You may have heard over and over again that hybrid cloud is better than standalone public or private cloud. However, do you have a clear understanding of why?
The truth is that hybrid cloud architecture applies to a higher and varied number of IT storage solutions than almost any other data management term.
The weaknesses of a public cloud storage environment and its “lift and shift” approach is doomed to fail. Instead, a balanced workload placement approach makes more sense where users rationalize their on-premises environment with that of the public cloud. Essentially, it is now time for the hybrid cloud.
This guide looks at what hybrid cloud architecture is, how it works, its benefits and challenges, how it compares to multi-cloud architecture, examples of its application, and the architectures that enable the seamless storage interaction between private and public cloud environments.
Hybrid cloud refers to a combination of different types of infrastructure, usually a public cloud with either an on-premises or private cloud infrastructure. Hybrid cloud architecture is an orchestration of on-premises, private cloud with third-party, public cloud platforms.
The National Institute of Standards (NIST) describes hybrid cloud architecture as a composition of either two or more distinct infrastructures (public, private or community clouds) that remain unique entities bound together by proprietary or standardized technology that enables application and data portability.
Hybrid cloud architecture gives businesses more data deployment options and greater flexibility by allowing the movement of workloads between public and private clouds as costs and computing needs change.
The deployment of hybrid cloud services is increasingly common, with many companies opting to combine the tightly controlled private infrastructure with the power of the public cloud.
Therefore, depending on whom you ask, hybrid cloud architecture environments may include:
The main takeaway above is that the term hybrid does not refer to a traditional IT infrastructure with cloud connectivity bolted on it. It’s the use of two cloud infrastructures. Also, portability is central because data flexibility and workload are essential to achieving the full benefit. It means that you must have the ability to use both environments seamlessly for a single workflow.
The varying requirements above were an evolution from the early age of cloud computing when location and ownership were the primary differentiating factors between private and public clouds. Today’s cloud types are more complex, with location and ownership reduced to abstract considerations.
For instance, public cloud providers can now run cloud services on a client’s on-premises data centers. In contrast, organizations using private clouds are building them on rented, vendor-owned data centers often located off-premises.
Regardless of the type of setup, all hybrid cloud architecture has some common traits:
As organizations gained experience with the cloud and its essence, there was a growing realization that the public cloud, while highly effective, is not the solution to all computing or storage problems. Like everything else, the public cloud has its shortcomings. Thus, hybrid cloud architecture evolved to capitalize on the respective strengths of each environment.
The strengths of a public cloud are resources on-demand, no infrastructure management and no requirement of capital expenditure. On the other hand, on-premises and private clouds have predictable costs, known performance, consistent security, and allow control of data and assets.
For specific workloads of data types, either cloud environment may offer compelling benefits. However, limiting your options to only one unnecessarily limits your potential savings and efficiency.
The way private and public clouds work as a hybrid system is not different from how they do individually:
The network connections between the different hybrid cloud infrastructures are vital. If they are not connected, then your organization is not genuinely running a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Instead, you are running several clouds parallel to one another, which causes misalignment of your data.
You can connect private clouds, public clouds and on-premises infrastructures using the following methods:
Separate clouds infrastructures become hybrid when you connect them as seamlessly as possible. Interconnectivity is the only way that hybrid clouds work. It is also the reason why hybrid clouds form the foundation for edge computing.
Interconnectivity allows and enhances the movement of workloads, unification of management and orchestration of processes. How well-developed your connections are will directly impact how well your hybrid cloud works.
Every cloud environment is unique because private clouds are one-of-a-kind while there are numerous public cloud providers. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. How you organize your cloud resources to build a hybrid cloud is as unique as a fingerprint. However, some principles correspond to two primary ways of constructing a hybrid cloud environment:
Traditional hybrid clouds were the result of connecting private cloud environments to public clouds using complex, massive iterations of middleware. You can build a private cloud or use prepackaged cloud infrastructure. You will also need a public cloud provider.
You must link the two clouds. Moving resources between these environments will require powerful middleware. Many cloud service providers offer a preconfigured VPN in their subscription packages.
Today, organizations build their hybrid clouds differently. Modern IT architects focus on the portability of the applications that run within the environments rather than connecting the environments themselves. They develop and deploy applications as collections of independent, small and loosely coupled services.
By managing everything using a unified platform and running the same operating system (OS) in every IT environment, the architects can extend the applications’ universality to the underlying environments.
