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 data center and simultaneously leverage the robust computational resources of a managed public cloud. A hybrid cloud relies on a single plane of management, unlike a multi-cloud strategy wherein admins must manage each cloud environment separately.

Hybrid cloud architecture

Uniform management of public and private cloud resources is preferable to individually managing cloud environments because doing so reduces the likelihood of process redundancies. Separately managed environments increase the risk of security loopholes if each solution is not fully optimized to work with the others.

Hybrid architecture best practices 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 data center 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 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 Amazon, Google and Microsoft have made it easier for businesses to connect their local resources to a public cloud solution. Application programming interfaces (API) improve native 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.

Hybrid cloud benefits

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

Most businesses do not utilize 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, an organization can save on costs by extending their private resources to a public cloud only when necessary.

A hybrid model 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 data center as well as established enterprises that need to scale in a cost effective manner.

Who uses hybrid cloud?

Businesses across the spectrum of industries have moved toward hybrid solutions to reduce costs and strain on local resources. 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 optimizing the scarce resource of physical space. Many organizations simply don't have the room available to deploy servers on-site.

In the health care space, data privacy is paramount, and privately held computation resources are lacking. A hybrid cloud model is an ideal solution because it allows medical groups to retain patient data in a secure, private server 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.

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 business can deploy the new app and only pay for the resources it uses, rather than paying for them up front. 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 in order to comply with EU regulations while operating under a different set of regulations in the U.S. and other countries. Any business that handles user data on a global scale must comply with these regulations or risk severe financial penalties.

Workload anomalies

The future is unpredictable. An application might run efficiently in its current environment today but may require additional computational power tomorrow. A hybrid cloud adapts to workload needs, allowing service to continue smoothly even when workload requirements spike. This is often referred to as "cloudbursting," 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.

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, etc. Mastering each solution's complexities is possible, but perhaps not sustainable. For that 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 is 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 system up and running.

Infrastructure as a service providers

With over 40 major IaaS providers in the market, IT leaders have never had more options when it comes to choosing a public cloud service. Here are three providers with extensive capabilities:

Amazon Web Services

AWS is the largest public cloud in the world. Controlling over 40 percent of the cloud market, Amazon's services are popular for a reason. AWS offers robust features, including content delivery, computational power, networking features and database management. Read more on how Citrix partners with Amazon Web Services.

Google Cloud Platform

Though relatively new, compared to AWS, GCP has gotten up to speed remarkably fast thanks to Google's expertise in the space. Google's access to cutting-edge machine learning and big data technologies also means GCP is ideal for highly complex computational needs. Read more on how Citrix and Google Cloud power a better way to work with innovative solutions in a hybrid cloud world.

Microsoft Azure

The second-most popular public cloud, Microsoft's Azure was an early supporter of the hybrid model. The service offers excellent support for hybrid cloud architects, which means new projects can get off the ground faster. Microsoft's renewed investment in open source frameworks has also made Azure adoption easier. Learn how Citrix and Microsoft are collaborating in the cloud so that you can move at the speed of business.

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 utilizing hybrid cloud over other options. If deciding between hybrid, public and private options, hybrid clearly provides the most flexibility. Whether or not an organization requires that level of flexibility depends on the business's goals, the regulatory environment in which it lives and how much those needs may change in the near future.

Hybrid cloud can 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 and interfacing with the public resources.

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 Workspace is a digital workspace solution designed to fit your hybrid cloud journey, learn more.

Additional Resources

Digital Workspace and The Cloud

Hybrid Cloud and Networking