Hybrid clouds are network infrastructure configurations that combine at least one linkage between public and private cloud networks. These configurations are managed using software-defined networking technologies that meld these disparate networks under a single pane of glass control. Users of the hybrid cloud interact with it as if it were one seamlessly unified network.
Hybrid clouds are different from multicloud configurations by always including at least one private cloud, whereas multiclouds combine multiple public clouds, which themselves may be part of a hybrid cloud.
Hybrid clouds enable organizations to reduce the costly inefficiencies of maintaining their own infrastructure. Additionally, hybrid clouds help companies address scaling concerns, and offer security features.
The central aim of hybrid clouds is to create secure, seamless connectivity between networks of different modes. Using WANs, VPNs, and APIs, hybrid networks can interconnect on-premises and private networks with one or more public cloud resources.
Wide Area Networks
— WANs create networks over wide areas in the similar way Local Area Networks (LANs) create networks over small areas. Enterprise WANs can include several interconnected networks, possibly hundreds, spread over large regions. The connected networks then act as one wide network, accessible to business personnel, and monitored and controlled by an enterprise network monitoring platform.
In hybrid cloud configurations, WANs play a security role in that they separate a company's proprietary and often most accessed information within the company's private network where security can more effectively protect it. Using APIs, other public cloud services, compute, and storage can join the hybrid cloud as additional infrastructure resources.
Virtual Private Networks
— VPNs encrypt and secure connections between networks via the public internet. As hybrid clouds become more familiar, VPN as a Service (VPNaaS) has emerged as an alternative to access their cloud resources without the need for a VPN client.
Application Programming Interfaces
— APIs are standard conventions that allow separate internet applications to communicate with each other. These conventions define what data formats are available from systems, what requests can be made from those systems, and how to make requests. API conventions have become popular since their advent because although they allow organizations to grant third-parties access to proprietary data, they still retain control over those interfaces.
Hybrid cloud and multicloud are often used interchangeably, however, there are several key differences. A private network becomes a hybrid cloud network when a public cloud network is connected with it in such a way that they begin to act as one network. Whereas, a multicloud architecture is two or more public cloud networks connected together in a way where they seem to operate as a single unit. If a second public cloud is attached to a hybrid cloud, then it becomes a network with both hybrid and multicloud characteristics.
Hybrid clouds utilize diverse and complex configurations on private networks while relying on abundant cloud resources to run the day-to-day business. Multicloud configuration can be used for redundancy measures, or edge to cloud infrastructure solutions, by duplicating data at several locations, users can access it with greater speed and reliability. Even if one cloud in a multicloud setup goes down, the others can fill in the space until fixes are completed.
The true benefit of hybrid clouds is to enable digital transformation initiatives. Traditional IT infrastructures have been on-premise, costly, and prone to obsolescence. While new investments are required to develop hybrid clouds, the availability of resources and services in the public cloud allows companies to flexibly make adjustments and improvements to their IT infrastructure with confidence that they will meet business needs.
Flexible Scalability — Hybrid cloud architectures can access a spectrum of products and services that allow businesses to scale rapidly to meet market demands. For small firms and enterprises, this agility grants exceptional advantages to leverage resources with great control without owning them.
Security — Security is a top concern for IT admins managing hybrid clouds. Traditional network security centered on the fortress mindset is outmoded for cloud configurations. While hybrid cloud requires a shift in the security paradigms of organizations, network security professionals who embrace hybrid cloud may find that multiple environments, when configured properly, may present stronger security.
Cost Savings — Along with granting access to flexible public cloud resources, hybrid clouds have tremendous cost flexibility. Because now businesses can easily choose from a menu of cloud services, they can ramp them up when needed, or pare them down when not, allowing them to tighten expenditures around actual productive use and demand. Also, cloud resources can be physically closer to end users which will reduce the latency that is critical in many industries.
Storage Diversification — Hybridizing clouds configurations are not only cost-effective, but they also allow for strategic handling of storage resources. By retaining sensitive proprietary information on private storage, stronger security features can protect it, while frequently accessed data that is not as sensitive can be stored in the cloud.
As with any major shift in IT policy, adopting a hybrid cloud architecture brings its own unique challenges. Appropriate planning for business needs, considerations, and goals is a key mitigating factor for many of the following hybrid cloud challenges.
1. Compliance Issues — As the government steps in and regulates more online activities and how information is treated online, companies will be required to address compliance. Depending on the size of an organization, this can entail additional investments. If storing sensitive information in the cloud, almost certainly, the government will require some variety of certification of compliance, so ensuring that providers have those is necessary.
