Hybrid cloud describes a specific deployment model or architecture for cloud service delivery that combines private, on-premise cloud infrastructure and services with public cloud services and permits some orchestration and interactions between them.
Hybrid cloud environments give businesses the greatest amount of operational flexibility and control over how data is managed and exposed. With a hybrid cloud architecture, organizations can retain control over some sensitive assets in their on-premise infrastructure while sourcing computing resources and data storage from public cloud service providers on an as-needed basis.
Hybrid cloud computing is just one of many deployment models that can be used to architect, configure and deliver cloud-based services. We can compare deployment models in terms of their unique value and characteristics to understand why an increasing number of enterprise organizations are choosing to adopt hybrid cloud infrastructure.
When we think about cloud services, our thoughts immediately gravitate towards public cloud service providers that offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) products. Cloud service providers are not the only companies with cloud infrastructure though - some larger organizations have invested the resources to develop their own private cloud environments.
Private cloud infrastructure can be developed by an in-house IT department or by a third-party organization, and it may be hosted and managed internally or externally. However the infrastructure is implemented, private cloud is operated for the sole usage and benefit of a single organization - it is not available to the public.
Public cloud services are delivered over a network that is open for public use, such as the internet. The world's leading technology companies are among the largest providers of public cloud services: Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft. These companies own and operate data centers, servers, networking equipment, storage drives and other software tools and technologies that are used to deliver cloud services to customers.
Public cloud computing can be a great benefit for enterprise companies, helping them access critical IT services like data storage and computing resources at a lower cost than developing the same capabilities in-house. At the same time, public cloud deployments may have additional security concerns that make them inappropriate for some applications.
A community cloud is a special kind of cloud deployment where users from a restricted group of organizations are permitted to access the infrastructure. Community cloud infrastructure can still be operated by a third-party service provider, and it still exists on a private network where it will be inaccessible to the public.
Community cloud infrastructure can be collectively implemented by groups with shared security, compliance and regulatory needs. Community cloud infrastructures provide some of the privacy and security benefits that are normally associated with private cloud deployments while allowing members of the community to reduce their individual costs by sharing resources.
For enterprise organizations today, hybrid cloud deployments represent the optimal mix of security and flexibility. A hybrid cloud deployment includes elements from both private and public cloud deployments. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from a hybrid cloud by sequestering functions between private and public clouds based on their unique requirements.
A company might choose to store sensitive customer data (payment information, sensitive medical history, and other data ) on a secure private cloud database. Private clouds add an extra layer of security for sensitive operations, ensuring that private data is never stored on servers that other parties may be able to access. The same organization may use public cloud service providers as a back-up source of computing power to help handle periods of high application demand or other tasks with less rigorous security requirements.
As of 2018, research indicates, enterprises run 77% of their workloads in the cloud, with 45% depending on private cloud infrastructure and 32% making use of public cloud infrastructure. The numbers are just about flipped for small businesses - 48% depend on public cloud service providers while just 32% use predominantly private clouds. Despite the relatively high adoption rate of both models, just 18.5% of companies are leveraging hybrid cloud deployments today. This number is expected to increase to 26% by the year 2020.
To understand the necessary components of hybrid cloud architecture, let's clarify our definition of what exactly a hybrid cloud is. A cloud environment can be characterized as a hybrid if it meets any of these criteria:
- If a company transfers data between a private cloud or data-center based application and a public development platform
- If a company subscribes to Software-as-a-Service products from a variety of service providers and downloads or transfers data between those applications and private servers
- When a business process uses APIs to connect with external resources as though they were part of its internal resources
It should also be noted that a hybrid cloud requires that private and public cloud services interface with each other. If an organization subscribes to a SaaS product but does not transfer data between the application and its own data center, that would not qualify as a hybrid cloud. Instead, we would say that the organization is accessing services in the public cloud and storing data separately in a private cloud - no interface means no hybrid cloud.
Establishing a hybrid cloud architecture requires three essential components:
- The organization should develop a relationship with a public cloud service provider such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure or IBM Cloud Computing. It may subscribe to IaaS or PaaS services on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- The organization should establish a private cloud environment, either by building it in-house or contracting with a third-party vendor that can construct a private network and host private cloud infrastructure on it.
- The organization should determine which services and data will be held in the private cloud network and which services will be hosted in the public cloud. It should establish networking infrastructure (hardware and software) to connect the appropriate applications in public and private clouds and enable data transfer and interfacing between the two.
As enterprises adopt hybrid cloud architectures, they will face a growing need to effectively monitor and secure multi-cloud environments against malicious attacks.
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