With the rapid advancements in cloud computing, data management and artificial intelligence (AI), hybrid cloud plays an integral role in next-generation IT infrastructure. Enterprise-level businesses rely on hybrid cloud solutions to run critical workloads from anywhere by combining and unifying on-premises, private cloud and public cloud environments.
Just like any other IT solution, adopting a successful hybrid cloud strategy starts with examining how this cloud computing architecture can drive overall business objectives. As an initial step, business and IT leaders need to review the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid cloud adoption to reap its benefits.
The rise of hybrid cloud
Before cloud computing, organizations had no other option but to store data and run their software applications within a traditional IT infrastructure setting—a form of centralized computing comprised of on-premises data centers, servers, networking hardware and enterprise software applications. As business processes became increasingly digitized, such on-premises setups required increasing amounts of compute power and physical space, which strained operations and increased costs as organizations had to purchase and self-manage all of their infrastructure in-house.
With the advent of enterprise-level cloud computing, organizations could embark on cloud migration journeys and outsource IT storage space and processing power needs to public clouds hosted by third-party cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.
Today, these providers offer virtualized resources ranging from on-demand, ready-to-use software applications to individual virtual machines (VMs) to complete enterprise-grade infrastructures and development platforms. Cloud-based managed services include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Public clouds operate on a pay-per-use basis, providing a cost-effective solution that limits wasting resources.
Private clouds—computing environments where all hardware and software resources are dedicated to and accessible only by a single organization—emerged primarily as a way for businesses to maintain strict control over IT infrastructure so they could protect sensitive data and meet privacy or regulatory compliance requirements. A private cloud setup is usually hosted in an organization’s on-premises data center. Still, it can also be hosted on a cloud service provider’s infrastructure or rented infrastructure in an offsite data center.
Hybrid cloud technology evolved out of the need to support and integrate computing, storage and services in different computing environments for more capacity and improved overall performance. Hybrid cloud seamlessly combines public cloud, private cloud and on-premises infrastructure into a single, flexible solution that offers portability for running applications and workloads.
Today, a hybrid multicloud approach has emerged that combines two or more public cloud services from different vendors and a private cloud environment. This modern infrastructure model enables cloud-native application development (e.g., microservices) and uses a container orchestration platform (e.g., Kubernetes, Docker Swarm) to automate the deployment of apps across all clouds. When effectively designed, a hybrid multicloud architecture can provide businesses with high-performance storage, a low-latency network, security and zero downtime.
The advantages of hybrid cloud
Below are some key advantages of utilizing a hybrid cloud strategy.
1. Agility and scalability
The primary advantage of adopting a hybrid cloud strategy is agility, which businesses need to adapt to change quickly and capture opportunities to drive business growth. Hybrid cloud supports agility by rapidly provisioning computer resources, whether those resources are housed in an on-premises data center or owned and maintained by a large public cloud provider in a multi-tenant data center.
By significantly boosting the delivery speed of IT resources, a hybrid cloud architecture helps businesses stay agile. For instance, hybrid cloud environments can deliver cloud storage capabilities in just minutes instead of the months it might take to build and install the additional physical hardware needed for data storage in a traditional IT environment.
Hybrid cloud also provides the agility to scale resources up or down quickly (both automatically and inexpensively) in response to unexpected traffic spikes. For instance, airline mobile apps are essential to modern personalized air travel. With a hybrid-cloud architecture, the airlines can deal with fluctuating volumes of data, such as during the busy holiday travel season, which requires scaling up resources and data in real-time to improve workflows and deliver better customer experiences.
Lastly, a hybrid cloud ecosystem delivers the agility that DevOps and other teams need to rapidly develop, test and launch applications in a cloud-based environment—another critical driver for business growth.
2. Control and flexibility
Organizations favor a hybrid cloud approach as it offers control and greater flexibility in the allocation of data and resources, resulting in various deployment options. For instance, an organization can exercise control over workloads with sensitive data (e.g., intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII), medical records) by storing them in a private cloud setting. Other workloads, such as those tied to mobile devices and applications, are often better suited for public cloud deployment. By migrating resource-intensive tasks, such as data processing and storage, to the public cloud, mobile apps can run more efficiently on devices with limited processing power and memory.
The migration of resources and workloads across hybrid cloud architecture is orchestrated by containers or encrypted application programming interfaces (APIs) that transfer data between cloud computing services or cloud services and on-premises applications. This centralized management system makes implementing security measures like encryption, automation, access control and endpoint data security easier.
4. Compliance and regulatory requirements
Staying on top of ever-evolving compliance and regulation rules is difficult because different laws require organizations to store and process data in specific geographic areas or under particular conditions. This challenge holds especially true for heavily regulated industries, such as oil and gas.
