What is Hybrid Cloud and is it Right for Your Business?
Cloud computing, like most forms of technology solutions, isn’t one-size-fits-all. For the companies and individuals considering the cloud services, there is a lot to think about, and one of the first steps involves choosing a cloud platform.
Cloud environments come in three basic forms: public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. Before moving forward, prospective users should know the difference between each model, as well as the pros and cons.
What Is a Hybrid Cloud?
Most prospective cloud users know about public and private clouds – the most common and accessible cloud computing options – but hybrid clouds are a little more of an enigma for those new to cloud environments.
As the name implies, a hybrid cloud is a cloud model and cloud strategy that employs attributes of both public and private clouds. Hybrid clouds are partially private clouds, either maintained by the company who owns the cloud data center or a third party provider, and one of the public cloud providers. These clouds are extremely flexible, allowing users to move applications, workloads, stored data, and anything else hosted within the cloud between public and private spaces as needed to optimize workloads.
Hybrid cloud storage is the least of the major cloud options as it isn’t viable for small companies and largely conforms to a very complex business model that isn’t necessarily popular. For example, companies with extreme seasonality, like tax preparation software platforms, may find a hybrid cloud to be a benefit to deploy. In this instance, the private cloud environment will be adequate to sustain the majority of the operations but via a concept known as cloud-bursting, it’s possible to move into the public cloud when workloads and demand increases.
The Complex Infrastructure of a Hybrid Cloud
Due to the blend of public and private cloud platforms, the infrastructure of a hybrid cloud is a little different than maintaining cloud storage in a single environment. To establish a private cloud, companies need:
- A public IaaS platform, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure
- A private cloud environment, either constructed on site or provided by a third party host
- An appropriate WAN, or wide area network, to connect the two cloud platforms
In essence, this adds a layer of complexity that requires additional resources to support. While an enterprise business can clearly control the facets of their chosen private cloud, the use of a public cloud infrastructure does create an additional hurdle. As public clouds essentially exist in a take-it-or-leave-it model, extra attention must be given to the construction of a private cloud to ensure application compatibility with all features of a chosen public cloud provider. If this is not carefully studied and incorporated into private cloud development, it’s likely that the functionality of the hybrid environment will fail to function as desired.
Hybrid Cloud Virtualization
To achieve the objectives of this cloud technology, users also need to deploy a virtualization layer to ensure proper communication and accessibility across both halves of the whole. This involves the use of a hypervisor, also knows as a monitor for virtual machines, to create vmware for users. This also requires the use of a cloud software layer to be used in conjunction with the hypervisor to deliver cloud functionality and support user requirements. These steps are generally not needed by those who choose a public cloud platform or a private cloud but not both.
These products and apps can’t be chosen at random, however; they must be compatible with a selected public cloud environment and corporate application usage to guarantee interoperability with the public cloud’s management services and application programming interfaces. Only when these requirements are adequately in place can users seamlessly migrate between a private and a public platform to adequately handle workloads. To accomplish this, most companies will have to partner with specialized cloud services who can process enterprise business needs and interpret them into the creation of a suitable hybrid cloud, and this is not necessarily a small ask for cloud providers. For this reason, hybrid clouds are often the most expensive cloud strategy.
Industries and Companies that Use Hybrid Clouds
A common example of a hybrid cloud computing infrastructure exists in the financial sector. Public cloud space is used for things like trade orders, while confidential technology and customer information are housed on a private cloud. Hybrid clouds are also seen in healthcare, in which patient information is held on private clouds to stay compliant with HIPAA while less confidential details can be hosted on a public cloud to reduce the resources needed in managing large amounts of data.
Law is another field that frequently partakes in this cloud platform. In this instance, however, many law firms use a hybrid environment as a failsafe, creating a way to preserve big data usage in the cloud even if something happens to one side of the equation, like a public cloud outage or issues with an on-site private server that will require time to repair.
Retail sales and ecommerce may also embrace hybrid cloud platforms. As the space required to process sales transactions can be very large, using a public cloud for this purpose can alleviate the strain on a private platform while still allowing for a way to keep private customer information and internal financial data safe.
Hybrid Cloud Strategy
The strategy behind using hybrid cloud storage is highly individual and should by fully thought out before deploying any particular solution.
Some companies choose to employ a hybrid cloud data center because it seems like an easier or more cost-effective strategy than investing in adequate private cloud infrastructure to support all operations, instead keeping only proprietary and confidential data on private servers. Others use public cloud space as an overflow of sorts, moving into this area as needed to keep up with high volume seasonality.
Before considering the laborious process of establishing a hybrid cloud, it’s best to determine if this set-up is actually as necessary in practice as it appears in conception.
- Does your company have a high enough volume of sales or transactions that a private cloud of an appropriate size truly seems out of reach?
- Is seasonality so extreme that you require cloud bursting capabilities for small portions of the year that would not be used at other times?
- Can a hosted private cloud with scalability options meet your needs in a more straightforward and affordable manner?
- Do you have the resources to support the added layer of virtualization required in managing hybrid cloud development and maintenance?
- Do you have a concrete plan for how public and private cloud space will be utilized?
