While business workloads are increasingly being moved to the cloud, certain situations — such as regulatory hurdles, security concerns, reliance on legacy applications, or abnormal datasets or workflows — have been encumbrances to migrating entire organizations to public cloud providers.
The solution is the hybrid cloud model, which leverages the advantages of public cloud providers, such as rapid resource provisioning and usage-based billing, while retaining the speed and reliability of private cloud solutions and making organizations more capable of avoiding vendor lock-in.
This guide acts as an introduction to hybrid cloud, covering key use cases as well as pros and cons IT leaders should keep in mind when considering ways in which hybrid cloud can be leveraged.
SEE: This article on the hybrid cloud is also available as a free PDF download.
What is hybrid cloud?
Hybrid cloud is the combination of compute and storage products from public cloud providers and private, on-premises hardware. Public cloud service providers offer the ability to instantly provision compute and storage resources on demand, without the extensive upfront costs and time needed to build an on-premise solution. The private cloud component delivers information quickly, and it does not rely on internet connectivity to operate.
Public and private environments operate effectively independently of each other, communicating over an encrypted connection, either through the public internet or a private dedicated link. The way in which public cloud services and private cloud operations are utilized depends on organizational needs and priorities.
By leveraging the benefits of both public and private clouds, hybrid cloud delivers a balanced solution for organizations that look to harness swift resource provisioning, usage-based billing and the reliability of private cloud solutions.
SEE: For a more detailed explanation, check out our What is Hybrid Cloud? article.
Hybrid cloud market
The hybrid cloud market has been witnessing substantial growth, with its size and potential expanding across segments like deployment modes, end users and geographic locations. The forecast for the hybrid cloud market indicates a promising future for this technology, with reports like the Mordor Intelligence forecasting a market size of $348.53 billion by 2028 at a compound annual growth rate of 21.90% and BlueWeave Consulting forecasting $209.8 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 19.40%.
We can attribute the growth of the hybrid cloud market to several factors. Adoption drivers of hybrid cloud solutions include the increasing need for flexibility, scalability and enhanced security in the IT sector. As businesses continue to rely on data-intensive applications and face stringent compliance requirements, the hybrid cloud offers an optimal solution that ensures data security while maintaining operational efficiency.
Therefore, the hybrid cloud market’s outlook for the coming years is optimistic, with increasing adoption rates across industries and regions. As more businesses continue to realize the benefits of a hybrid approach to cloud computing, the market is set to expand further.
Hybrid cloud pros and cons
Cost of hybrid cloud
The hybrid cloud model offers businesses a blend of public and private cloud resources, which allows them to leverage the best of both worlds. However, the cost of this model is a substantial factor for many organizations. The cost of implementing and maintaining a hybrid cloud can vary based on several factors.
Cloud service providers
Major cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have different pricing structures. For instance, AWS offers a pay-as-you-go approach, which does away with the need for long-term contractual agreements or intricate licensing. The compute and storage options an organization selects will influence the cost of the hybrid cloud.
Best setup for use case
Initially, many companies went for public cloud because it was quick and easy. Cloud giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Google made available resources that businesses would find to be more cost-effective than building their infrastructure.
SEE: Explore this quick glossary for hybrid cloud from TechRepublic Premium.
But now, with tools like Kubernetes, companies can mix and match, picking the best from both public and private clouds while avoiding vendor lock-in. These factors allow companies to freely set up their hybrid clouds to achieve the best economic results, which impacts overall cost.
Size and type of business
The nature and size of a business can influence the suitability and cost-effectiveness of a hybrid cloud. For instance, a large enterprise with vast infrastructure and significant revenue may be best served by building its own hybrid infrastructure. It can leverage its private cloud for data-sensitive needs and use the public cloud for everything else.
For industries with seasonal or variable workloads, assembling a private cloud to handle typical workloads while relying on public cloud resources to handle burst workloads can be a budget-friendly IT strategy.
