How Do Hybrid Clouds Work?
In a hybrid cloud deployment, you use a unified platform to manage your various public and private cloud resources. If you manage each cloud environment separately, you are more likely to use redundant processes and take up more time and resources. Separate management of environments can also raise the risk of a security loophole, especially if you don’t fully optimize all the solutions to work together.
Hybrid cloud architectures help minimize security risks by restricting private data exposure to public cloud environments. These architectures typically include private data centers or clouds and public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms. You access the hybrid cloud platform via a secure network, leveraging a local area network (LAN) and a wide area network (WAN).
When you adopt a hybrid cloud architecture, you might extend the functionalities of an IaaS solution to your private cloud. You must ensure that your private and public cloud environments are compatible and can communicate with each other. You might need to custom-build the private cloud to maximize compatibility and enable an effective hybrid deployment.
IaaS providers like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud platform provide APIs to help you connect your private resources to the public cloud infrastructure and enable interoperability between cloud services. You might also use a hypervisor to generate virtual machines (VMs) and connect them to the public cloud through a software layer that orchestrates between the different cloud environments.
Hybrid Cloud Benefits
Now that we have a better understanding of what a hybrid cloud is and how it works, let’s explore some of the key benefits it offers.
- Effective application governance: By leveraging both private and public clouds, businesses have greater control over where they deploy their applications.
- Improved performance and reduced latency: By deploying applications closer to end users, businesses can significantly improve application performance and reduce latency.
- Improved ROI: By leveraging the cost efficiencies of public cloud for non-sensitive operations and reserving private cloud for sensitive operations, businesses can optimize their IT spending.
- Flexible operations: A hybrid cloud provides businesses with the flexibility to quickly scale up or down their IT resources based on demand via the public cloud, without requiring upfront investments in the on-premises data center.
Hybrid Cloud Architecture
No cloud architecture suits every company’s needs. Thousands of vendors offer public clouds, while each organization can produce a custom private cloud to serve its specific needs. When you implement a hybrid cloud deployment, you create a unique setup of cloud and other resources.
No two hybrid cloud architectures are alike, but they generally correspond to the basic principles associated with either traditional or modern architectures.
A traditional hybrid cloud connects a private cloud to a public cloud, typically involving large, complex middleware iterations. You might build the private cloud yourself or leverage prepackaged infrastructure. You could separately select a public cloud environment to link to your private cloud.
You may need robust middleware to enable the transfer of large volumes of resources between the public and private environments. Alternatively, many cloud providers offer pre-configured VPNs to handle this communication. Popular subscription packages that provide a VPN include:
- Google Cloud — Dedicated Interconnect
- Azure — ExpressRoute
- AWS — Direct Connect
- OpenStack — Public Cloud Passport
Today, most hybrid clouds use a different architecture. Rather than directly connecting the private and public environments, you can ensure that the apps running in separate environments are portable. This approach is akin to building a versatile vehicle that can operate in multiple environments instead of building a fixed road (i.e., middleware) that provides limited flexibility.
Traditional hybrid cloud architectures are much more cumbersome to maintain, while the modern approach achieves the same end by focusing on the applications themselves. Typically, you develop an application as a collection of independent, loosely coupled services, running a specific operating system across all environments and using a central platform to manage all deployments.
This approach lets you extend apps to multiple environments, for example, by running the same operating system (i.e., Linux) everywhere, using cloud native application development and deployment practices, and using an orchestration platform (i.e., Kubernetes) to manage the portable applications.
You can use a single operating system to abstract all hardware requirements, while the orchestration platform can abstract all application requirements. In this consistent, interconnected architecture, you can easily move applications between different environments. You don’t need to maintain complex API maps that you would have to update whenever you change an application or switch to a new cloud provider.
The interconnectivity of a modern hybrid cloud allows your teams to adopt DevOps practices and work together closely. This approach enables cross-team collaboration and environment integration by using containers and microservices.
Related content: Read our guide to hybrid cloud architecture
What is Hybrid IT?
