The Hybrid Cloud

For a number of enterprises, IT environments include a mix of public and private cloud services. In the past two years, there has been a major rise in the use of cloud services, and it shows no signs of slowing down. While some companies might opt to deploy only one type of cloud service, many enterprises are moving into a hybrid, multi-cloud environment to meet their business goals. What all does the hybrid cloud architecture entail? And why are so many businesses opting for it?

What Is Hybrid Cloud?  


Hybrid cloud architecture is the combination of public and private clouds by a wide area network or broadband connection. Hybrid cloud is well suited to shifts in demand for computing resources as it enables businesses to scale from on-premises (private cloud) to public cloud-based to meet increased demand, and scale back from the public cloud to private once demand decreases. The hybrid cloud architecture is becoming increasingly popular with businesses, especially mid-to-large enterprises who often rely on their private cloud for legacy infrastructure and mission-critical applications. Why is this so? 


Benefits of Hybrid Cloud


The primary advantage of hybrid cloud architecture is its unprecedented flexibility and scalability. Businesses can scale capacity up or down as needed and move data and workloads to and from any number of cloud services. Hybrid cloud can also provide significant cost savings. IT professionals can determine the best configuration, service provider, and location for each service, thus cutting costs by matching the resource with the best suited task.


And since services can easily be scaled up or down, or redeployed when necessary, businesses save costs by avoiding unnecessary expenses and increasing efficiency. With more and more businesses choosing the hybrid approach, it’s clear they see the benefits, but they need to be prepared for some hurdles as well. What are some challenges of the hybrid cloud architecture, and how can they be addressed?

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The Challenges


Since hybrid cloud is the combination of two integrated but separate systems, maintaining and managing them can create a complex IT environment. Steps must be taken to monitor the usage of the services, otherwise visibility of what is going on in the environment will decrease, posing a threat to cybersecurity. Chris Kanaracus, research director for dedicated and hybrid cloud infrastructure/services at research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) states: “A hybrid environment naturally introduces more complexity. There are just so many more ‘windows and doors’ to lock, and more security maintenance, patching, etc. to perform. We have seen so many high-profile media stories about data leaks caused by human error [such as] misconfigured storage buckets on public clouds.”


Another hurdle is the lack of strategy on the part of the organization. The hybrid cloud approach is attractive to many, and organizations might be tempted to deploy public and private cloud services without giving enough thought to their goals and how they plan to meet them. A change in mindset is also needed, as is the case with most major technology shifts.

The Solutions


“A good cloud strategy that clearly outlines the value/business case of an expensive, complicated hybrid cloud solution is definitely a start,” says Jeremy Roberts, analyst and research director for cloud and core infrastructure at IT research and advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group. “Review your expected gain...look at your environment. What workloads do you expect will benefit from the hybrid architecture? How? Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it.”


Next, make sure your team understands the value of moving to a new environment. “We had to start with ourselves; IT wasn’t totally convinced at the outset that this was the right direction. Once we saw the significant value, we were able to successfully ‘evangelize’ to the rest of the company, and we continue to showcase impressive results,” says Arthur Hu, senior vice president and CIO at computer hardware provider Lenovo. 


Organizations will also require a change in their approach to management and security. "While choosing a hybrid cloud environment can offer organizations choice and flexibility, it also means IT leaders need to re-evaluate their security practices and consider how they may need to be adapted,” says Mandy Andress, the CISO of Elastic.

With sufficient planning, a hybrid cloud approach can deliver on-demand flexibility, empower legacy systems, and applications with new capabilities, becoming a catalyst for digital transformation. The result can be a responsive infrastructure with the ability to quickly adapt and fluctuate to changing demands.

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