Hybrid cloud is an enterprise IT environment where the organization mixes and matches private cloud and public cloud infrastructure. This allows them to combine the online capability of a public cloud with the on-premises security of a private cloud. It offers businesses greater flexibility in where they host resources, enabling them to run classified applications or mission-critical workloads on the private cloud, while maintaining the ability to access resources like SaaS and IaaS on the public cloud.

Hybrid Cloud Most Popular in the Enterprise

A year ago, RightScale surveyed 1,002 technical professionals across a broad cross section of organizations about their adoption of cloud computing. The results of the research was published in their 2017 State of the Cloud Report. It showed that hybrid cloud is the most popular architecture in the enterprise at the moment. It also showed that it is changing rapidly and that while private cloud adoption is decreasing, public cloud adoption is increasing.

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At the end of last year when we looked at cloud trends for 2018, we saw that the move to hybrid would continue as enterprises use cloud technology to get work done. Executives across many industries have realized that they need to allow users to securely access data efficiently without having to request authorization from multiple systems and to build infrastructure so their teams are fully equipped to handle big data analytics.The easiest way to do that is using hybrid clouds. “The hybrid cloud is popular because moving to the public cloud makes sense for a multitude of reasons — it's more cost-effective, flexible and more conducive to innovation at speed and scale — but large enterprises cannot simply go all-in overnight, says Venkat Ramasamy, Chief Operating Officer at Austin, Texas based FileCloud. He also adds that as enterprises are offered more migration possibilities it makes sense to move to public clouds to make the best use of existing investments in private clouds, as well, of course, as to take advantages of the public cloud to drive innovation.

Public, Private And Hybrid Clouds

What is the different between public and private cloud? Public cloud is a setup where computer infrastructure such as servers and services such as e-mail are shared among many companies. Ramasamy offers the real world analogy of public transportation or a taxi, where you don’t own the vehicles and you will pay only for the time that you use them. In the case of public clouds, companies can access computer resources within minutes rather than waiting for weeks to acquire a new server. However, if computer infrastructure is owned and operated by a company for its proprietary use, then it is considered private cloud. In this case, the analogy could be owning a car. Unlike public transport, the user has to pay for the car upfront (and maintenance) even for the days they don't use it.

When companies mix and match private cloud and public cloud infrastructure to solve their unique needs, then such a set-up is called a hybrid cloud. The context and technology decisions are driven by cost, government regulation, performance, technological complexity, and security.

Adam Stern, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Infinitely Virtual points out that there is a great deal of confusion about hybrid cloud and even the terminology around it. “Even though I believe hybrid is generally the way to go, the term “hybrid cloud” has been stripped of any real meaning. The truth is, everything is hybrid now. It’s akin to having a conversation about breathing oxygen,” he said.

He also shares that the terminology is misleading and has long since ceased to describe anything specific. Organizations have been shifting workload to the Internet virtually forever, no pun intended. Public compute space and private compute space have coexisted for a generation.“Compute on-premises, store off-premises — we’ve all been there and done that,” he says.

Migrate Or No?

If a lot of companies are already using cloud(s) there is still considerable debate as to what enterprise computing assets and data should be moved to the cloud. Ramin Sayar, CEO of Redwood City, California based Sumo Logic pointed out that this has been an ongoing problem over the past few years specifically, around which cloud model is the most cost effective, secure and scalable. “One thing is for certain — the cloud is the present (and future) of enterprise IT, and legacy companies continuing to predominantly or solely house their infrastructure on-premises to support existing or new modern applications will become increasingly irrelevant in a few years...” he said.

Moreover, this problem is further exacerbated as cloud users are demanding choice, which is going to drive massive growth in multi-cloud, multi-platform adoption in 2018.  As a result, enterprises will need a unified cloud native analytics platform that can run across any vendor, whether it’s Amazon, Microsoft or Google, including what’s traditionally running on-premises. “This agnostic model will serve as the backbone for the new world I refer to as the analytics economy, defined by positive disruption at every layer of the stack,” he says.

Michael Colonno, Senior Solutions Architect for Data Center and Hybrid Cloud, Computer Design & Integration said that a hybrid approach allows enterprises to take advantage of all the flexibility of the cloud without mass migrations.  Those advantages include:

Learning Opportunities

  • Workloads - A retailer can rapidly expand web and application servers during the holiday season to the public cloud without needing to acquire new hardware and then scale back with ease.
  • Storage - Long term storage for backups and legacy information that might need to be held indefinitely due to legal holds.
  • Disaster Recovery - Traditionally companies maintain a separate physical location to pass the workloads in case of a disaster. Leveraging the public cloud would allow you to limit or eliminate the need for that physical footprint.
  • Ease of Use - A development team might need specific requirements that would take months to build a solution, procure, and configure. But with a hybrid cloud approach, that team is able to spin up a whole infrastructure with ease and turn it down when they are done.

Securing Hybrid

Migrating infrastructure or content is always a risky business and has major security implications. Contino is a global transformational technical consultancy that partners with global companies to accelerate innovation through the successful adoption of enterprise DevOps and cloud computing. Jason McDonald is its US president. He points out that with hybrid cloud, not only do the private and public clouds need to be cared for, but the means of coordination between the two must be secure and compliant, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the enterprise IT infrastructure. “One of the most common mistakes enterprises make when moving to a hybrid cloud structure is thinking about security and compliance too late into the development process,” he says. He offers three recommendations to manage the risk:

1. Empowering Workforces: Organizations with a DevSecOps mindset favor limited hierarchy and team binding, and embrace safety, trust and empowered teams to deliver value within the system. To ensure that value is delivered, enterprises must make sure to foster DevSecOps skills, mindset and interest among employees and tailor recruitment and retention of team members that embrace the practice.

2. Establish Standards: Ensure your teams establish standards that focus on the core areas of artifacts and traceability management, compliance and security incident management. Keeping these factors in mind will allow teams to track changes made in code, build applications with a high degree of attention to security standards and encryption.

3. Risk Management: As teams see the growth of DevSecOps and the efficiencies in value delivery, there will be a natural shift to consistent, smaller production releases. It is when this occurs that leaders and auditors see the single greatest benefit of the new mindset — true system risk management.

Hybrid Cloud In 2018

Radhesh Balakrishnan general manager of Raleigh, North Carolina based OpenStack at Red Hat said that over the next year, as more of the problems around hybrid computing are resolved and enterprises are more comfortable with it, adoption is set to gain momentum over the next year. He says that the momentum will be driven by application modernization efforts across organizations. Given the focus on aligning IT with the business goals of driving agility and the executive sponsorship around digital transformation, “cloud native” applications are emerging as centerpiece of investment of time, energy and resources across enterprises.

This translates into a compelling need to develop microservices/containers based applications that run on an elastic infrastructure, such as OpenShift on OpenStack for private cloud and OpenShift on any of the public clouds. “With all the technology elements to  bring this about more or less in place, the ability to drive the cultural transformation that is associated with embracing and operationalizing hybrid cloud is going to separate the winners from losers across the enterprises,” he says.

While there is rarely a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to IT infrastructure, generally speaking, hybrid cloud typically offers increased flexibility, portability, and scalability.