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Organizations are migrating workloads to the public cloud, as well as implementing private clouds in-house. As these forms of clouds computing take hold, large and small businesses are focused on hybrid cloud to bridge the two models.
A hybrid cloud connects public and private clouds to create a single environment that offers consistency and mobility for the workloads that run on it. An enterprise can then get the best of both worlds and avoid unwanted tradeoffs, such as having to migrate traditional VM workloads to cloud instances or developing cloud-native applications tied to a specific provider's services.
Even though there's considerable investment and effort involved, there are five main benefits of hybrid cloud that make it worthwhile for enterprises.
1. Cost control
A business must be prudent about the workloads and services that run in its private cloud.
A private cloud is deployed on data center infrastructure that the enterprise controls and operates and that requires a significant investment of capital, equipment and talent to deploy and maintain. Although a private cloud can parse and provision local resources in a cloud-like manner, the private cloud infrastructure is still finite.
An enterprise can mitigate costs with a connection between their private cloud and a public cloud. The connection helps smooth spikes in demand, drawing upon public cloud resources when local demand stresses capacity. Similarly, the public cloud suits temporary, experimental or general-purpose workloads the company does not want to source, set up and manage in-house. It can use its finite private cloud resources for mission-critical workloads -- or simply run workloads where the costs are lowest.
The cost benefits of hybrid cloud also include clarity on where the money goes. A hybrid cloud can make it easy to divide IT consumption into capital and operational costs. Enterprises can use tools to monitor cloud usage, getting detailed reports on utilization -- and the cost of cloud services -- by department and workload.
Agility is a core premise of cloud computing. A private cloud brings some provisioning and scaling agility to the enterprise, but the amount of available resources in a physical data center is still limited. In contrast, the public cloud enables users to immediately deploy compute and storage instances, as well as related services, without constraints on resources. However, moving a local workload to the public cloud often demands at least some migration prep work.
Consistency is one of the main benefits of hybrid cloud. It becomes easier to create, shift and scale workloads and resources if the private cloud offers instance types and services that are similar to the chosen public cloud. This type of consistency enables enterprises to provision and use private cloud resources when it's appropriate and cost-effective, then easily draw upon resources from the public cloud when necessary.
Security is a core focus for many enterprise IT teams -- data and the workloads that access it are vital business assets. A main concern in public cloud when it comes to security is that the infrastructure is the exclusive property of the provider. The user cannot see or control this cloud infrastructure. Additionally, the cloud provider is rarely responsible when a breach or other malicious activity occurs.
In many cases, the best way to protect data is to keep it on premises. The most sensitive data and mission-critical workloads can stay within the owned data center on a private cloud where the organization's IT staff maintain and safeguard the assets. When you combine public and private environment, enterprises can gain some amount of common hybrid cloud oversight. Best practices and tools -- such as Trend Micro Deep Security, McAfee Hybrid Cloud Security products and IBM hybrid cloud infrastructure -- can help organizations monitor, discover and report security issues across hybrid environments.
One advantage of public cloud is its global reach and abundant nature. Ideally, networking, storage and computing technologies should support most workload operations from data centers located almost anywhere. It should not matter where a workload resides in the public cloud provider's fleet of data centers. However, national boundaries can come into play, with regulatory limitations on where companies store data and operate computing workloads. This complicates the move to purely public cloud for some multinational organizations.
With a hybrid cloud, a business can operate sensitive workloads in its private cloud and move data to and from the public cloud as the regulatory landscape changes, or as data and workloads evolve. For example, an organization could collect personally identifiable customer data in a private cloud, sanitize it, and send it to a public cloud application for processing or analysis.
Lastly, hybrid clouds, in theory, support greater standardization in IT management practices. However, organizations often struggle to create that uniformity. The IT staff of an organization does not want to assemble and operate a private cloud, based on OpenStack or another framework, then develop workflows and cobble together services that are hopefully consistent enough with a public cloud provider to make hybrid work. That's a time-consuming, error-prone and expensive endeavor.
Public cloud providers have become more sensitive to the importance and benefits of hybrid cloud, as well as the challenges of integrating private and public environments. Today, top cloud providers offer various services that focus on hybrid needs. One example is Microsoft Azure Stack, which enables a business to deploy Azure capabilities in on-premises systems. Another is VMware on AWS, a partnership designed so users can integrate their on-premises VMware environments with Amazon's cloud. With public cloud providers on board with hybrid cloud management, businesses don't need to construct a complete environment top to bottom. Instead, they simply extend the virtualized data center into familiar services in the cloud.