Hybrid cloud helps businesses comply with different international regulations, allowing them to decide how data is replicated and encrypted and where it needs to be stored. This cloud security feature makes it easier for companies to adhere to privacy and protection standards laid out by different countries and municipalities.
5. Cost optimization
A hybrid cloud strategy helps businesses optimize spending and lower costs, such as lowering capital expenditures tied to acquiring, upgrading and maintaining physical hardware or expanding the buildout of data centers.
With a hybrid cloud approach, DevOps and other teams can optimize their spending allocation across public and private clouds for the most cost-effective solution. Hybrid cloud’s pay-as-you-go pricing model helps teams avoid unnecessary spending and balance overall costs and revenue. A hybrid multicloud environment with one or more public clouds combined with private cloud services means no dependency on a single cloud provider and no cloud vendor lock-in, creating more cost-saving opportunities.
6. Business continuity and reliability
All enterprise organizations are concerned about business continuity—the readiness to maintain critical functions in an emergency. Business continuity planning includes disaster recovery (DR), which concentrates on restoring data access and IT infrastructure after a disaster, whether a network connectivity natural disaster or military attack that causes outages.
A hybrid cloud architecture aids disaster recovery by allowing organizations to back up important data by integrating local storage with cloud resources. This redundancy prevents data loss if one of the backups is comprised. Hybrid cloud also speeds disaster recovery as data is continuously replicated and refreshed, ensuring data integrity, accuracy, consistency and reliability.
7. Innovation and transformation
Undoubtedly, hybrid cloud models support business transformation and innovative new technologies. In a recent IBM Institute for Business Value report, Mastering Hybrid Cloud, the estimated value of hybrid cloud investments multiplies up to 3x, on average, when combined with other transformation levers. For some industries, the value multiplier is as high as 20x.
The flexibility, scalability and efficiency of hybrid cloud infrastructure supports application modernization, the process of updating legacy applications to cloud-native application environments, which is a crucial part of digital strategy for business transformation.
Besides modernizing legacy applications, businesses are eager to harness the power of generative AI and machine learning capabilities for customer service, automation and more. Generative AI relies on big data, massive computing power, advanced security and rapid scalability—all advantages of hybrid cloud.
Disadvantages of hybrid cloud
While hybrid cloud has many clear advantages, organizations still need to weigh its disadvantages when considering the best way to leverage this modern infrastructure model.
Initial implementation of hybrid cloud architecture can be daunting from a start-up cost perspective and a design perspective. Before embarking on a hybrid cloud journey, organizations must thoroughly evaluate their business needs and work with a public cloud service provider or supplier who can help translate those needs into the best hybrid cloud implementation approach.
2. Technical complexity
As enterprises continue migrating their applications and workloads to a hybrid multicloud environment, integration and management become more complex. According to recent estimates, today’s organizations are running up to at least 10 clouds, which makes seamless integration, data synchronization and robust security across multiple environments an ongoing challenge.
Overcoming hybrid cloud complexity requires a clear hybrid cloud strategy built around a single hybrid cloud platform architecture that provides a fabric of cloud services.
In a complex hybrid multicloud environment, DevSecOps (development, security and operations) teams can have difficulty obtaining a comprehensive view of all the systems, applications and processes that span on-premises data centers, multiple clouds (private and public), software as a service (SaaS) applications, and applications and data running in IoT and edge computing environments.
Organizations can overcome visibility issues by using hybrid cloud observability software and platforms. These cloud management tools enhance visibility and control by providing a unified platform with real-time monitoring capabilities that break down silos. For instance, by tracking their IT infrastructure components’ performance, availability and health, teams can analyze usage patterns and detect issues like latency caused by increased data volume or resource sharing.
4. Vendor management and cost control
Hybrid multicloud environments require managing different vendor services. Besides using multiple clouds, a typical enterprise organization also relies on numerous vendor-related SaaS applications, storage capabilities and other services and products. Managing multi-vendor services and controlling costs requires visibility across a single integrated platform so IT leaders can track resource allocations and manage cloud-related costs.
Creating a hybrid cloud strategy
The IBM report Mastering Hybrid Cloud indicated that a hybrid cloud approach yields 2.5x more value than a single public cloud alone. By incorporating workload portability, orchestration and management across multiple computing environments, hybrid cloud architecture delivers the flexibility, scalability and security businesses need to innovate and remain agile. As a leader in hybrid cloud solutions, IBM is helping companies harness the many advantages and benefits of hybrid cloud while overcoming the complexities of modern IT infrastructure to create a successful strategy.