Hybrid IT is a computing approach that combines a mix of on-premises, private cloud, and third-party public cloud services. The goal of hybrid IT is to blend the strengths and benefits of these different environments to meet specific business requirements.
In the past, IT departments were typically responsible for managing on-premises infrastructure, such as servers, storage, and networking equipment. However, the increasing adoption of cloud services has expanded the IT department’s role to include managing cloud-based resources as well.
Hybrid IT, therefore, is about managing this complex combination of on-premises and cloud-based resources. It involves balancing the need for control of on-premises infrastructure with the flexibility and scalability offered by cloud services.
Learn more in the detailed guide to hybrid IT
Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud
In a multi-cloud deployment, you use various public cloud resources and services, usually from different cloud providers. You might use different clouds for specific tasks to leverage the optimal cloud service for each task.
Multi-cloud strategies acknowledge that different cloud providers offer different advantages, which may be suited to the varying needs of each department in an organization. For example, your marketing team may require different functionalities than your development team, and each may benefit from a different cloud service.
You may also choose a multi-cloud strategy to prevent vendor lock-in (overreliance on a single provider) or decrease costs by leveraging cheaper alternatives for specific services. Having multiple clouds helps ensure greater flexibility, allowing you to modify your deployment and add or change cloud environments.
How are hybrid cloud and multi-cloud different?
While organizations often combine multi-cloud deployments with private cloud and on-premise infrastructure, what defines them is the use of multiple public clouds. Hybrid cloud deployments always include a public and private cloud—this is what defines them as hybrid. In some cases, hybrid clouds can also encompass virtual and physical infrastructure or incorporate multiple public clouds.
Another major difference is that a hybrid cloud combines the private and public infrastructure and services for a unified purpose. In a multi-cloud, each cloud may serve a different need and enable different tasks. In a hybrid cloud, all the components work together. The advantage of this integration is that it enables processes and data from different tasks (and teams) to intersect in a large, unified project. On the other hand, multi-cloud environments usually have a silo effect, with a separate cloud for each team or usage.
Related content: Read our guide to multi-cloud management
Use Cases for Hybrid Cloud
Despite the challenges, many organizations find that the benefits of a hybrid cloud strategy outweigh the downsides. Here are some common use cases for hybrid clouds.
With a hybrid cloud, cCompanies can store and process sensitive data on-premises while leveraging the scalability and power of the public cloud for running analytics jobs. This scenario allows companies to take advantage of the massive computing power available in the public cloud, while still ensuring their sensitive data remains secure.
Another common use case for the hybrid cloud is cloud bursting. In this scenario, an application or resource runs in the private cloud until there is a spike in demand (like a retail website during a sale), at which point it ‘bursts’ into the public cloud to access additional resources. This approach allows companies to handle spikes in demand without investing in excess on-premises infrastructure.
High-Performance Computing (HPC)
HPC requires massive amounts of computing power and is used for complex tasks like modeling financial markets, weather prediction, or biomedical simulations. A hybrid cloud approach allows organizations to use their private cloud for regular, less intensive workloads, and tap into the public cloud when they need extra power for HPC tasks.
Hybrid Data Storage
Hybrid data storage is a method of managing data that involves using both local and cloud-based storage. This approach allows companies to store sensitive or frequently accessed data on-premises while using the cloud for less sensitive or less frequently accessed data. This can be a cost-effective way to manage large amounts of data, as cloud storage is typically cheaper than on-premises storage for large volumes of data.
IoT Data Processing
In the world of the Internet of Things (IoT), the hybrid cloud can provide a valuable solution for data processing. IoT devices generate a vast amount of data, which can be challenging to process and analyze effectively. By using a hybrid cloud approach, organizations can process data on-premises or in the cloud based on its sensitivity, the required processing power, and other factors.
Key Enabling Technologies for Hybrid Clouds
Here are some of the main technologies organizations use to set up and operate hybrid clouds.
