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Hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages explained

Hybrid cloud is touted as providing the best of both private and public clouds, but this type of infrastructure comes with its own pros and cons, such as flexibility and complexity.

There are numerous hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages that a business must consider before embarking on...

this type of project.

Let's break down hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages by starting with the positives. The principal benefits of a hybrid cloud include flexibility and cost control.

By merging a private and public cloud to form a hybrid cloud infrastructure, an organization can utilize services and deploy the appropriate workloads to the cloud. For example, organizations can deploy a mission-critical workload with serious security or compliance requirements to the private cloud where the business exercises complete control over the infrastructure and software stack.

At the same time, organizations can deploy other workloads, such as web servers, databases and test environments, to the public cloud. This can be particularly attractive when businesses expect those workloads to have limited operational lifecycles, as they can be easily removed from service. This enables organizations to pay only for the resources and services that they actually use -- pay as you go -- rather than paying for the entire infrastructure, as with a private cloud.

Scalability, deployment are advantages of hybrid cloud

For example, a business that needs the benefits of occasional or infrequent big data analytics projects probably wouldn't make the capital investment in hundreds -- or even thousands -- of additional servers, storage and other infrastructure to make a large Hadoop cluster available in the private cloud. Instead, the business would likely create that cluster and commit large data sets to the public cloud, which can offer far more scalability.

Ramp up the Hadoop cluster as large as it needs to be, run the big data query, collect and visualize the results -- or pull the results back to a reporting and visualization tool in the private cloud -- and then shut down the public cloud Hadoop cluster. This way, the organization only pays for the resources it actually uses in the public cloud.

The ins and outs of hybrid cloud

Compare hybrid cloud and private cloud to determine which model will best meet your needs. If flexibility is a priority, evaluate different hybrid cloud providers and their offerings. Once you decide on a product, overcome these common deployment challenges with our expert tips.

Similarly, hybrid clouds offer companies the ability to take costs and capabilities into consideration when making workload deployment and migration decisions. For example, a business might deploy one workload to the private cloud for additional security, and then deploy another workload to the public cloud where it's less expensive. The business could also share resources between clouds -- such as running a workload in the private cloud and using a data storage instance in the public cloud -- or even migrate that workload between public and private clouds as resource costs and network traffic levels fluctuate.

Investment and integration don't have to be disadvantages

Now, we'll look at the downside of the hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages debate. In spite of the advantages of hybrid cloud and the potential to enjoy the best of both worlds, hybrid clouds can be complex entities to implement and maintain.

In spite of the advantages of hybrid cloud and the potential to enjoy the best of both worlds, hybrid clouds can be complex entities to implement and maintain.

For example, constructing a private cloud can be a remarkably challenging endeavor by itself. It requires a serious commitment of local infrastructure, such as servers, storage and network capabilities. The organization must also have a staff capable of managing complex software stacks, such as OpenStack and Apache Cloud Stack, along with the database, security -- such as login and encryption -- and other supplemental tools needed to build the private cloud.

A business can potentially overcome the capital investment of a private cloud by using a hosted private cloud. But the use of a third-party to host a private cloud can affect the direct control and ownership benefits that the business might require.

That private cloud must then be integrated with at least one public cloud. Integration means that the underlying software stacks between the public and private clouds must share enough compatibility to work together. Even when integration is initially successful, any changes to the public cloud provider -- such as an API update or new service -- might require costly, time-consuming changes to the hybrid cloud.

Ultimately, hybrid cloud integration can be extremely difficult to achieve completely, and it is further complicated by the growing desire for integration with multiple clouds to offer a greater range of public cloud options and eliminate public cloud vendor lock-in. Complexity and integration challenges are among the most important reasons that hybrid cloud projects are delayed or fail outright.

The advantages of a hybrid cloud infrastructure

Integration challenges are best addressed with comprehensive experimentation and measured adoption based on the work of knowledgeable cloud architects and other IT staff. An IT staff with expertise in private and hybrid cloud construction is in the best position to design and implement a hybrid cloud. Implementing a hybrid cloud in phases over time can help build confidence and buy-in from business leaders and users. Start small, prove value and then build out over time.

Managing a hybrid cloud can also introduce additional complexity. For example, hybrid clouds must be monitored for security issues. Not only is it important to maintain uniform user authentication and access -- such as identity and access management -- and antimalware postures in a hybrid environment, there are lesser understood vulnerabilities to consider. For example, some API traffic exchanges between private and public clouds might not be encrypted by default; this requires an additional investment in encryption.

Other management concerns might include orchestration in the hybrid cloud. For example, organizations might require an additional or alternative tool or framework to support workload deployment and migration in a hybrid environment, and that tool or framework must also be able to make more intelligent deployment decisions. A hybrid cloud orchestration tool must be able to determine deployment targets based on costs, security, traffic levels, the availability or downtime of public clouds, and other criteria that common orchestration tools don't need to consider in a local data center.

Maximize hybrid cloud advantages and overcome disadvantages

The business will probably need to identify and select a new management tool or use an emerging third-party service that is capable of providing this suite of capabilities in a hybrid cloud environment. A single tool can be easier to learn and use rather than alternating between multiple tools for different purposes -- e.g., one for physical infrastructure, one for a private cloud and a public cloud provider's tool. Such consolidation reduces the possibility of errors and oversights, boosting security and making management more efficient.

It might seem like the drawbacks outweigh the benefits when it comes to hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages, but it's something that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

This was last published in April 2018

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