastructure, which posed a possible security risk.

In response to this issue, the hybrid cloud was developed to combine the security of the private cloud with the fast connection speeds and easy-to-access features of the public cloud.

Hybrid Cloud Use Cases 

Hybrid Cloud for Startups

For a vibrant startup that offers any kind of online service, using a hybrid cloud might be the ideal solution. A startup often has no idea to what degree an application will succeed in the market and what storage capacity they’ll need. Instead of making serious investments for on-site hardware, a startup can choose to keep things simple by extending its on-site hardware with a public cloud.

“The risk of the new venture is far easier to justify if the capital investment is minimized and, if you hit the jackpot, the fees to the cloud service provider may seem like chicken feed compared to the new revenue being generated,” wrote Bob Tarzey, TechRepublic contributor.

Startups can benefit from this approach, as they can decide to add more on-site resources once they’ve established themselves and gained more insights into the metrics of their offered solutions.

Managing Peak Traffic

For many websites and tools, traffic levels peak. As an example, let’s explore a flight comparison tool. Commonly, this website sees peak loads before a holiday. To avoid making major investments into on-site hardware, it makes sense to extend capabilities by using a public cloud to manage traffic levels. Besides that, a flight comparison tool doesn’t handle any private user data. Therefore, capabilities can run perfectly inside the public cloud.

Supporting Legacy Technology

Many enterprises are stuck with legacy applications, which are hard and especially costly to port to a more up-to-date version. In most cases, these applications aren’t fit for running inside a hybrid cloud. So instead, many companies utilize hybrid cloud models to cover these legacy application gaps. This type of deployment will soon become more common in the large enterprise market as businesses try to salvage their legacy applications without doing a full migration.

3 Benefits of Using the Hybrid Cloud Model

1. No Expensive Hardware Investments

The number one reason for using the hybrid cloud model is to cut costs and remove the need for any massive capital expenditures to handle spikes in demand. For many organizations—especially startups—it’s hard to estimate the metrics of their online service. Therefore, it makes sense to have a small on-prem installation extended by the public cloud.

Why not move completely to the cloud? Using private hardware allows organizations to handle private data more securely behind a firewall within their own network. Meanwhile, the public cloud helps them handle peak demand and allows for outsourcing nonsensitive tasks.

2. Cost-Effective Model

As I’ve said, the hybrid cloud allows companies to minimize their investment in expensive on-site hardware. Ideally, limited on-site hardware is extended by a public cloud in order to manage peak traffic.

3. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Setting up an independent environment for disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity purposes can be very costly. Using a hybrid cloud setup where the on-prem data center fails over to a public cloud service in case of an emergency is much more affordable. These costs are the number one reason why companies opt for a hybrid cloud as their disaster recovery option. It gives them the ability to expand very rapidly, and it enables companies to operate in a low-cost environment.

Besides disaster recovery, a hybrid cloud can also act as an archive for storing snapshots that might be useful in case something goes wrong with the application.

3 Disadvantages of the Hybrid Cloud Model

A hybrid cloud model hosts a whole bunch of interesting advantages, but let’s also look at the other side. Here are a few disadvantages that organizations may face when deploying a hybrid cloud.

1. Deployment Costs

A company might save a lot of money long-term by deploying a hybrid cloud model. However, they often forget about the initial deployment costs of a public cloud and their on-prem cloud.

2. Ensure Maximum Security of Data

Organizations have to figure out where to store their data. Some prefer to store sensitive data on-site. This means they have less flexibility when trying to access the data or use it for applications. On the other hand, when storing sensitive data in the public cloud, organizations must be extra careful about how they protect it.

3. Cloud Compatibility

Companies must be careful when constructing a hybrid cloud setup. When chosen incorrectly, cloud compatibility can become a costly issue. For example, a fast-performing on-site setup might not be a great fit with a slower public infrastructure. This can result in a mediocre performance for your online service, which isn’t ideal.

Also, different cloud providers maintain slightly different patch releases or operating systems. When you use compiled languages, it’s possible that CPU architecture differences will occur. This last point isn’t a big issue, however, as many tools have been developed to easily manage version dependencies.