The cornerstone technology of many hybrid clouds is virtualization. This abstraction layer can be used to run multiple operating systems and applications on the same physical hardware, improving resource utilization and flexibility.
Virtualization solutions allow for the creation of a virtual version of a physical server, storage device, or network resource. Two common solutions are VMware, known for its vSphere platform, a software suite that virtualizes x86 architecture workloads, and Hyper-V, a hypervisor from Microsoft which creates and manages virtual machines, providing hardware virtualization for Windows workloads.
Another key element of modern hybrid clouds is containerization. Containerization technologies have revolutionized the way applications are developed, deployed, and managed. They package an application and its dependencies into a standardized unit for software development, known as a container, which can run on any computing environment.
Two key technologies in the field of containerization are Docker and Kubernetes. Docker is an open-source platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of applications within containers. Kubernetes is the world’s most popular container orchestrator, used for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications across clusters of hosts. It provides a framework to run distributed systems resiliently, scaling and failing over applications as needed.
Bare Metal Servers
Bare metal servers are another vital component of a hybrid cloud. These are physical servers dedicated to a single tenant, unlike virtual servers which share resources with other tenants. Bare metal servers offer high performance and are ideal for workloads that require maximum processing power and low latency.
In a hybrid cloud environment, bare metal servers are often used for running high-performance applications, data-intensive workloads, and tasks that require extensive control over the environment. They provide the raw horsepower needed for processing large amounts of data quickly and efficiently.
API gateways enable communication between different services and applications. An API gateway is a server that acts as an API front-end, receiving API requests and forwarding them to appropriate back-end services.
In a hybrid cloud, an API gateway enables seamless interaction between applications running in the public cloud and those running in the private cloud or on-premises. It handles tasks such as request routing, composition, and protocol translation, ensuring smooth and secure data flow between different parts of the hybrid cloud.
Storage solutions also play a crucial role in a hybrid cloud. These are technologies and devices used to store, protect, and manage data. In a hybrid cloud, storage solutions can range from traditional storage systems like SAN and NAS to cloud-based storage services.
The choice of storage solution in a hybrid cloud depends on several factors, including the type and amount of data, performance requirements, and cost. Some businesses may choose to keep sensitive data on-premises while storing less sensitive data in the cloud. Others may use cloud storage for backup and disaster recovery purposes.
Compliance and Security Aspects of Hybrid Clouds
Compliance in Hybrid Clouds
In a hybrid cloud, compliance involves adhering to regulatory standards and frameworks relevant to the industry and the type of data handled. Common regulatory frameworks include GDPR for data protection in the European Union, HIPAA for healthcare information in the United States, and PCI DSS for payment card data globally.
Organizations must ensure that both their on-premises and cloud environments comply with these regulations. This can be challenging, because it requires aligning compliance efforts between on-premises data centers and public clouds, which might have different compliance certifications and capabilities.
Security in Hybrid Clouds
Security in a hybrid cloud setup involves protecting data, applications, and infrastructure from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. Key security measures in hybrid clouds include:
- Data encryption: Encrypting data at rest and in transit ensures that even if data is intercepted or accessed without authorization, it remains unreadable and secure.
- Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM tools help manage user identities and control access to resources in both on-premises and cloud environments. This includes multi-factor authentication, role-based access control, and single sign-on systems.
- Network security: Implementing secure VPNs, firewalls, and other network security measures is crucial to protect the data flow between the public and private components of the hybrid cloud.
- Compliance monitoring and reporting: Continuous monitoring and reporting tools help in tracking and maintaining compliance with various regulatory requirements. This includes regular audits and real-time monitoring for any compliance deviations.
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM solutions aggregate and analyze data from various sources to detect, prevent, and respond to security threats.
- Endpoint security: Hybrid clouds typically involve remote access, and so it is essential to secure devices that connect to the cloud. This includes anti-malware software, intrusion detection systems, and secure device management policies.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity: Hybrid clouds offer the ability to create and manage backups and disaster recovery plans more efficiently. This ensures business continuity in case of any security breaches or data loss incidents.
