What Is Hybrid Cloud Architecture and How Can We Use It?

Hybrid cloud solutions combine public and private environments to support applications.

When you need to reduce costs, downtime, and security risk, hybrid cloud computing can be the perfect solution. In theory, you'll achieve all three goals with little hassle. 

But what hybrid cloud architecture approach should you take?

Flexibility is a key benefit of hybrid clouds. Companies can configure them in almost any manner, depending on their budgets and goals. But some information architects feel stumped when asked to design the tools their companies need.

Let's dig into the definitions, benefits, cost, and considerations of hybrid clouds. And we’ll share a few diagrams you can keep in mind as you work on a system for your company. 

Cloud Computing in Simple Terms 

All computer systems store and distribute data. Years ago, all components of that system sat within a room or two, often within the company's headquarters. Now, some of those servers may sit off site. When they do, they're considered part of a cloud. 

The cloud term itself is a bit of a joke, as people started using it to describe how little location matters. Where are our servers? They're located somewhere out there within a cloud of stuff.

Consumers often believe that their information is physically located in the clouds above their heads. In reality, their data is likely housed in a physical server in a room somewhere. But since it's not within company headquarters, it's considered part of the cloud

Three main types of cloud computing exist.

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): Computers, networking features, and storage exist within the cloud. This form of cloud computing is very flexible, as it can expand or contract based on need.
     
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): Applications operate within the cloud, but the underlying infrastructure remains well within your control.
     
  • Software as a service (SaaS): An entire product, including the software and infrastructure, operates within the cloud. 

Costs vary by cloud-computing type, but determining the final price tag isn't always easy. To develop a clear picture of costs, you must understand your:

  • Current costs. How much do you spend on hardware, labor, maintenance, connection, and other similar items?
     
  • Potential solution costs. Every cloud provider has a slightly different fee structure. Most set pricing by determining server type, number of machines required, storage type, and memory requirements.
     
  • Migration challenges. Moving your operations to the cloud requires transfer fees and manpower. You'll also need to test repeatedly to ensure everything works properly.

Your potential cloud partner should provide you with a complete summary of your costs based on your setup and needs. Be sure to ask about costs associated with adding storage, updating software, and replacing components. You may avoid hidden fees with a firm contract that includes these items.

Public Clouds vs. Private Clouds vs. Hybrid Clouds 

You've settled on a cloud provider, and you have a beginner's understanding of fees. What type of cloud do you need?

Three main types of clouds exist.

  • Public: These clouds are open and accessible to anyone who passes authentication checks. You'll use strict rules to keep snoops away, of course. But a public cloud is built with accessibility in mind.
     
  • Private: These clouds are made for sensitive, internal use only. Your core employees can access the server, but end users or contractors may not. And no one who doesn't know you can get in. If your regulatory environment demands strict shielding of sensitive data (those that work in health care or financial sectors often have this issue), a private cloud might be a requirement.
     
  • Hybrid: A hybrid cloud blends both public and private clouds. Some functions happen on private clouds, while others function in public counterparts. Administrators choose the ideal cloud for each application, and they can move workloads between the two settings as needed.

Let's compare and contrast these three cloud types.

 

Location

Security level 

Administration

Flexibility level

Public 

Cloud only 

Low

Contracted 

Moderate

Private 

Cloud or servers on site

High 

Owned or contracted 

Low

Hybrid 

Cloud only 

Moderate

Owned or contracted

High

Why Is Hybrid Cloud Computing Popular? 

Analysts expect an annual growth rate of 24.1 percent within the cloud market sector between 2020 and 2025. Much of that growth should come from the hybrid cloud sector. For many companies, it's an ideal choice.

Choose hybrid cloud architecture, and your system has two main components.

  • Private: Your servers hold sensitive data that you need to protect. And your processors can handle some user load throughout a typical workday. But sometimes, your servers get overloaded, and you need added capacity.
     
  • Public: Some data, functions, and processes operate on a cloud run by a third party. That organization handles maintenance and crises, so downtime issues aren't your responsibility. If you need added capacity for private servers, you can push some things onto the cloud temporarily.