Operational efficiency and control
The top benefits of hybrid use cases to organizations are operational efficiency, quicker application development and security. These benefits can not only influence the cost of adopting a hybrid cloud model but also make the cost worth it in the long run.
What industries benefit from hybrid cloud?
Hybrid cloud technology is particularly beneficial for the financial sector, where proximity to network edges, such as adjacency to a trading floor, is crucial. Trade orders and high-frequency trading algorithms require rapid response times, often down to the millisecond. By placing essential hardware on-premises for financial trading needs and using the public cloud for analytics and projections, the financial industry can enjoy optimal performance.
Additionally, considering the high cost of physical space in urban centers where many financial institutions operate, hybrid cloud solutions offer a way to reduce the physical footprint required for their operations, which makes operations more cost-effective.
The healthcare industry has embraced hybrid cloud due to healthcare’s decentralized nature. Relaying patient information between multiple healthcare providers and insurance companies is complex. Hybrid cloud solutions streamline this process, making sure data is transferred efficiently and securely.
SEE: Discover how data governance affects data security and privacy.
Furthermore, healthcare is notorious for its stringent regulatory compliance requirements, like HIPAA patient privacy provisions. Hybrid cloud provides a reliable framework to limit information sharing and compartmentalize data to prevent unauthorized disclosures.
For organizations with a pressing need for security against the potential loss of sensitive data – whether from hardware failure, misplaced or stolen equipment, or natural disasters – hybrid cloud is a reasonable use case. It ensures that data remains accessible and secure, making it popular among businesses that prioritize data protection.
What are the top hybrid cloud vendors?
Amazon AWS Outposts
Amazon, through its AWS Outposts solution, has made significant strides in the hybrid cloud market. Introduced at AWS re:Invent 2018, AWS Outposts allows organizations to use AWS applications seamlessly, both on-premises and in the cloud, using the same application programming interfaces and tools.
AWS Outposts is particularly beneficial for scenarios demanding low latency or local data storage, as it uses on-premises hardware provided by Amazon. This ensures applications remain consistent regardless of where they’re deployed.
SEE: Find out more about AWS with this cheat sheet.
Microsoft Azure Stack
Microsoft’s Azure Stack is a top hybrid cloud solution that offers functionalities that mirror its Azure deployments. With Azure Stack, businesses can run Azure applications using data hosted on-premises, providing flexibility and consistency.
Notably, Microsoft has partnered with hardware vendors like Lenovo and HP Enterprise to offer turn-key Azure Stack appliances. It also allows Azure Stack software deployment on various systems for testing, showcasing Microsoft’s adaptability in hybrid cloud solutions.
SEE: Find out more about Microsoft Azure with this cheat sheet.
IBM Red Hat acquisition
IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat for $34 billion in 2019 underscores the vendor’s commitment to the hybrid cloud future. This move was strategic, positioning IBM to serve organizations that desire to integrate cloud resources while still maintaining their on-premises solutions.
Fujitsu Hybrid Cloud Services
Fujitsu offers a unique hybrid cloud solution by integrating its private cloud services with Microsoft Azure. This tailored approach ensures that businesses benefit from the strengths of both platforms, to deliver not only a resilient but also flexible hybrid cloud environment.
The vendor also leverages its PRIMEFLEX Integrated Systems product to offer businesses a variety of pre-configured, pre-tested and hybrid cloud-enabled systems.
The Japanese telecom giant, NTT, offers specialized hybrid cloud solutions with a focus on compliance. Their services are tailored to meet stringent regulations like HIPAA, FISMA and PCI, making it a go-to choice for industries that have to satisfy such regulatory compliance in their cloud deployments.
Formerly Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Vantara delivers customized cloud storage and computing solutions. With Hitachi Vantara, companies get to manage IT service levels and not infrastructure through a central operating model that cuts across the edge, public clouds and data centers.
The vendor offers self-driving, secure, elastic and simple software-as-a-service cloud infrastructure solutions, ensuring businesses have access to versatile and adaptable hybrid cloud options.
