The hybrid cloud you didn’t know you had

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Since the end of the last decade we have seen a transformation of the way information technology (IT) is being consumed. It started slowly with startups renting compute power, up to the point today where the large IT vendors are betting their future on the transformation that is driving the industry with the shift to the cloud.

Talk to any IT vendor today and they’ll likely tell you about cloud and how it can solve your IT problems. Some vendors may sell you on the benefits of the public cloud offerings, while others may sell you on the benefits of a private cloud inside your data center. The vendors with the most complete strategy can explain the benefits of both clouds, and show you capabilities in delivering both varieties.

IBM_Cloud_Hybrid_You_Didnt_KnowIBM SoftLayer is an excellent example. This infrastructure can be used to deliver a public cloud and a private cloud on an infrastructure that is dedicated to your needs.

There are cases where neither a private cloud nor a public cloud is the right solution for your organization. This is where the concept of hybrid cloud comes into play.

(Related: Want the tools to build, manage and secure a hybrid cloud solution?  Learn more at

What is a hybrid cloud?

Let’s start with the definition according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (download), and work our way from there:

“The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).”

So, what does this tell us? A hybrid cloud is a mix of two different clouds, usually a private and a public cloud offering, that are used together. In order for two clouds to operate together there has to be a defined connection so that data and applications can flow between them.

While I think this definition is fine, it lacks one scenario that I believe is rather common or will become rather common in the future. Could a hybrid cloud not consist of traditional on-premises IT that is coupled with a cloud for additional capacity and capabilities?

Hybrid cloud - Lars

This diagram is part of a presentation I have used to talk about hybrid cloud to customers for the last three or so years. As you see, hybrid cloud—or hybrid IT, as it is called here—is not an entirely new concept. Note that the definition of a hybrid cloud in the diagram includes not only clouds but also traditional IT.

So I would suggest that a hybrid cloud is an infrastructure that ties together either traditional IT and a cloud, or two different cloud infrastructures into one solution.

What hybrid means for your organization

I will make a bold statement here: hybrid cloud is important to you because you probably already have one! If you have a traditional IT infrastructure or a private cloud, how do you handle capacity surges? In old-school scenarios, you would simply procure the capacity or add it to your traditional IT infrastructure or your private cloud. If you had a good setup you could use this excess capacity for other means and relocate it in order to handle a surge.

In a hybrid scenario, instead of having the excess capacity to handle the surges, you could simply use the excess capacity from a public cloud and pay only for what you are using. Is this not what cloud computing is about, after all?

There are some challenges that you need to think about when deploying a hybrid cloud:

  • How will you handle data privacy issues? Are you allowed to transfer your data to any other cloud or are there limitations?
  • How do you handle the systems management in a hybrid scenario? There are a lot of changes to your traditional systems management approach that you need to think of.
  • How will you handle security? There are new security challenges when you use resources from systems that you just rent capacity on as opposed to systems that you control completely. Get your security architects involved as early as possible.

I will come back and talk more about some of these challenges in future articles, so stay tuned.

Learn more about hybrid cloud:

What is hybrid cloud? 

Hybrid clouds: Should you bring the moving van?

What technology is needed for hybrid cloud?

5 key considerations when moving to hybrid cloud

10 questions to ask when moving applications to hybrid cloud

What is dynamic cloud?

The future of enterprise IT: Engaging customers

Distributing your workload? It’s easy as slicing pie

Peeling the onion: Hybrid cloud key components

How to explain private, public and hybrid cloud to your spouse

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