What is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid Cloud is starting to influence many an enterprise IT strategy so we take a quick run through of some of the key things you need to know about IT’s latest trending topic.

What is hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid Cloud has a growing popularity fuelled by its ability to give organisations the best of both worlds: a cost-effective, highly manageable mix of two or more computing environments made up from on- premises, collocated, private or public Clouds that remain separate, but share standardised technology allowing workloads to be moved securely and effortlessly between them. It’s a solution that perfectly balances the benefits of the two Cloud flavours: the low cost, rapidly scalable, quick to deploy capabilities of public Cloud with its shared physical hardware; and the greater control, security and customisation afforded by private Cloud infrastructure.

The features of hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud solutions are built around their inherent ability to be tailored to suit an organisation’s particular operational needs. The aim is to achieve the optimum co-existence of on-premises systems alongside Cloud platforms, allowing businesses to securely and cost-effectively select the right environment for the right purpose at the right time, every time.

Solutions feature a customised build strategy, a command and control layer or portal, visibility across multiple environments, with Cloud elements offered on an OPEX model. Resources are also effectively infinite, allowing you to scale up to support a growing organisation or cope readily with spikes in demand – but without losing any control or supervision.

The benefits of hybrid Cloud

The growing consumption of Cloud computing has previously risked being throttled back because of a hesitancy over abandoning on-premises for Cloud – and yet to do that would be to miss out on the economic and operational benefits offered by the Cloud model. Hybrid has removed that quandary by allowing you to combine on-premises and pubic and private Cloud platforms and leverage each one to maximum effect. That in turn unlocks cost efficiencies; increased business agility; more effective, streamlined resource management; faster times to market; continuous alignment of IT to business needs; and all without compromising security, reliability and ownership, or risking an injudicious, rushed or forced IT strategy.

Why use choose hybrid Cloud?

Organisations are choosing to go the hybrid Cloud route as it enables them to optimise rather than forcing them to compromise: they can now build the mixed environment that best suits their needs at all times rather than having to pursue a singular, but imperfect, route.

For example, they may still have significant investment in legacy hardware that they wish to retain; or may have a simple preference to maintain on-site compute resources; or have applications and workloads that don’t lend themselves to a Cloud platform. But at the same time, they have conflicting demands, such as a need to secure cost-savings or conversely invest in new technologies or initiatives, or to be more responsive to changing requirements than their current set-up allows.

So an organisation might choose to keep its sensitive or business critical workloads on-premises or within a private Cloud, but utilise the public Cloud to host less vital elements, such as test and development or archive, low value data. For those who experience regular peaks in demand, for example retailers on Black Friday or at Christmas, they can maintain their transactional processing environment on-premises or even within a private Cloud, and use cloud bursting to access extra resource from the public Cloud as and when demand spikes – a cost-effective short-term fix to the problem of adequately handling dynamic workloads. Big Data processing is another good example of the flexible virtues of hybrid – an enterprise could hold its base data safe on-site but run the actual analysis in the public Cloud, which in this scenario brings the requisite distributed computing power into play.

Security in a hybrid Cloud environment

There are two aspects in particular that are relevant to the hybrid Cloud debate. First, there’s the uncertainty over data sovereignty when moving data to a public Cloud – what guarantees do you have that your data remains in an appropriate jurisdiction? If you are only comfortable with holding your data in a UK data centre, effectively future-proofing yourself from any further global shifts in data protection rules (and, incidentally, greatly simplifying physical access should it ne necessary), then you need to ensure that your Cloud provider can give you the necessary assurances.

Secondly, there are concerns around accessing public Cloud platforms via the Internet. If you don’t want that to be a deal breaker for your new hybrid strategy, then again, look to a Cloud partner that can offer private, direct connectivity to the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and VMware’s vCloud Air.

Security – be it defence from snooping governments, protection from external threat agents, or safeguarding from human error - will always be held up as the first, biggest and hardest hurdle to overcome with any embracing of Cloud. Quite rightly so. But some of the best security provision now resides in high-end, sovereign data centres managed by specialists who are making hybrid happen every day.

For those embarking on a hybrid journey, the choice of Cloud partner is no less demanding a task just because you’re not going all the way. You are still looking at entrusting key systems and data security to a third party and thus all the usual due diligence rules apply. But you also need to look beyond the quality of their infrastructure and scope of their assurances – hybrid is a complex solution not a commoditised product, and it demands an appropriately consultative, almost scientific approach: measuring workloads, identifying configurations, building a tailored hybrid Cloud estate that is aligned with a broader operational or business strategy; and ensuring it all fits, works together well, is secure and resilient, and allows an organisation to swap Cloud compromise for Cloud control.