HPE Composable Infrastructure Solutions
Previously HPE Composable Cloud, its shift to HPE’s Composable Infrastructure signals a modern approach to IT architecture. It enables enterprises to allocate and de-provision compute, storage and network resources dynamically. It’s designed for a range of applications, from network and system management to virtual desktop infrastructure and security systems.
The core idea behind HPE’s Composable Infrastructure is to make data center resources as readily available as cloud services, laying a foundation for both private and hybrid cloud solutions.
What to consider when deploying a hybrid cloud
Before implementing a hybrid cloud, there are a few core considerations to make:
- Assess your needs: Before diving into the world of hybrid cloud, it’s crucial to determine if your organization truly needs it, considering factors like data sensitivity, regulatory compliance and specific application needs.
- Complexity: Deploying a hybrid cloud isn’t as straightforward as some other tech solutions. It’s not about just purchasing a service; it involves strategic planning and understanding the intricacies of cloud components before greenlighting its implementation.
- Balance: One of the most critical decisions is figuring out the balance between public and private cloud components. This decision should be based on your organization’s cloud needs, such as data accessibility, security and cost-effectiveness.
- Vendor selection: There are numerous hybrid cloud vendors in the market, with each offering a unique set of services and tools. Research and shortlist vendors that align with your business’s needs. Look for vendors that are specialists in your industry with a proven track record.
- Regulatory compliance: If your organization operates in a regulated industry, your chosen hybrid cloud solution must comply with all necessary regulations. This is especially important for industries like healthcare or finance, where data privacy and security are paramount.
- Implementation and migration: Once you’ve chosen a vendor and a suitable hybrid cloud model, the next step is the actual implementation. This process can be complex and needs careful planning to ensure data integrity is maintained and operational disruptions are at a minimum.
- Continuous review: As the world of cloud computing is ever-evolving, you should regularly review your hybrid cloud setup to ensure it remains relevant to your organization’s changing needs and the latest technologies.
SEE: For a more detailed guide on everything hybrid cloud, check out our free hybrid cloud guide for IT pros.
Hybrid cloud vs. multicloud
There is a discrete difference between hybrid cloud architecture and multicloud. Hybrid cloud requires utilization of both public and private cloud components. This means that an organization might have some of its data and applications on its on-premises servers (private cloud) and some on a public cloud service like AWS or Azure
On the other hand, multicloud is the practice of using cloud services from multiple heterogeneous public cloud providers. This can optionally include private cloud components and even hybrid cloud setups that involve more than one public cloud component.
Hybrid cloud pros
- Flexibility: Offers a balanced approach, allowing organizations to enjoy the cost-effectiveness and scalable nature of the public cloud while retaining the control and security of a private cloud.
- Data sensitivity: Businesses that have sensitive data can keep it on their private servers while leveraging public cloud for less-sensitive data or scalable computing needs.
- Cost efficiency: By leveraging public cloud for scalable needs, businesses can often achieve cost savings by only paying for the resources they use.
Hybrid cloud cons
- Complexity: Managing and integrating two different environments can be complex and may need specialized skills or tools.
- Latency issues: Data transfer between private and public components can sometimes introduce latency, affecting performance.
- Security concerns: Ensuring consistent security protocols across both environments can be challenging.
- Avoiding vendor lock-in: By diversifying cloud providers, enterprises can avoid being overly reliant on a single vendor, which can lead to better pricing and flexibility.
- Optimized solutions: Different cloud providers might offer specialized services that are best suited for specific tasks or applications.
- Reliability: Using multiple providers can offer redundancy such that if one provider faces an outage, services from another provider can continue to operate.
- Management overhead: Juggling multiple providers can be administratively challenging and may in turn need additional management tools or platforms.
- Cost complexity: Tracking costs across multiple providers can be intricate, making budgeting and forecasting more difficult.
- Integration issues: Ensuring seamless integration and interoperability between different cloud providers can be complicated.