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Explaining the hybrid cloud, advantages and disadvantages

Data management is an essential part of any industrial IoT deployment, and using cloud computing to gather insights on big data can amount to huge rewards for enterprises. But figuring out where to store all of this data is an important and difficult decision for any company. According to IBM, there are five defined cloud deployment models, from a private cloud on-premises to a public cloud service with a cloud service provider. The hybrid cloud offers added flexibility by preventing companies from having to choose just one of these five models.

source: IBM
source: IBM

What is a hybrid cloud?

The hybrid cloud is the combination of a public cloud provider (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) with a private cloud platform — one that’s designed for use by a single organization, according to ZDNet. The public and private cloud infrastructures, which operate independently of each other, communicate over an encrypted connection, using technology that allows for the portability of data and applications.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines the hybrid cloud as “a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models.”

It is important to note that public and private clouds in a hybrid cloud arrangement are distinct and independent elements. This allows organizations to store protected or privileged data on a private cloud, while retaining the ability to leverage computational resources from the public cloud to run applications that rely on this data. This increases security by ensuring that only data that needs to be analyzed goes to a more “powerful” public server, while the other massive amounts of sensitive data stays in a public cloud.

Hybrid clouds mainly work on an infrastructure and application level, according to IBM. On an infrastructure layer, a hybrid cloud is the combination of virtual machines from different cloud services. On a software as a service (SaaS) layer, a hybrid cloud describes an application setup with components in different SaaS offerings or existing applications within the data center of an enterprise.

Since a hybrid cloud is a combination of different clouds, be it private, public or a mix, it can be a challenge to integrate the different cloud services and technologies.

How it is deployed

According to Interoute, hybrid cloud models can be implemented in a number of ways:

  • Separate cloud providers team up to provide both private and public services as an integrated service
  • Individual cloud providers offer a complete hybrid package
  • Organizations who manage their private clouds themselves sign up to a public cloud service which they then integrate into their infrastructure

According to Boldleaks, a cloud is hybrid when a company:

  • Uses a public development platform that sends data to a private cloud or a data center–based application.
  • Leverages a number of SaaS (Software as a Service) applications and moves data between private or data center resources.
  • Designs a business process as a service so that it can connect with environments as though they were a single environment.

Advantages of hybrid cloud

There are numerous benefits to using a hybrid cloud instead of a more singular approach, whether that be using only a public or private cloud. Here are a few benefits outlined by ZDNet:

  • On-premises, private infrastructure that’s directly accessible
  • Not being pushed through the public internet. This greatly reduces access time and latency in comparison to public cloud services.
  • Ability to have on-premises computational infrastructure that can support the average workload for your business, while retaining the ability to leverage the public cloud for failover circumstances in which the workload exceeds the computational power of the private cloud component.
  • Building out the private end of a hybrid cloud also allows for flexibility in server designs.
source: IntelCanada/Youtube
source: IntelCanada/Youtube

Here are additional advantages according to IBM:

Capacity expansion

When the incremental cost of adding capacity on-premises is high—think upgrading power and cooling in a data center to accommodate additional racks or building a whole new data center—a hybrid approach is a viable alternative. But going hybrid doesn’t have to impact existing operations; selecting a hosted cloud that supports bare metal and extending the on-premises network could allow existing technologies, tools and techniques to be reused.

Dev/test

Dev/test workloads are highly elastic; they are regularly stood up and torn down, and the number of instances at any one time varies widely based on the development phase. Placing these workloads on the hosted cloud allows you to scale capacity to match demand and pay only for what is used.

Planned temporary need

Most needs are known in advance: new product launches, holidays, peak season and so forth. When given time to plan and execute, most applications can be scaled. Much like dev/test, scaling the workload to the hosted cloud enables tailoring the hardware to the problem being solved and paying for what you need when you use it, turning a large capital expense into a smaller operational expense.

Network optimization

Hosted cloud provides the opportunity to shift the heavy lifting of the network off-premises and, in the process, improve the availability, scalability and reliability of the connection by leveraging the provider’s network investment.

Disadvantages of hybrid cloud

source: IntelCanada/Youtube
source: IntelCanada/Youtube

But like all approaches to cloud storage and data analytics, hybrid computing has a number of disadvantages. Here are some of the challenges that arise when using a hybrid cloud model, according to Actifio.

Cost 

While the public cloud can offer an attractive option for its flexibility and relatively low cost to operate, building a private enterprise cloud requires significant expenditure and can become expensive very quickly with all the physical hardware necessary.

Security

Cloud computing is not inherently any less secure than traditional computing, and in fact faces fewer attacks, there are still considerations to take into account when building out a hybrid cloud. The proper precautions must be taken to ensure data is properly protected and that control is maintained by the right people. Additionally, depending on the industry, there may be certain regulatory requirements that prohibit data from being stored off-site, which would prevent the use of a public cloud entirely.

Data and application integration

Applications and data exist in a symbiotic relationship, with each one being useless without the other. Oftentimes they’re chained together. So when considering where to store each of them, it’s essential to ask whether the infrastructure they’re placed on matters. For example, if an application lives in a private cloud and it’s data lives in an on-premise data center, is the application built in order to access the data remotely? Technologies like copy data virtualization can decouple data from infrastructure and make this problem less of a headache.

Compatibility

Compatibility cross infrastructure can prove itself to be a major issue when building a hybrid cloud. With dual levels of infrastructure, a private cloud that the company controls, and a public one that the company doesn’t, the chances are that they will be running different stacks.

Networking 

Will very active applications be living in the cloud? It’s necessary to consider the bandwidth usage that this could take up on the network, and whether or not it could cause problems in bottlenecking other applications.

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