Hybrid clouds are infrastructure combinations of two or more clouds, such as on-premises private, hosted private, or public, that can be centrally managed to enable interoperability for various use cases. Use cases can include application portability and access to shared services, for example.
Hybrid clouds vary in terms of maturity of interoperability and depend on the heterogeneity between the two or more clouds integrated. Clouds based on the same compute or network infrastructure standards can offer more integrated services natively, such as seamless portability of workloads and applications, as well as common networking and security frameworks. However, in the majority of cases, integration is achieved on a use-case basis.
In many cases, the term hybrid cloud is broadly used to reflect architecture frameworks that aim to achieve some integration between non-cloud (but cloud-inspired), on-premises environments, and public clouds.
Integrations can cover different domains, such as specific layers of compute infrastructure. Integrations can include moving a Kubernetes-based application between environments, such as networking and security. The result is to establish secure connectivity, user access, or policies per workloads between environments. These hybrid cloud architecture frameworks and operating models are better defined with the more encompassing term hybrid IT, which also includes multicloud scenarios.
In both hybrid cloud and hybrid IT environments, consistent management can be a challenge, typically due to heterogeneity and complexity. While newer technology standards enable some use cases for specific layers by abstracting the infrastructure dependencies (a good example is Kubernetes), the need for platform/cloud-agnostic operations tooling is still paramount in hybrid IT and hybrid cloud architectures.
A core concept of hybrid IT tools is the capability to provide consistency through central management and automation. Consistency is enabled by APIs conducting the translation between different standards and allowing for common governance and workflows.
When it comes to extending on-premises environments to public clouds, a key motivation and advantage is being able to elastically use resources when needed in public clouds to meet market demand, scaling up and down. This is known as cloud bursting. Customer-facing applications, and specifically e-commerce ones, are great examples for cloud bursting, with users being able to benefit from rapid scaling at periods of high demand, such as holidays. Using public clouds can also contribute to easier increase of availability for its end users due to the distributed nature of the infrastructure (geolocation zone options) that can assure performance as well as bring apps closer to their intended users.
An important driver behind the formation of hybrid cloud and hybrid IT architectures is the access to public cloud services. Organizations have been more and more extending their on-premises environments to the public clouds in order for their development teams to benefit from platform offerings (PaaS) and reduce time to market when building applications.
This multicloud ecosystem of services and the flexibility it offers for organizations to build and deploy application components anywhere drives the need for more and better integration and control across different environments.
With the right operational model and tooling to control costs, hybrid clouds and hybrid IT architectures can offer cost efficiencies, especially when it comes to reducing capital expenses for infrastructure on-premises. Conversely, managing costs across hybrid environments can be a challenge without the right tools and process in place.
Learn more about Cisco products and solutions related to hybrid clouds.