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Hybrid cloud: what it is, why it matters?

For several years, cloud computing has been the focus of IT decision makers and corporate bean counters, but the extremely security-conscious have been hesitant to move their data and workloads into the cloud.
Now, with the underlying technology behind cloud services available for deployment inside organizations, a new model of cloud computing is gaining a foothold in business: the hybrid cloud.Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud: what it is, why it matters?

There’s much confusion around what is truly meant by the term hybrid cloud. Forrester Research principal analyst Dave Bartoletti said that likely has to do with its origin. “The term hybrid cloud was pretty much invented by vendors,” Bartoletti said. “It wasn’t invented by clients.” Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research, agreed that the term hybrid cloud was misleading, noting that there was a lot of marketing hype behind it.

What customers want to do is simply use multiple clouds, Bartoletti said, that’s very clear. From conversations with clients, he said that Forrester has gathered the following leading definition: “One or more public clouds connected to something in my data center. That thing could be a private cloud, that thing could just be traditional data center infrastructure.”

The term hybrid cloud was pretty much invented by vendors. It wasn’t invented by clients.”—Dave Bartoletti

With this definition, the hybrid cloud is the combination of one or more public cloud providers (such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform) with a private cloud platform—one that’s designed for use by a single organization, or private infrastructure.

The public cloud and private infrastructure, which operates independently of each other, communicate over an encrypted connection, using technology that allows for the portability of data and applications.

The precision of this definition is quite important:
The public and private clouds (or infrastructure) in a hybrid cloud, arrangement are distinct and independent elements. This allows organizations to store protected or privileged data on a private cloud while retaining the ability to leverage computational resources from the public cloud to run applications that rely on this data.

This keeps data exposure to a minimum because they’re not storing sensitive data long-term on the public cloud. 451 Research’s working definition is slightly different. According to Brooks, the firm defines hybrid cloud as: “Two or more disparate cloud computing environments that are used in conjunction to serve a workload or an application
in concert through a single management plane.”

The key here, Brooks said, is the single management plane. If an organization has its storage on one cloud, and its computer on another, but its admins have to make the two work together manually, that isn’t necessarily a true hybrid

When it comes down to it, Brooks said, a true hybrid cloud is rare, and only about one in 10 enterprises have it. Many of the others are pursuing a simple multi-cloud strategy, or they are just managing a bunch of different environments.

The benefits of going hybrid

With the hybrid cloud model, IT decision makers have more control over both the private and public components than using a prepackaged public cloud platform. Or, as Brooks said, “you get everything that you want.” This includes increased efficiency and the flexibility to meet disparate needs, Brooks added.

This provides the added benefit of paying for the extra compute time only when these resources are needed. Accordingly, for businesses that have milestones throughout the year where a much higher than normal amount of computing time is needed (tax season, perhaps), extending to the public cloud is a cheaper proposition than building out a private infrastructure that sits idle for most of the year.

“It lets you pick the right cloud for the right workload,” Bartoletti said. “It doesn’t artificially limit you.” Building a hybrid cloud with private infrastructure that’s directly accessible—in other words, not being pushed through the public internet—greatly reduces access time and latency in comparison to public cloud services.

Another benefit of this hybrid cloud model is the ability to have on-premises computational infrastructure that can support the average workload for your business while retaining the ability to leverage the public cloud for failover circumstances in which the workload exceeds the computational power of the private cloud component.

Building out the private end of a hybrid cloud also allows for flexibility in server designs. This gives companies the flexibility to provide rapid and archival storage at a likely lower cost. Combined with the announcement of a host of new SSDs and helium-filled drives, data storage can be achieved without the use of backup tapes.

Allowing information to be transported across a network that can be subject to third-party interference or tapping is, to many organizations, an unnecessary and reckless security risk.

Where doesn’t hybrid cloud work?

Although hybrid cloud provides a variety of advantages over the public cloud alone, it still suffers from the same privacy and security issues that plague the popular perception of public cloud platform providers. Allowing information to be transported across a network that can be subject to third-party interference or tapping is, to many organizations, an unnecessary and reckless security risk.