7 Best Practices for a Hybrid Cloud

Understand Your Data

When you decide to start working on your hybrid cloud environment, make sure you understand your data. This means you know what data flows through the different applications you intend to host. Also be sure to make a distinction between high-security data and low-security data. This forms the basis for deciding the setup of your environment.

Select a Standardized Solution

Keep things simple! Try to find a standardized solution that’s easy to deploy and preferably open source. You don’t want to get stuck with more expensive proprietary software.

Create Internal Guidelines

Many organizations don’t have a properly defined policy or guideline that tells them which applications can run in the public cloud and what data can be used there. Clearly define what data can be accessed and limit the applications that can run in the public cloud. These guidelines form the basis of your privacy policy, which states how you’ll use the users’ data.

Implement a Hybrid Cloud in Stages

If you aren’t sure how to implement a hybrid cloud all at once, try implementing it in phases. Doing so will help your organization keep on top of the change, and it will require fewer resources because you can gradually convert to the new setup.

A good approach is to start by building the on-prem private cloud to get that first experience of setting up a secure cloud. Once that’s done, your organization can deploy its first application on its private cloud. After that, you can start working on integrating a public cloud provider.

The ultimate test for your hybrid cloud setup lies within stress testing to see if the private cloud flows over into the public cloud whenever the traffic peaks.

Spend Time on the Configuration

In order to optimize your cost savings, try to dive into the configuration of your hybrid cloud solution. One of the key properties to look for is “burst control.” The burst control property defines when the load for your on-prem hardware becomes too much and should scale to the public cloud. Of course, more advanced scenarios are possible where you always run nonsensitive operations in the public cloud, and your on-site hardware serves as a dedicated environment for running sensitive tasks.

Monitor Your Public Cloud

There’s always a chance that something will go wrong with your hybrid cloud setup. Therefore, I suggest putting monitoring tools in place to provide insights on not only the uptime of your applications but also their usage. Such tools can reveal the improper configuration of your cloud setup.

Combine Multiple Public Cloud Providers

Instead of relying fully on one public cloud provider, I suggest combining multiple providers. This makes your company less dependent on a specific cloud provider. On the other hand, this approach is more complex to construct, as you have to support several providers.

Pitfalls for a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Uneducated Decision Makers

Hybrid cloud is a newer strategy that can save companies time and effort when used correctly. However, companies will often follow the latest trends in IT simply because they believe a newer strategy will benefit their organization. This is a huge mistake. To make the most of a hybrid cloud strategy, educate your C-level executives so they understand how the hybrid cloud works and can make the right decision for your company.

How Will You Use a Hybrid Cloud?

Many companies don’t realize that public cloud providers charge for the bandwidth you use. So when you are deploying data-intensive applications onto a public cloud, this can become very costly. To avoid making such an expensive mistake, try to understand how you’ll be using your hybrid cloud setup.

Here are some examples that make sense:

  • A single cloud with storage and applications 

  • Applications in the cloud with storage on site

  • Applications in the cloud while caching data in the public cloud but keeping storage on site

All three of these examples will reduce bandwidth usage. The main goal is to run CPU intensive processes in the cloud. That’s where organizations can really reduce their costs.

Getting Stuck in a Public vs. Private Debate

Oftentimes organizations are unsure about which data to store in which service. Giving up control over a portion of the data your organization has historically controlled can be hard. Try to avoid political debates over the matter by using a framework to decide where to store data.

The Bottom Line

A hybrid cloud is an interesting approach for companies that provide services that don’t require a lot of data to be passed around. The hybrid cloud is ideal for executing nonsensitive CPU intensive operations in the public cloud, while more data-sensitive operations are executed behind a firewall within the private cloud.

A hybrid cloud might seem like a good fit for many companies. Before you decide, make sure you understand the data you’re dealing with and don’t underestimate the required setup. A lot of things can go wrong when you’re trying to implement your hybrid cloud environment. However, with proper analysis of your IT environment, the risks can be greatly reduced. Meet Plutora, a software delivery management solution that helps you manage the switch to a hybrid cloud.

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