What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud is a solution that combines a private cloud with one or more public cloud services, with proprietary software enabling communication between each distinct service. A hybrid cloud strategy provides businesses with greater flexibility by moving workloads between cloud solutions as needs and costs fluctuate.

Hybrid cloud services are powerful because they give businesses greater control over their private data. An organization can store sensitive data on a private cloud or local datacenter while simultaneously leveraging the robust computational resources of a managed public cloud—and manage it all in a single plane of glass.

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How does hybrid cloud architecture work?

Uniform management of public cloud and private cloud resources is preferable to individually managing cloud environments because doing so reduces the likelihood of process redundancies. Managing environments separately can increase the risk of security loopholes, especially if each solution is not fully optimized to work with the others. A hybrid cloud architecture can eliminate many security risks by limiting the exposure of private data to the public cloud.

Hybrid cloud infrastructure generally includes a public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform, a private cloud or datacenter, and access to a secure network. Many hybrid models leverage local area networks (LAN) as well as wide area networks (WAN).

Businesses adopting a hybrid cloud strategy typically start with an IaaS solution and extend functionalities to the private cloud. To deploy a hybrid strategy effectively, the public and private clouds must be compatible with each other so they can communicate. In many cases, the private cloud is constructed to be compatible with the public solution.

In recent years, IaaS providers such as the Google Cloud platform and Microsoft Azure have made it easier for businesses to connect their local resources to public cloud solutions by using application programming interfaces (APIs) to improve interoperability between services. Additionally, hybrid architects may deploy a hypervisor layer to generate virtual machines that connect to the public cloud via another software layer responsible for orchestration among cloud environments.

What is hybrid cloud used for? 

Businesses across a wide spectrum of industries have moved toward hybrid cloud solutions to reduce costs and increase agility. From the financial sector to the health care industry, hybrid cloud environments have proven to be effective at not only improving computing and storage power, but also at generating cost savings and reducing reliance on on-premises infrastructure. Many organizations simply don't have the room available to deploy servers on-site.

In industries like healthcare, where data privacy is paramount and private computing resources are often lacking, a hybrid cloud strategy is ideal. It allows teams to retain sensitive data in a secure, private on-premises datacenter while simultaneously leveraging the advanced computational power of a public IaaS model. Simply put, any industry that benefits from public cloud applications can also benefit from the hybrid model.

How is hybrid cloud managed?

Managing hybrid cloud is a complex task because each cloud solution has its own API, storage management protocols, networking capabilities, and more. While mastering each solution's complexities is possible, it’s not always sustainable. For this reason, professionals responsible for hybrid cloud management often construct a single interface to manage all cloud services seamlessly.

Building such an interface requires a team that’s familiar with handling cloud solutions and getting disparate networks to communicate effectively. Fortunately, enterprise-grade management tools are available to help IT managers get their systems up and running.

Hybrid cloud benefits

Hybrid cloud benefits stem from the solution's ability to give IT leaders increased control over data. Essentially, the hybrid model provides the business with multiple options so stakeholders can pick an environment that best suits each individual use case.

Most businesses do not need the same level of computation power every day. In fact, an organization may find that its resource needs only balloon during one specific time of year. For instance, a health insurance application may need double the computing power during open enrollment. Rather than paying for those additional resources to sit idle for most of the year, the organization can save on costs by extending their private resources to a public cloud only when necessary.

A hybrid cloud model also requires much less space on-premises compared to a strictly private model. A business can deploy a private network on-site to handle internal needs, then automatically extend to the private cloud when computational resources exceed local availability. This model can benefit startups that can't afford to invest in a huge private datacenter as well as established enterprises that need to scale in a cost-effective manner.

Hybrid cloud use cases

The ability to scale on demand means hybrid cloud models have many business uses.

New applications: Launching a new application with an untested workload carries with it a level of mystery. Cloud-driven businesses have to take on a certain amount of risk any time they try something new. Hybrid cloud mitigates that risk by reducing the need for a substantial initial investment. The company can deploy the new app and only pay for resources it uses, rather than paying for everything upfront. If the app fails or gets shelved for any reason, the business won't be out very much money.

Regulatory compliance: Certain industries are regulated to protect private data. However, not every piece of data may need to live in a private environment. Hybrid cloud allows businesses to comply with regulations while still benefiting from expanded computing power. Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, many organizations have divided their data among several solutions so they can comply with EU regulations while operating under different regulations elsewhere. 

Workload anomalies: The future is unpredictable. An application might run efficiently in its current environment today but require additional computational power tomorrow. Hybrid cloud solutions adapt to workload needs, allowing service to continue smoothly even when workload requirements spike. This is often referred to as "cloud bursting" because the workload pours out of one environment into another. It's a lot like having overdraft protection on your checking account. You want to have a failsafe in case the unexpected happens.

Hybrid cloud solutions

With over 40 major infrastructure as a service providers in the market, IT leaders have never had more options when it comes to choosing a public cloud service. In addition to the world's largest public cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), two highly reliable cloud providers with extensive capabilities include:

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure offers excellent support for hybrid cloud architects, allowing projects to get off the ground quickly. Microsoft's investment in open-source frameworks also makes Azure adoption relatively easy.

Google Cloud

Google's access to cutting-edge machine learning and big data technologies means the Google Cloud platform is ideal for highly complex computational needs. 

Is hybrid cloud right for your organization?

The hybrid cloud model is an effective way to align IT priorities with business needs. Many businesses can benefit from leveraging hybrid cloud over other options. If deciding between hybrid, public, and private options, hybrid clearly provides the most flexibility—an especially important factor for organizations looking to embrace digital transformation or maintain regulatory compliance.

Hybrid cloud can also be a great option for businesses with a private cloud infrastructure already in place. Leveraging platform as a service (PaaS) options to interface with the public cloud makes doing so easy. Organizations that want to better secure their data without losing the power of a public cloud can benefit by moving sensitive data to a private cloud while interfacing with public resources.

In addition, hybrid cloud is highly valuable for organizations with dynamic workloads, large amounts of data to process, or a large mix of IT services. The flexibility, scalability, and responsiveness of the hybrid model cannot be understated. Plus, the ability to only pay for additional resources when absolutely necessary can help organizations save on costs considerably.

Citrix solutions for hybrid cloud computing

Thanks to longstanding partnerships with key players like Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, organizations looking to embrace a hybrid cloud model can choose from a range of options with Citrix. Whether you need to enhance IT security or deploy desktop as a service (DaaS) solutions, Citrix provides everything you need to embrace the cloud at the pace that works best for your business.

Explore hybrid cloud benefits with Citrix DaaS