These kinds of points of consideration can help you fine tune a strategy, including whether you have a need for a hybrid cloud platform at all. With the advancements in private clouds, particularly hosted private clouds that do not require on-site support, the functionality of a hybrid cloud may not be as essential as you believe.
Hybrid cloud data centers do contain features of both public and private clouds, but they are completely separate entities that are often the costliest alternatives for those looking to leverage the common cloud benefits.
Public clouds are hosted by large third parties, like Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Anyone can use space in these clouds and costs, particularly for small businesses just getting started, are fairly low. For those new to cloud computing, public clouds often have the lowest barriers of entry. However, unlike a hybrid cloud in which a large portion of the infrastructure involves a private platform, there is a distinct lack of management control in a public cloud. Everything, from security to application programming compatibility, is determined by a third party cloud provider. If a cloud platform is hacked or goes down, there’s nothing users can do to remedy the situation outside of simply waiting for the provider to take action.
Private clouds, on the other hand, are, as the name indicates, privately operated for the use of one specific business or entity. These clouds can be established on-site and constructed using an infrastructure wholly unique to the owner’s needs, or can be provided by a third-party host who can manage the back-end operations as desired. Private clouds are often favored by larger companies that have many users and deal with proprietary data, as well as enterprise businesses of all sizes that wish to utilize a cloud environment with fewer security risks and more control. These clouds are often assumed to be more expensive, but a hosted option can provide affordable inclusive package options.
Even independently constructed and maintained private clouds can often be a more cost-friendly alternative to hybrid cloud storage, particularly when usage demands are fairly routine.
Hybrid Clouds vs. Multi-Clouds
In name, hybrid clouds and multi-clouds do sound similar, implying the use of multiple clouds to create a single virtual data center solution. However, these are not in fact the same cloud computing concept – something users should understand before selecting the use of a hybrid cloud or a multi-cloud.
Hybrid cloud storage employs a combination of public and private clouds that can be used in conjunction or as necessary to accommodate data management needs. Multi-clouds, however, use a variety of different public cloud servers, like using Google, Microsoft, and AWS together, without any private servers. There is generally no way to bridge services between different clouds, as done in hybrid clouds, creating no way to share services across varying servers. Instead of allowing data and information to travel between clouds, usage must be starkly divided, with different responsibilities and uses being funneled into separate clouds.
While affordable, particularly for companies content to spread usage out little by little across different public clouds – many public cloud storage platforms are free or low cost for small amounts of data – this is generally not considered a sound strategy. Companies often believe that using multiple public clouds allows them reduce risk by keeping eggs in separate baskets, so to speak, and allows for diversification of resources, but this strategy doesn’t eliminate security problems and can create a mess of compatibility challenges.
Those who want to ensure compatibility and accessibility are encouraged to consolidate operations into a single private cloud rather than an array of public clouds to best maximize the capabilities of cloud computing infrastructure.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Clouds
Like all forms of cloud computing, there are pros and cons to maintaining a hybrid cloud environment in lieu of a traditional data center. Before determining that a hybrid cloud is right for your business, take time to consider both the good and the bad.
Hybrid cloud computing is very flexible, which is one of the major benefits. Companies can structure their cloud environment around rapidly changing needs, from seasonality to a dynamic and complex business model in which a single cloud set-up may not feel adequate. For companies that feel that hybrid cloud services are the best way to customize an atmosphere, this can seem like a big perk.
However, for most management teams with with straightforward needs, this kind of flexibility isn’t necessary. When volumes are stable, there’s no need to transition between clouds, and very few businesses have the kind of ever-changing storage requirements that would require a hybrid cloud. Hybrid clouds also generally require a steep investment in technology; the virtualization requirements alone can be beyond what a standard IT team can provide. For enterprises that wish to keep costs low, a hybrid cloud may exceed budgetary expectations.
Hybrid cloud infrastructure can also be a disadvantage for compliance purposes. In generally, it’s important to definitively isolate where data is being stored, and this is not always possible with a hybrid cloud. This burden can be lessened by keeping all data specific to regulations, like patient medical records and financial transaction information, only on private servers, but the line is still blurred beyond the comfort of some compliance professionals.
In general, a private cloud can generally accommodate all needs, particularly hosted private clouds that allow for additional growth without the need for any additional in-house server support. For those who are overwhelmed by the complexity of a hybrid could, starting with a private cloud can be a good way to preserve data security while transitioning. In theory, a stand-alone private cloud could be incorporated into a hybrid configuration at a later date if necessary.
The Usage of Hybrid Cloud Services
Hybrid cloud computing does offer benefits, particularly for management with varying business needs. For a large range of reasons, from better security for private data without compromising space for less sensitive information, many companies choose to trust in a hybrid cloud model.
In spite of this, hybrid clouds are often unnecessary, particularly for small to mid-sized businesses. The complexities can be a hindrance for those without the resources for large-scale infrastructure implementation or for enterprises with reduced budgets. As such, hybrid cloud services are most commonly used when a specific need demands it, not as a first resort.
For those who want the security and customizable nature of private cloud technology but do not have the resources to establish one independently are a great fit for CompleteCloud, an all-in-one cloud computing solution. As a complete package that offers security, innovative infrastructure capabilities to promote growth, and accommodations for 15 to 15,000 users, Avatara’s hosted private solutions offer an affordable way for any business to break into the cloud.