Orchestration abstracts all the application requirements while using the same OS abstracts all the hardware requirements. You end up creating an interconnected and consistent computing environment that allows the movement of applications between environments without using APIs that change whenever you update or change cloud providers.
The following two hybrid cloud use cases will illustrate how public and private clouds can work together:
During data backups, two requirements are critical:
Hybrid cloud architecture is a cost-effective solution to achieving a disaster recovery plan. It employs local storage for fast access and replicates data to a low-cost public environment for disaster recovery storage.
Capacity planning stress eases when you can effortlessly migrate your excess capacity to a public cloud and free up on-premises storage. A hybrid cloud configuration can use integrated tools to migrate your infrequently used data transparently.
In a multi-cloud architecture, organizations use multiple different public cloud services from various providers. They use different clouds for varying tasks to reduce vendor lock-in or achieve best-of-breed results. On the other hand, hybrid cloud architecture combines public and private clouds towards the same purpose.
A multi-cloud architecture reflects the growing acknowledgement that architects do not create clouds equally. For instance, a Sales and Marketing department has different computing needs compared to Software Development or Research and Development (R&D).
Multiple-cloud architecture also gives you added peace of mind because it minimizes your dependence on any one provider, often increasing flexibility and decreasing costs.
Whatever the reason, many organizations operate their multiple public clouds in combination with a private, virtual or on-premises physical cloud infrastructure. In other words, it encompasses all aspects of your IT ecosystem.
Multi-cloud architecture differs from hybrid clouds in two ways:
Hybrid cloud storage refers to a model of hybrid cloud architecture that provides storage services by combining the functionality of private and public cloud storage models. Users access these services using cloud applications or a web services API framework.
The hybrid cloud storage technique uses external and internal cloud infrastructure, applications and storage systems to form an integrated storage architecture. You can deploy hybrid cloud storage in several ways, but developers design these systems using an in-house storage infrastructure that supports an external application (Storage-as-a-Service).
The hybrid cloud storage approach removes the security risks of storing data in a public cloud environment and provides you with a virtualized storage infrastructure via the public SaaS offering. Ultimately, it offers maximum disk utilization, capacity management and multitenant architecture features.
Another common hybrid cloud storage approach involves building storage applications over public cloud storage. For instance, the cloud storage and backup solution Dropbox has built its infrastructure over Amazon S3. It then uses a proprietary cloud storage appliance to move data through the Amazon storage buckets.
When you properly design, integrate and manage your hybrid cloud, it can be as secure as a traditional on-premises IT infrastructure. Despite some unique security challenges such as data migration, a larger attack surface and increased complexity, multiple environments can pose a strong defence against risks.
All the interconnected environments allow you to select where to place your sensitive data based on requirements. It also enables security teams to standardize redundant cloud storage to augment disaster recovery efforts.
Hybrid cloud architecture gives organizations a balanced solution between a private and a public cloud or an on-premises environment.
It could be the right solution for your company if you require substantial agility. It can happen when you have a diverse client base with different regulatory, processing and security requirements. Given today’s compliance climate, this is especially relevant. Additionally, it allows you to run SaaS solutions that you can only use on secure private networks.
Secondly, hybrid cloud architecture is the right solution if your company does not want any compromises on the benefits provided by both private and public clouds. It provides a strategic approach because it prevents a situation where you are locked in to a particular vendor. You will already have split your infrastructure between two systems, making it easier to migrate to another public cloud whenever a better model becomes available.
A hybrid cloud architecture incorporates some degree of workload orchestration, management and portability across two or more environments. Hybrid cloud architecture can vary a lot. It could:
Therefore, it is now more helpful to define hybrid cloud computing based on what it does. They all should: connect multiple computer systems through a network, scale-out, swiftly provision new resources, consolidate IT resources, move workloads between environments, have a unified management tool and orchestrate processes with automation.
Adopting hybrid cloud architecture allows you to capitalize on the flexibility and scale of the public cloud and maintain the control and security of an on-premises data center or private cloud. You can pursue a tiered storage and computing strategy for maximum cost-efficiency.
When you approach hybrid cloud architecture with a structured approach and sufficient planning, it can reduce your operating costs, empower legacy applications and systems with new capabilities, deliver on-demand flexibility and become a catalyst for your digital transformation. The result is a responsive and elastic infrastructure able to adapt to changing business demands quickly.
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