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Hybrid cloud vs. private cloud: What's the difference?

Private clouds, which are owned and operated by the business, provide security, but they have certain limitations. Hybrid clouds incorporate both private and public cloud deployments.

When it comes to choosing between hybrid cloud vs. private cloud, there are important differences and benefits...

organizations must know.

Hybrid clouds represent something of a Holy Grail for enterprise IT and business leaders. Hybrid clouds seek to merge the control and self-service capabilities of private clouds with the scalability and extensive service menu of public clouds. The resulting hybrid cloud can enable organizations to deploy and migrate applications with conscientious tradeoffs of security, compliance, resilience, performance, scale and cost-effectiveness.

However, hybrid clouds can be troublesome to construct and orchestrate effectively. Before you embark on deciding between hybrid cloud vs. private cloud, consider some of the issues and questions related to these cloud technologies.

Benefits and limitations of a private cloud

A private cloud is a cloud deployment that's owned and operated by the business itself, and all of the resources and services provided by the private cloud are dedicated to the exclusive use of the business.

A private cloud might be deployed in an on-premises data center. This means the business is responsible for purchasing, installing, configuring and maintaining the entire hardware and software infrastructure it needs to support the cloud and its users.

Master hybrid cloud adoption and implementation

What are the hybrid cloud advantages and disadvantages? Businesses should consider things like flexibility and complexity before embarking on this type of project.

What are the major hybrid cloud providers? Learn how Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, VMware Cloud on AWS, Cisco and Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure Stack differ.

How do you overcome hybrid cloud deployment challenges? Some of the fundamental issues include workload distribution, public cloud selection, security, data protection and management complexity.

Check out all the articles in this series for detailed answers to these questions and more.

A private cloud might also be hosted by a third-party service provider. In this case, the provider is responsible for the infrastructure, and the business simply makes exclusive use of the desired resources using a secure private network, such as a virtual private network.

Private clouds can involve significant effort and investment, but they are often the preferred approach for organizations that need the benefits of cloud computing -- such as flexibility, user self-service and automation -- as well as the ability to maintain control over the computing environment. Examples include government entities and financial institutions.

These examples include organizations that want greater flexibility and less reliance on traditional IT, yet face high levels of security and regulatory compliance that mandate strict limits on where admins can operate and use data and workloads. Private clouds can be an excellent choice in these cases, and admins can implement them on a limited scale or phase them into the business over time.

Private, hybrid and public cloud comparison
Compare the characteristics of private, hybrid and public cloud deployments.

Private clouds offer significant benefits, but they also have limitations. The business bears the costs of a private cloud infrastructure -- either directly on premises or indirectly through hosted providers -- so the amount of infrastructure and resources is inevitably limited.

For example, a typical private cloud might include 100 servers and several terabytes of storage. But suppose the business wants to run big data analytics projects. Analytics in a Hadoop cluster can potentially involve hundreds or even thousands more servers and far more storage -- hundreds of terabytes, or perhaps even petabytes -- for complex data sets. Yet a typical analytical query might only require several minutes of compute time.

Few companies would justify the sheer infrastructure investment they need to build out a private cloud for such occasional or sporadic use cases. Thus, private clouds are typically limited in scope due to practical economic limitations.

In addition, the effort, expertise and software components organizations need to implement cloud services can be limited in private clouds. For example, a private cloud requires a complex software stack, such as OpenStack or Apache CloudStack. Such stacks build on existing virtualization platforms to provide the self-service, automation, ticketing, storage and compute instance management, load balancing, scaling, and other features and services organizations need to make a cloud work.

However, implementing, securing and maintaining such complex stacks and services and supporting middleware, such as databases, requires an IT staff with proven expertise with the desired stack. This might demand more IT staff, not less.

This prospect of greater infrastructure and staff investment has limited the adoption of on-premises private clouds. By comparison, public clouds provide a far more scalable infrastructure, a richer menu of cloud services and a pay-as-you-go cost model that private clouds can't match.

Hybrid cloud vs. private cloud? Get the best of both worlds

A business that needs security and direct control over a private cloud but that also desires the scalability and rich services of a public cloud might opt to implement a hybrid cloud. This way, the business can blend a local or hosted private cloud deployment with an available public cloud, such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and others. When properly implemented, a hybrid cloud establishes a single, uniform environment that handles resources, services and workloads seamlessly across the two distinctly different clouds.

A business that needs security and direct control over a private cloud but that also desires the scalability and rich services of a public cloud might opt to implement a hybrid cloud.

For example, a workload that requires closer security and monitoring might be deployed in the private cloud, whereas a temporary test and dev workload or everyday web server might be deployed to a public cloud. In addition, admins can migrate workloads and data between the two clouds.

A workload in the private cloud might be migrated to the public cloud where greater scalability is available and the costs of running the workload in the public cloud can be lower. Admins might also migrate a workload to handle periods of excess network traffic or because of other factors relevant to the business. Those workloads could also be migrated back to the private cloud as factors continue to change over time. In effect, hybrid cloud vs. private cloud enables an enterprise to select the best deployment environment for each workload in a dynamic manner.

Still, creating a hybrid cloud is fraught with challenges. For example, public and on-premises private clouds must be able to communicate. This typically requires a private cloud to use compatible public cloud APIs. This can impose some level of vendor lock-in. It's possible to architect a private cloud that can interoperate with more than one public cloud, but that can dramatically increase the complexity of the private cloud and the resulting hybrid cloud environment.

As another example, the hybrid cloud must be supported with suitable management tools. Ideally, a single tool should be selected and implemented to provide common visibility and control over both private and public cloud resources. Such a move might mean discarding existing tools, resulting in a new learning curve, as well as requiring the development of new policies and practices to help avoid errors, maintain security and manage public cloud costs.

This was last published in April 2018

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