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What Is a Hybrid Cloud? A Definitive Guide

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A hybrid cloud is a shared environment that consolidates storage, network, and compute resources across on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, and edge environments.

What Is a Hybrid Cloud?

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that comprises a mix of on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, and edge environments. In the hybrid cloud model, compute, storage, and networking resources are made available across the hybrid cloud with integrated data and application security. Unified management and orchestration tools are used to enable flexible data, application mobility, and operational agility across your hybrid cloud infrastructure.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at hybrid clouds and how they work.

Unpacking the hybrid cloud environment

If your organisation relies on a combination of on-premises, public, and private clouds to operate, you’re running a hybrid cloud. Let’s take a closer look at each of the components that make up a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

On-premises

On-premises deployments, including storage area networks (SANs), network attached storage (NAS) devices, and GPU servers, refer to computing infrastructure housed onsite, typically within the organisation's own data centre. On-premises deployments offer a high level of control over the infrastructure and its management but can be expensive to maintain and are often not as scalable as other options.

Private cloud

Private clouds are clouds that are managed and operated solely by the organisation that owns them. They provide many of the benefits of public clouds—such as scalability and self-service—while enabling the organisation to maintain control over the infrastructure and data.

Public cloud

Public clouds are clouds that are managed and operated by a third party, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. These clouds are usually the least expensive option but also offer the fewest controls over the infrastructure and data. Public clouds are generally the most scalable option, making them a good choice for applications that require high levels of compute power or storage capacity.

Edge computing

Edge or internet of things (IoT) devices present yet another component to consider when designing hybrid cloud environments. Streaming data to and from edge devices presents a bandwidth challenge that can strain networks. By processing data closer to the source devices, you can free up network bandwidth for more critical needs.

Networking

For the different components of a hybrid cloud architecture to communicate with one another, they must be linked together across a wide area network (WAN) or other connection. APIs are often used to facilitate communication across cloud environments.

Virtualisation

Containers and virtual machines abstract away the details of the underlying infrastructure, greatly simplifying the way you interface with them for storage and compute resources. Virtualisation opens the door to automation and DevOps pipelines.

>> Read “The Definitive Guide to Containers” to learn more.

Hybrid cloud management

The hybrid cloud management layer includes tools that allow you to seamlessly manage storage, compute, and networking resources across your public, private, and on-premises infrastructure. Hybrid cloud management is about ensuring that all your apps have access to the resources you need without sacrificing the security policies of your private clouds or on-premises infrastructure. This is often achieved through a combination of virtualisation and DevOps automation.

Multicloud vs. hybrid cloud

Multicloud is when a company uses more than one cloud provider, while hybrid cloud is when a company uses a combination of on-premises and off-premises clouds. The two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. Indeed, hybrid cloud infrastructures that include more than one public cloud service are by definition also multicloud deployments. However, if that deployment does not include private or on-premises infrastructure, then it is not a hybrid cloud.

Benefits of hybrid cloud

The ability to pool and seamlessly access resources across on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, and edge computing environments comes with a number of benefits:

  • Improved data mobility: Gives you the ability to access data anytime and anywhere, no matter where it’s physically located or virtually stored.
  • Enhanced IT agility: The flexibility and agility of the hybrid cloud model allows you to respond to changing business demands.
  • Simplified scalability: Readily scale storage, compute, and networking resources as you grow.
  • Lower TCO: Enhanced agility and scalability lend themselves to lower TCO, as you’re afforded maximum flexibility where you choose to source your resources.
  • Better business continuity: The hybrid cloud model gives you greater flexibility in deploying disaster recovery solutions such as asynchronous replication.
  • Enhanced security and risk management: Hybrid cloud solutions give businesses granular control over their data so that they can optimise their workloads to comply with security requirements and regulations.

Done right, the hybrid cloud model can help organisations reap the benefits of different computing environments without having to deal with their shortcomings.

How does a hybrid cloud deployment work?

Now that we’ve established the components that make up a hybrid cloud, it’s time to put them all together and see how they work. The big idea behind hybrid cloud computing is to treat all your clouds as a single environment.

This can be difficult to pull off in practice, but the closer you get to a seamless integration between compute, storage, and networking resources across your on-premises, private, public, and edge environments, the more powerful your hybrid cloud.

Storage, compute, and the network are all integral parts of the data centre. Storage is used to store data, compute is used to process data, and networks are used to connect devices and systems. Each of these components has a different role in the data centre and offers different benefits.

Hybrid cloud computing

Compute is important because it enables businesses to run applications and analyse data. Compute nodes can be clustered together to form a compute cluster, which increases the processing power available to the business. Additionally, compute nodes can be used to create virtual machines, which allow businesses to run multiple operating systems on a single system.

Hybrid cloud networking

The network is important because it allows devices and systems to communicate with each other. A well-designed network can improve performance by minimizing latency and packet loss. Additionally, a good network can help businesses stay secure by preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Hybrid cloud storage

Storage is important for two key reasons: It allows businesses to keep data safe and secure, and it provides a way to easily access that data. By storing data in-house, businesses can keep it safe from unauthorized access and ensure that it is available when needed. Additionally, storage can be used to improve performance by offloading processing tasks from the compute nodes.

Hybrid cloud security

The big challenge of hybrid cloud security is managing complexity at scale. Balancing accessibility, agility, and security across your on-premises, private, and public cloud environments is no small feat. And we haven’t even touched on the unique challenges of integrating edge environments.

A good hybrid cloud security solution has to integrate with each architectural layer, providing visibility, policy management, and encryption across the technology stack.

Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions provide real-time monitoring and analysis of security events generated across your hybrid cloud environment. From unauthorized access to insider threats to DoS and DDoS attacks, SIEM systems give you the security monitoring your security specialists need to respond to and mitigate threats.

Security, orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) expands upon SIEM capabilities by leveraging AI and orchestration technologies to largely automate threat response and investigation paths.

Beyond monitoring and threat response, securing your entire data fabric across your hybrid cloud stack via firewalls, encryption, backups, and snapshots is also key. And as humans remain the weakest link in any security system, access control best practices and employee education remain key.

Simplify hybrid cloud infrastructure with Pure Storage

In this guide, we gave a quick overview of what a hybrid cloud is, how it works, and why organisations are switching to a hybrid cloud infrastructure. We also looked at some of the challenges of setting up, managing, and securing a hybrid cloud environment.

But reaping the benefits of a hybrid cloud doesn’t have to be complicated. Pure Storage is redefining the storage experience and empowering innovators by simplifying how people consume and interact with data.

An uncomplicated hybrid cloud infrastructure is one that:

  • Leverages AI and automation to simplify tasks and free up valuable resources.
  • Easily and quickly adapts to changing business requirements, scaling up and down as needed.
  • Delivers the performance to run the most challenging workloads anywhere within your architecture.
  • Can be upgraded non-disruptively in real time.
  • Protects your data from ransomware and cyberattacks.
  • Makes it simple to back up your data across the multicloud and restore it as fast as possible so you’re always protected.

Jointly engineered by Pure Storage and Cisco, FlashStack® is an AI-based, software-defined hybrid cloud infrastructure integrating on-premises and multicloud landscapes. FlashStack is discretely scalable, holistically managed, and available as a service.

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