The days of defining cloud computing as just “the cloud” are over. The definition of “cloud” has changed and fractured. Cloud services can now be deployed as public, private or both. One of the more recent models, the hybrid cloud, mixes public and private cloud services.

Major providers, such as Red Hat, Google and Amazon Web Services, will also beef up their hybrid offerings to embrace an ever increasing hybrid cloud world, and better compete with more entrenched hybrid cloud players, such as Microsoft Azure (read our Azure review).

Most recently, Google rolled out a beta version of its hybrid model, Google Cloud Platform. That highlights the emerging trend of trying to strike a balance between the modern public cloud and the on-premises model. At first, hybrid cloud may sound like another marketing term. Further complicating the problem is that the definition varies, making it even more hazy.

What Is Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid cloud is something of a catchphrase. The term is misleading because it was coined by vendors and providers. That term gets even muddier and more vague as major providers, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, all approach hybrid cloud differently.

To put it simply: hybrid cloud is a mash-up of public and private cloud deployments, operating as separate entities, with the ability to manage them as one. Hybrid cloud can get more complicated than that — a lot more complicated. That’s in layman’s terms, though. There are multiple ways to build a hybrid cloud, each offering its own pros and cons.

We won’t attempt to detail them here because we could go on about them forever. The good news is that major Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers are making hybrid cloud easier by extending their public infrastructure to better integrate with private, on-premises services.

For those interested, a good place to start is to see how your public provider approaches a hybrid cloud architecture. For example, Gartner says “hybrid cloud computing refer to policy-based coordinated service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services.”

You could think of hybrid cloud as connecting a public cloud service to your private data center, with the secret ingredient being the management solution that effectively merges the two.


Hybrid Cloud Benefits

Assuming that a hybrid cloud approach combines the best elements of multiple deployment models, the biggest benefit is flexibility.

The hybrid cloud model is scalable across many use cases. The private cloud component provides the lowest latency and, perhaps, the best security for sensitive information.

Alternatively, when combined with a public cloud component, the extra capacity or compute power is there to remove any burden from the private cloud. That could be during a seasonal spike or with archival data that doesn’t need to be accessed frequently.

In that way, a hybrid cloud helps mitigate cloud bursting, a scenario where cloud storage demands exceed the capacity of private cloud resources.

Another benefit is cost savings, but that depends on configuration and scale. Because a hybrid cloud is scalable, it can be deployed, reduced and redeployed as necessary. That’s ideal for peak times throughout the year, when it’s cheaper to pay for additional cloud services temporarily than invest in a private cloud network that may remain unused in off-peak times.

Lastly, hybrid cloud maximizes control. You get what you want, and you pay for what you want. Hybrid cloud affords you the ability to design a cloud computing approach that fits specific storage, compute and workload needs.

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