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A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally. For example, an organization might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for archived data but continue to maintain in-house storage for operational customer data.
The hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities. This type of hybrid cloud is also referred to as hybrid IT.
To be effective, a management strategy for hybrid cloud deployment should address configuration management, change control, security, fault management and budgeting. Because a hybrid cloud combines public cloud and private data center principles, it's possible to plan a hybrid cloud deployment from either of these starting points. Picking the better starting point, however, will make it easier to address business goals.
A primary goal of a hybrid cloud deployment should always be to minimize change. No matter how similarly a public and private cloud are matched, design differences will inevitably exist. The greater the differences between the cloud environments, the more difficult it will be to manage multiple clouds as a single entity.
Brian Gracely explains more about the evolution of the term "hybrid cloud."