What is hybrid cloud and why does it matter?


5 November 2015

By: Vincent in’t Veld

While not the only barometer of the embryonic, the escalating and the potentially important, Google Trends does illustrate evolving developments better than most. Search for the term ‘hybrid cloud’ on Trends and you’ll see a mountain face of public interest rise from sea level in early 2010 to today’s current peak.

There have been significant moments along the way, notably with the inclusion of the term in Gartner’s forecast of the top 10 strategic technology trends of 2014. Yet interest has never been greater than it is today.

For those still not sold on the idea, here’s a quick primer.

Hybrid cloud refers to an IT deployment model that combines a data centre or private cloud with public cloud from a commercial provider such as Amazon, Microsoft or Softlayer. The former is private infrastructure used by a single organisation behind a firewall. The latter is public infrastructure. Workloads move between these private and public clouds as required over an encrypted connection.

So that answers the technical ‘what’, but how about the more important ‘why’? There are lots of good reasons to explore hybrid cloud. Key among them is what might be termed the ‘best of both worlds’ argument – the security and control of private combined with the agility and flexibility of the public. And there are many sources of expertise willing to make the case, too. For example, there’s this from a February 2015 whitepaper by analyst firm IDC. In it, IDC’s Glen Duncan wrote:

“Hybrid clouds are more than just the middle ground between public and private. Hybrid clouds, when properly designed, integrate compute, storage, security, networking, applications and management into a common, highly orchestrated on-premise/off-premise "workspace" that enables IT operations and application developers to leverage the speed and agility of public cloud in concert with the existing tools, systems, and policies being used in the enterprise data centre.”

So if that covers the ‘what’ and ‘why’, let us move onto the ‘where’ to build your hybrid cloud. Glen Duncan went on to argue in his IDC paper that colocation is “an important element of the hybrid cloud story”. Naturally, we agree. Especially, when you consider that one of the major success factors for hybrid cloud is getting the connectivity between the clouds and your data centres right, in terms of performance, throughput and security.

A point that is validated in a recent IDG survey, which stated 90% of European organisations identify connectivity between on premise and cloud-based workloads as the biggest barrier to hybrid cloud adoption.

So if connectivity is the major concern, why is colocation the answer? The best way to answer this is to look at the alternatives. The internet is one option but it suffers latency, throughput and security issues.

Another is to extend your wide area network, but this has both scalability and cost issues – especially when you are running high volume workloads and need to connect to multiple clouds.

By colocating your private infrastructure within the same data centre as the access points to the leading public cloud platforms, you eliminate the above connectivity concerns, enabling you to build an efficient, future-proof IT infrastructure solution with the service level agreements you need.