In addition, hybrid cloud—as well as a public cloud—is a poor fit for circumstances in which data transport on
both ends of the cloud is a mission-critical operation that is sensitive to the delay from transporting data across
a network and the latency in ping times. For example, Tatsuya Kimura, the head of international affairs at the
Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), has questioned the ability to offload weather prediction data to the cloud.
Currently, the JMA supercomputer is an 847-teraflop system designed by Hitachi.

This supercomputer helps the meteorologists determine whether a tsunami warning should be issued following an earthquake. It’s also used to predict earthquakes in the Tokai region, where the tectonic movement is particularly well understood. As these predictions are intensely time-critical, attempting to offload this computational workload to the cloud is not feasible.

Then there’s the issue of money. Organizations that have a thin IT budget probably can’t afford a rollout of
a hybrid cloud solution. The upfront cost of the servers on the private end of the spectrum is—as one might expect for racks of server hardware—a substantial one and the needs of smaller businesses likely to have small IT budgets can be served adequately using the services of a public cloud provider.

Another issue is the “humongous complexity” brought about by the hybrid cloud, Brooks said. Customers absolutely need to “live and breath, and sink or swim in this automated world,” Brooks said. You also need the talent and the skills to be able to understand the different environments and be able to marry them together.

If admins aren’t on the same page, and teams aren’t unified in their rollout, companies could also end up creating more silos, Bartoletti said. For example, companies could end up with one team managing AWS products, one managing Azure, one managing Google Cloud—creating new levels of complexity.

Who uses the hybrid cloud?

The industries that are moving to hybrid are the ones that are already inclined toward cloud-native, Brooks said, such as media and finance.
Hybrid clouds are frequently deployed in the financial sector, particularly when proximity is important and physical space is at a premium—such as on, or adjacent to, a trading floor. Pushing trade orders through the private cloud infrastructure and running analytics on trades from the public cloud infrastructure greatly decreases the amount of physical space needed for the latency-sensitive task of making trade orders.

This is crucial for data security, as well. Threshold-defined trading algorithms are the entire business of many investment firms. Trusting this data to a public cloud provider is, to most firms, an unnecessary risk that could expose the entire underpinnings of their business.

Assembling a private cloud to handle a standard workload, with burst compute offloaded to the public cloud, can be a long-term, budget-friendly arrangement.
Hybrid cloud technology is also widely used in the healthcare industry, as the need to relay data between healthcare providers and insurance companies for hundreds of thousands of patients is a daunting task.

Compliance with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in this regard is a regulatory hurdle since compartmentalizing information to comply with HIPAA over not disclosing protected health information requires extensive permissions settings.

For similar reasons, law firms utilize hybrid cloud infrastructures with private elements, often as encrypted offsite data stores, to safeguard against the potential for loss due to theft, hardware failure, or a natural disaster such as a hurricane destroying the original documentation or evidence.

Retail sales is another industry that makes use of hybrid cloud services. Transporting sales information, and the analytics derived from that data is a computationally intensive task. Assembling a private cloud to handle a standard workload, with burst compute offloaded to the public cloud, can be a long-term, budget-friendly arrangement.

Hybrid Cloud Conclusion

Hybrid cloud adoption can be an effective strategy for a wide variety of businesses that have a tighter focus on security or unique physical presence demands. Although there is seemingly less risk in a hybrid cloud model, allowing access from a public cloud has the potential of being insecure or being the conduit through which data can be harvested.

This, however, is true of almost any public network communication. And while the upfront cost of server hardware for the private component of the hybrid cloud is high, the control that IT departments can wield over hardware selection and system design for the private component offers an invaluable way of properly tailoring resources to the needs of the organization.

Assembling a private cloud to handle a standard workload, with burst compute offloaded to the public cloud, can be a long-term budget-friendly arrangement.

Ultimately, the hybrid cloud allows organizations to leverage the capabilities of public cloud platform providers without offloading the entirety of their data to a third-party data center. This provides a great deal of flexibility in computing tasks while keeping the most vital components within the company firewall. Contact Musato Technologies to learn more about how cloud computing services.

An article by James Sanders

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