What is hybrid cloud?
Explore IBM's hybrid cloud solution Subscribe for cloud updates
Illustration with collage of pictograms of gear, robotic arm, mobile phone
What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud combines and unifies public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises infrastructure to create a single, flexible, cost-optimal IT infrastructure.

Hybrid cloud use cases

A unified IT infrastructure that uses hybrid cloud is 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: U​​se 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 more 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.
Realize the full value of your hybrid cloud

Connect and integrate your systems to prepare your infrastructure for AI.

Related content

Register for the guide on DaaS

How does hybrid cloud work?

Traditional hybrid cloud architecture

Initially, hybrid cloud architecture that is 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 (for example AWS, Google Cloud Services, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure). This was accomplished by using a prepackaged hybrid cloud solution such as Red Hat OpenStack (link resides outside ibm.com). 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.'

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 use 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 that are 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 that is 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 by using any compute resources or cloud resources that are 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 various applications. A standard operating system lets developers build any hardware dependency into any container. And Kubernetes orchestration and automation give developers granular, set-it-and-forget-it control over container configuration and deployment–including security, load balancing, scalability, and more–across multiple cloud environments.

A series of successes

Learn how IBM Power Systems Virtual Server helps FNZ upgrade its approach to testing—and more.

Explore cloud consulting services

Learn more about hybrid cloud powered by Kubernetes
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 modernize applications faster, and connect cloud services to data on cloud or on-premises infrastructure in ways that deliver new value.

  • 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 (for example, edge ecommerce). And faster integration and combination with partners or third parties to deliver new products and services.
Related solutions
Hybrid cloud solutions

IBM® provides you with the most comprehensive and consistent approach to development, security, and operations across hybrid environments. Our hybrid cloud approach offer up to 2.5x more value than a public cloud-only approach.

Explore IBM hybrid cloud solutions
Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud®

Deploy highly available, fully managed Kubernetes clusters for your containerized applications with a single click.

Explore Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud
IBM Turbonomic

Realize a 33% reduction in cloud spend with Turbonomic's hybrid cloud cost optimization capabilities.

Explore IBM Turbonomic
IBM Cloud Satellite

Deploy and manage containerized applications consistently across on-premises, edge computing and public cloud environments from any vendor.

Explore IBM Cloud Satellite
IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh

IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh offers simple, secure, and predictable application-centric connectivity.

Explore IBM Hybrid Cloud Mesh
Resources What is Kubernetes?

Automate deployment, management and scaling of containerized applications using this open-source container orchestration platform.

Ready for faster application deployment?

Consider hybrid multicloud DevOps friendly, application-centric connectivity.

Take the next step

IBM Turbonomic allows you to run applications seamlessly, continuously and cost-effectively to help achieve efficient app performance while lowering costs.

Explore Turbonomic Book a free demo