2. Hybrid Cloud Management and Monitoring — Working with a top-tier cloud provider with greater technical capabilities can make management and monitoring integrations easier. If capabilities are less robust, then integrating management systems from both public and on-premise private cloud infrastructures will prove to be challenging. Ensure capabilities are aligned with need.
3. Integration — Engineering insight is needed when building cohesive environments from private and public clouds. Considerations include, where to situate workloads, which infrastructure will satisfy expected demands, and the implementation and management of processes and policies that will keep systems functioning together.
4. Migration Complexity — Migrating to the cloud refers to moving data and applications into new environments. Depending on their complexity, this can be as simple as transferring files up to a host with a compatible environment, to a complete refactoring of business applications to run on cloud resources.
5. Network Infrastructure — Nearly every consideration comes into play when addressing network infrastructure. Security, bandwidth, latency, essentially the overall performance of the network which relies on underlying infrastructure. Hybrid clouds help to alleviate this by offering flexible infrastructure, but understanding the future scaling needs of business applications will help inform how best to set up for infrastructure success.
6. Security — Security will be a top concern for hybrid cloud configurations for the foreseeable future. Security in hybrid clouds best practices do exist to address some exceptionally critical points of security, such as encrypting data in transit and at rest, utilizing identity and access management (IAM) capabilities, and using Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) network protocols to communicate across unsecured networks.
Hybrid cloud management is the set of practices and tools used by IT professionals to ensure that a company's interconnected networks are operating and secure. Management practices of hybrid clouds are specific to the hybrid cloud configuration, so IT teams must rely on several on-premise and outside solutions to accommodate their ends. The following solutions are common deployments in hybrid cloud management.
Cloud Management Platforms
— Cloud management platforms (CMPs) provide a central management tool for two or more dynamic cloud environments (private, public, multi, or hybrid). CMPs offer insights and control over optimization, orchestration, security, monitoring, and costs. IT professionals manage these networks from within the organization. In contrast with PaaS solutions, CMPs may be essential to companies with proprietary data, or already with heavy infrastructure investments.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
— PaaS providers are similar to CMPs in that they enable IT teams to centrally manage two or more dynamic cloud environments. These solutions are offered as a service, with many other benefits, chiefly much of the IT management and configuration is left to the PaaS provider in the cloud, removing that responsibility from the client who can then focus on the business.
Vendor-native Hybrid Cloud
— Vendor-native hybrid cloud is sometimes referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and provides an option for organizations to increase compute and storage resources of their private cloud by borrowing infrastructure from public clouds. Prime cases for this are companies that need on-demand scaling when they need increased infrastructure resources.
Cloud platforms are computer and storage infrastructure including software services offered to companies via the Internet. Cloud technologies can be remotely accessed, and resources can be added when needed. Sophisticated cloud platforms that offer the capability can be used to hybridize cloud configurations, integrating public resources with private networks. The following are some of the most popular cloud providers according to Gartner's research:
Hybrid clouds can be configured for many scenarios. Here are just a few typical use cases organizations rely on hybrid clouds:
Workload Tests — Cloud-oriented businesses are uniquely positioned to test new features and app workloads without incurring capital expenditures. By testing new workloads in the public cloud, companies can quickly evaluate the viability of applications. If it looks promising, then they can build out cloud support, or bring the application into on-premise servers.
Data Center Extension — Hybrid clouds are especially useful for adding additional resources in support of on-premise infrastructure. In critical industries, like healthcare, vital monitoring is performed on-premise to eliminate or reduce latency and ensure patient safety. The results of that data can then be sent off-site, where it can be stored, anonymized, and analyzed for other applications, such as AI-powered health diagnostics.
Cloud bursting — Cloud bursting is a technique used to ensure adequate resource availability, similar to the aim of data center extensions, except cloud bursting is more immediate. When a hybrid cloud's established resources are pushed to the limit, cloud bursting can be relied on to "spillover" workloads onto other compute or storage capacity, all on-demand.
High Availability and Disaster Recovery — The number of data centers is expected to steadily grow, largely because private cloud infrastructure strategies are integrating more on-premise, cloud, and edge options. While extending company resources to reach customers is one reason for this growth, redundancy may be an even more important motivator for companies who utilize the cloud, especially for cloud-based businesses where downtown can have a serious negative impact on business.
Compliance Requirements — Government regulations can place unanticipated burdens and extra costs on companies operating in the virtual space. Because regulatory and compliance issues have become more significant in recent years, many cloud companies take on the responsibility of ensuring compliance through certifications, and best practices and offer services to clients that help them achieve their own compliance in the cloud. But companies need to be aware themselves, for example, privacy regulations may dictate that private information about clients remain on servers within a nation's borders. Hybrid clouds answer this. Companies can store proprietary information on their private servers, and host private client data in the cloud.
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