Analysts are fussy about the hybrid term, and some say only one enterprise in 10 has a true hybrid setup. The rest, they say, are just managing a multi-cloud environment. But if you have two distinct and independent systems, you're working within a true hybrid cloud. That’s different from hybrid IT, by the way, which is used to describe hybrids of cloud and on-prem apps.

Choosing the right vendor is critical, as about 19 percent of people who jump from public clouds back to private do so due to performance issues. But know that a hybrid structure should give you the power and flexibility you need to deliver reliable services around the clock. 

Hybrid Cloud Architecture Types 

All hybrid clouds should tackle the same basic tasks. But the way you configure them can either maximize efficiency or lead to headaches down the line.

When finished, your hybrid cloud should:

  • Connect. Multiple computers join together.
     
  • Scale. Add new resources and eliminate old ones quickly and easily.
     
  • Respond. Move workloads from one environment to another based on need.

Hybrid clouds, public clouds, and private clouds share the same basic cloud architecture system, which includes:

  • Connection. Multiple computers link through the use of a local area network, wide area network, or virtual private network.
     
  • Segmentations. Containers ensure clean processing power and make quick changes possible.
     
  • Automation. Software allocates resources based on demand.

In the past, you'd build a hybrid cloud with the help of middleware. That key piece of software would move resources between your environments via some type of preconfigured virtual private network. Some companies with simple cloud needs continue to choose this model.

But you can also build and deploy apps in containers on your cloud of choice. The app will never move from one cloud to another, but it might draw on resources that exist within the other app. You'll use the same platform and operating system in all clouds, so connections remain tight. But the apps are separate entities on separate clouds.

Plenty of hybrid architecture models exist, including:

  • Tiered hybrid. Deploy existing applications in the public cloud, but keep your computing in your private cloud. In time, as your confidence increases, you could move more applications to the public cloud.
     
  • Edge hybrid. Keep time-critical workloads within your local environment, while pushing monitoring and other forms of noncritical work into the cloud. Synchronize data so you never miss a thing.
     
  • Cloud bursting. Keep an application within your private computing environment, but when you experience a surge in demand, push the application to the cloud.

No matter what method you choose, know that you have no implicit control over how the public cloud is built. It's not under your direct control, and you can't tinker with it. Ensure that all of your hardware and software is compatible with your cloud vendor, so you don't waste a moment on conflicts. 

When Should You Consider a Hybrid Cloud Model? 

On the surface, a hybrid cloud comes with benefits almost any company wants. But drawbacks exist, and sometimes, companies benefit from sticking with the systems they know and trust.

Benefits associated with the hybrid cloud include:

  • Safety. Stash sensitive information within the private cloud and keep it away from prying eyes. That task is almost impossible if you are relying exclusively on public clouds.
     
  • Flexibility. Don't invest in more hardware to handle use surges. Rely on the cloud to handle problems as they arise.
     
  • Time savings. Let the cloud team tackle maintenance and repairs. You can focus on the work done on your private cloud.

Drawbacks of the hybrid cloud include:

  • Computing complexity. Both clouds must work together seamlessly. Poor testing and implementation lead to costly errors.
     
  • Broken promises. If your cloud provider can't keep the system running, you may have angry users.

No type of cloud computing is right for every company and every use case. You must determine if your company could truly benefit from a hybrid model before you start building. And when you do, you must ensure that you're getting all the value you can for your company and your consumers.

If you're considering a hybrid cloud model, we'd love to talk with you. Contact us to find out more about our cloud computing options, and find out how Okta always keeps your information safe and secure.

References

What Is Cloud Computing? Everything You Need to Know About the Cloud Explained. (December 2018). ZD Net.

What Is Cloud Computing? Amazon Web Services.

How to Calculate the True Cost Cloud Migration. (February 2017). Network World.

The Truth About Cloud Pricing. (November 2018). Forbes.

Introduction to the Private Cloud. (April 2020). IBM.

Hybrid Cloud. (October 2019). IBM.

Cloud System Management Markets, 2025 — Increasing Adoption of Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Strategies. (September 2020). PR Newswire.
Maximize Flexibility With Hybrid Cloud Commuting.  Intel.

Hybrid Cloud: What It Is, Why It Matters. (July 2014). ZD Net.

The Trouble With Cloud Repatriation. (August 2018). 451 Research.

What Are Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds? Microsoft.

Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Architecture Patterns. Google.

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