Vendor management: Since third-party cloud providers are involved, it’s essential to assess their security measures and ensure they align with the organization’s security policies.
Hybrid Cloud Challenges
Here are some of the main challenges of implementing a hybrid cloud strategy.
Support for Legacy Applications
A major issue when adopting a hybrid cloud deployment is compatibility between legacy applications and new services and environments. Some applications may work well with one system but not another, making migration to the cloud challenging. Older applications are not always suited to the cloud, even if they perform critical functions.
For example, you might use applications built using Java or .NET, typically with a monolithic architecture. The design of legacy applications typically expects to run on-premises, with all network dependencies and connections built-in. Building modern cloud apps typically involves using loosely coupled microservices, which help minimize latency and downtime.
However, it may be prohibitively expensive or time-consuming to rewrite your legacy applications for the cloud. For critical applications, a rewrite may be complex and specialized. If you move these applications to a hybrid cloud environment, you must ensure the cloud connections have low latency.
Implementing Multi-Cloud Deployments
Most companies are adopting a multi-cloud approach in addition to a hybrid cloud. The use of multiple clouds presents a challenge because each cloud might have a different management interface or vendor-specific APIs. Different providers offer different cloud services with varying functions, pricing models, and IT skill requirements.
Therefore, you might choose to setup a dedicated hybrid cloud implementation for each purpose, so most applications run on a single cloud environment. However, if you cannot use all the applications across all environments, you need to handle a more complex management strategy with different protection measures to secure each implementation separately.
Another significant challenge for hybrid cloud deployments is maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. Even if you use a secure cloud provider, you need to ensure your organization complies with laws and regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Hybrid cloud implementations add a layer of complexity, requiring you to adopt more security measures.
Maintaining data security and privacy is a core requirement of regulations like HIPPA and GDPR. If your organization is subject to these regulations, you must implement data security measures such as data encryption in storage and transit. These security measures require active involvement— you cannot expect the hybrid cloud to protect your data automatically.
Another compliance issue for hybrid clouds is data locality—you may be legally required to store data in a specific geographical location. The major cloud providers (i.e., AWS, Azure, Oracle, and Google Cloud Platform) may support data locality requirements in some situations, but you have to enable this capability.
However, some cloud providers cannot support your data locality restrictions. In such cases, you might adopt a hybrid cloud strategy that keeps your data in your local database while outsourcing the processing to a cloud service. This type of deployment requires low-latency connections.
Hybrid Cloud Management
Hybrid cloud management is the process by which an organization controls multiple cloud deployment. It is often implemented through a third-party management platform that provides one interface to control multiple clouds. Administrators can view and control assets in both private and public clouds through a single UI.
Most public cloud service providers offer hybrid cloud management solutions. By linking their own infrastructure and services with those of other vendors, they allow cloud customers to control multiple platforms in a unified manner. This is not difficult to implement in practice, because both private and public clouds are based on the same virtualization technology.
Via hybrid cloud management platforms, administrators can configure or decommission cloud instances, organize assets, and view performance characteristics.
Types of Hybrid Cloud Platforms
There are several ways to deploy hybrid cloud platforms. Here are a few deployment models:
- Customer managed — private cloud solutions can be deployed as hyperconverged infrastructure, both on-premises and in edge environments. These solutions are increasingly being offered as SaaS solutions.
- Vendor managed — a fully managed hardware and software solution that a vendor can deploy and manage on customer premises. For the customer, this means outsourcing their hybrid cloud operations.
- Partner managed — hybrid cloud solutions are provided by a wide range of cloud and managed infrastructure providers to provide consistent infrastructure and operations, which are compatible with on-premises private cloud solutions.
- Cloud provider managed—the major public cloud providers provide a standard portfolio of cloud services with a consistent infrastructure and solution that is compatible with private cloud solutions.
Hybrid Cloud Strategies and Best Practices
Here are several strategies and best practices that can help you make your hybrid cloud more effective.
