What is hybrid cloud?
Hybrid cloud is IT infrastructure that connects at least one public cloud and at least one private cloud, and provides orchestration, management and application portability between them to create a single, flexible, optimal cloud infrastructure for running a company’s computing workloads.
Hybrid multicloud is a hybrid cloud infrastructure that includes more than one public cloud from more than one cloud service provider.
By enabling a company to
- combine best-of-breed cloud services and functionality from multiple cloud computing vendors
- choose the optimal cloud computing environment for each workload, and
- move workloads freely between public and private cloud as circumstances change
hybrid cloud (and particularly hybrid multicloud) helps a company achieve its technical and business objectives more effectively and cost-efficiently than public cloud or private cloud alone. In fact, according to one recent study, companies derive up to 2.5x the value from hybrid cloud than from a single-cloud, single-vendor approach.
How does hybrid cloud work?
Traditional hybrid cloud architecture
Initially, hybrid cloud architecture focused on the mechanics of transforming portions of a company's on-premises data center into private cloud infrastructure, and then connecting that infrastructure to public cloud environments hosted off-premises by a public cloud provider (e.g. AWS, Google Cloud Services, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure). This was accomplished using a prepackaged hybrid cloud solution such as Red Hat OpenStack (link resides outside IBM) or by using sophisticated enterprise middleware to integrate cloud resources across the environments, and unified management tools for monitoring, allocating and managing those resources from a central console or 'single pane of glass.'
The result was unified IT infrastructure well-suited to several use cases:
- Security and regulatory compliance: Reserve behind-the firewall private cloud resources for sensitive data and highly regulated workloads and use more economical public cloud resources for less-sensitive workloads and data.
- Scalability and resilience: Use public cloud compute and cloud storage resources to scale up quickly, automatically and inexpensively in response to unplanned spikes in traffic without impacting private cloud workloads (this is called 'cloudbursting).
- Rapid adoption of new technology: Adopt or switch to the latest software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, and even integrate those solutions into existing applications, without provisioning new on-premises infrastructure.
- Enhancing legacy applications: Use public cloud services to improve the user experience of existing apps or to extend them to new devices.
- VMware migration: 'Lift and shift' existing on-premises workloads to virtualized public cloud infrastructure, to reduce the on-premises data center footprint and scales as needed without additional capital equipment investment.
- Resource optimization and cost savings: Run workloads with predictable capacity on private cloud and migrate more variable workloads to public cloud; use public cloud infrastructure to quickly 'spin up' development and test resources as needed.
Modern hybrid cloud architecture
Today, hybrid cloud architecture is focused less on physical connectivity, and more on supporting the portability of workloads across all cloud environments, and on automating the deployment of those workloads to the best cloud environment for a given business purpose.
Several trends are driving this shift.
As part of the next critical step in their digital transformations, organizations are building new applications and modernizing legacy applications to leverage cloud native technologies - technologies that enable consistent and reliable development, deployment, management and performance across cloud environments and across cloud vendors.
Specifically, they're building or transforming applications to use microservices architecture, which breaks applications into smaller, loosely coupled, reusable components focused on specific business functions. And they're deploying these applications in containers - lightweight executable units that contain only the application code and the virtualized operating system dependencies required to run it.
At a higher level, public and private cloud are no longer physical 'locations' to connect. For example, many cloud vendors now offer public cloud services that run in their customers on-premises data centers; private clouds, once run exclusively on-premises, are now often hosted in off-premises data centers, on virtual private networks (VPNs) or virtual private clouds (VPCs), or on dedicated infrastructure rented from third party providers (who are sometimes public cloud providers).
What’s more, infrastructure virtualization – also called infrastructure as code - lets developers create these environments on demand using any compute resources or cloud resources located behind or beyond the firewall. This takes on added importance with the advent of edge computing, which offers opportunities to improve global application performance by moving workloads and data closer to where the actual computing gets done.
As a result of these and other factors, modern hybrid cloud infrastructure is starting to coalesce around a unified hybrid multicloud platform that includes:
- Support for cloud-native application development and deployment across all cloud types (public and private) and cloud providers
- A single operating system across all environments
- A container orchestration platform - typically Kubernetes - that automates the deployment of applications across cloud environments.
Cloud-native development lets developers transform monolithic applications into units of business-focused functionality that can be run anywhere and reused within a variety of applications. A standard operating system lets developers build any hardware dependency into any container. And Kubernetes orchestration and automation gives developers granular, set-it-and-forget-it control over container configuration and deployment - including security, load balancing, scalability and more - across multiple cloud environments.
Benefits of a unified hybrid cloud platform
A unified hybrid cloud strategy is still in its 'early adopter' phase; in a recent survey 13 percent of organizations reported they were actively using a multicloud management platform. But these organizations are already realizing significant benefits including:
- Improved developer productivity: A unified hybrid cloud platform can help expand adoption of Agile and DevOps methodologies, and enable development teams to develop once and deploy to all clouds.
- Greater infrastructure efficiency: With more granular control over resources, development and IT operations teams can optimize spend across public cloud services, private clouds, and cloud vendors. Hybrid cloud also helps companies avoid more of the technical debt of on-premises infrastructure by migrating legacy applications faster.
- Improved regulatory compliance and security: A unified platform lets an organization draw on best-of-breed cloud security and regulatory compliance technologies and implement security and compliance across all environments in a consistent way.
- Overall business acceleration: This includes shorter product development cycles; accelerated innovation and time-to-market; faster response to customer feedback; faster delivery of applications closer to the client (e.g., edge ecommerce); and faster integration and combination with partners or third parties to deliver new products and services.
Hybrid cloud and IBM
IBM Cloud hybrid cloud solutions deliver flexibility and portability for both applications and data. Linux, Kubernetes and containers support the hybrid cloud stack and combine with Red Hat OpenShift to create a common platform connecting on-premises and cloud resources.
Learn more about hybrid cloud solutions built with IBM Cloud.
To start building your own hybrid cloud solutions, sign up for an IBMid and create your IBM Cloud account.
About the Author
Sai Vennam is a Developer Advocate at IBM with expertise on Kubernetes, OpenShift, and managed cloud offerings. He’s passionate about connecting developers with technology that allows them to be successful. As a hobby, he works on his home automation using Raspberry Pis and serverless technology.