Define a Data Management Plan
When building a hybrid cloud, organizations should have a clear understanding of what data they possess, where it resides, and who has access to it. This includes classifying data based on sensitivity and business importance.
Data migration should be done cautiously. Migrating data to a hybrid cloud environment should be a planned and phased process, taking into account data compatibility and interoperability issues.
Finally, businesses should implement data governance policies to ensure data integrity and consistency across all environments. This includes setting up data quality controls, managing metadata, and implementing data privacy and security measures.
Colocate Related Resources
Colocation of related resources means placing related resources, such as applications and their associated data, close to each other to reduce data transfer costs and improve performance.
It’s important to understand the interdependencies between different applications and datasets. This can be achieved through a thorough audit of your existing IT infrastructure. Based on these interdependencies, businesses can decide which resources to colocate. For example, if an application frequently accesses a particular dataset, it makes sense to place them in the same environment.
Balance Workloads and Resource Allocation
In a hybrid cloud environment, it is important to distribute workloads based on their respective strengths and weaknesses:
- Understand the resource demands of different workloads. Some workloads might require high computational power, while others might need large storage capacities.
- Allocate resources based on demand. For instance, compute-intensive workloads can be run in a public cloud environment, which provides virtually unlimited computational resources. On the other hand, sensitive workloads can be kept in a private cloud environment, which offers more control and security.
- Monitor workload performance and adjust resource allocation as required. This can be done using cloud monitoring tools, which provide real-time visibility into resource usage and performance metrics.
Optimize Networks for Low Latency and High Throughput
To achieve high network performance, businesses should design their network architecture with the goal of minimizing latency and maximizing throughput. This could involve techniques such as data compression, traffic shaping, and load balancing.
In addition, organizations should consider using dedicated network connections between their public and private cloud environments. This can provide a more reliable and faster connection compared to using the public internet.
Set Up Comprehensive Monitoring
Comprehensive monitoring is crucial for managing a hybrid cloud environment effectively. It can provide valuable insights into the performance and health of your hybrid cloud infrastructure.
Businesses should deploy monitoring tools that can provide visibility into both their public and private cloud environments. These tools can help track key performance indicators (KPIs) like CPU usage, memory utilization, network throughput, and latency. It is important to set up alerts for critical performance metrics. This can help detect performance issues early and take corrective action before they impact business operations.
Keep Detailed Records of Configurations, Policies, and Procedures
Organizations should document all configurations in their hybrid cloud environment. This includes configurations related to network settings, security controls, and resource allocations. They should also document policies and procedures related to data governance, security compliance, and resource management. This helps improve communication between different parts of the organization, and can be useful for compliance auditing.
Establish a Disaster Recovery Plan and Backup Solutions
Establishing a disaster recovery plan is an essential part of any hybrid cloud strategy. This can help ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster or system failure. The plan should outline the steps to be taken in the event of a disaster. This can include identifying critical systems and data, defining recovery objectives, and assigning roles and responsibilities.
The hybrid cloud environment itself provides important capabilities that can support disaster recovery and business continuity. For example, organizations can set up a lightweight version of an on-premise application in the public cloud, and when a disaster occurs, scale it up to a full version of the on-premise application. Another option is to backup data to the public cloud.
Hybrid Cloud Storage with Cloudian HyperStore
Hybrid infrastructures can be challenging to manage but storage need not be a concern with a solution like the Cloudian HyperStore, a scalable, on-premise object storage platform with a 100% S3 native API. HyperStore lets you easily manage your data in public and private storage and can be integrated with a variety of cloud and third-party services, including migration services.
Cloudian’s solution offers automatic data verification and encryption and allows you to use custom metadata tags for search and analytics. It allows you to easily manage stored data according to bucket-level policies, including backup scheduling and lifecycle, as well as automate erasure coding and replication.
HyperStore will help you store your data securely and efficiently, leaving you free to make sure you’re getting the most from your hybrid configuration.
Learn more about Cloudian HyperStore, the scalable enterprise object storage solution.
Additional Guides on Key Hybrid Cloud Topics
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