What Is Hybrid Cloud?

A hybrid cloud environment refers to a storage and computing infrastructure composed of a mixture of private cloud services, a public cloud, and/or on-premises infrastructure. The various resources are orchestrated to work together as seamlessly as possible.

With a hybrid cloud, an organization has the opportunity to obtain the “best of both worlds.” They can use cloud services where it works best while keeping certain operations within their own on-premises network infrastructure or inside a private cloud. This opens the way for greater flexibility. There are several types of hybrid clouds, and regardless of the solution you choose, it is important to ensure the security of your hybrid cloud environment.

Hybrid Cloud Architecture: How Do Hybrid Clouds Work?

The concept underlying hybrid cloud systems is that they are a combination of public and private cloud tools. This enables an organization to enhance their flexibility as they decide the best deployment of their storage and computing power. If, for example, one application requires more computing power than another and the on-premises data center has more resources than the cloud side, the company has the freedom to move that operation into their in-house data center—or vice versa.

A hybrid cloud system may also incorporate Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). With IaaS, you essentially purchase an off-premises computer, including a central processing unit (CPU), hard drive space, and random access memory (RAM). You can be selective regarding the parameters of your setup, choosing the features you need to achieve business objectives while not overspending on features that would be redundant or excessive.

When linking the facets of a hybrid cloud, resources can be connected using a local-area network (LAN) or a wide-area network (WAN). You can also use a virtual private network (VPN) or application programming interface (API). The various resources and environments are controlled using management software, which enables the IT team to both keep the hybrid cloud system secure and adapt its function to best fit the needs of the organization.

Types of Environments Found in Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid cloud architecture can be composed of several different cloud environment types. Depending on the requirements of a company’s IT system, they may choose to use a combination of different types of hybrid cloud computing resources.

Public Cloud

Public cloud refers to an IT setup, like OpenStack, in which the computing and infrastructure are handled by a third party. The resources are shared between more than one organization over a public internet connection.

On-premises Private Cloud

With a private, on-premises cloud, the cloud infrastructure is used by only one organization, which may have more than one business unit making use of the resources. The equipment that comprises the cloud is kept on-premises.

Hosted Private Cloud

A hosted private cloud exists off-premises, which means it is in a different physical location than the company campus. It is managed and hosted by a third party.

On-premises (Legacy)

With an on-premises legacy setup, the infrastructure is kept on-premises and is supported by an internal data center. However, an on-premises legacy setup can be tied to cloud hosting services as well.

Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-cloud: What's the Difference?

It can be easy to confuse hybrid clouds and multi-clouds because both involve multiple cloud solutions being used at the same time. However, there are key differences.

Hybrid clouds always involve both private and public solutions. On the other hand, a multi-cloud always involves more than one public cloud, but it can also include virtual and physical infrastructure.

In a multi-cloud model, multiple clouds are assigned different tasks. However, the individual components that make up a hybrid cloud usually work together. This results in processes and data coexisting and intertwining within the hybrid environment, while with a multi-cloud setup, each process tends to stay within its own cloud.

 

Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud

For many organizations, a hybrid cloud is a superior option when compared to other cloud- or non-cloud-based solutions. Some of the benefits include scalability, security, cost, control, and speed.

Scalability

A primary obstacle posed by a private network is the expense involved in establishing, maintaining, and expanding your infrastructure. Before cloud services were available, a company had to wait until it had significant funds—enough to purchase new physical machines—before it could add to their IT system. 

With public cloud options, it is easier to add more computational power and run more complex and resource-demanding applications, simply by using a hybrid cloud setup. There is no need to wait until you can afford to buy several more servers—you can use the resources provided by the cloud service.

Security

If you make use of a hybrid cloud infrastructure, your organization can take advantage of the security that comes with a private cloud, as well as the power and options that typically come with public clouds. The data that gets stored within a private cloud environment will most likely still need to be sent to the public cloud, where it is processed and used by applications, analytics systems, and other processes. 

However, with a hybrid cloud environment, it is fairly straightforward to use encryption methods to ensure the data stays safe throughout this process. With a hybrid cloud, the IT team has several options for making the transfer and storage of data safer.

Cost

Hybrid clouds often help lower long-term costs, freeing up some headroom in an organization’s budget. Because it is easier and less expensive to scale a hybrid cloud upward, the company saves money during the growth process. In addition, because scaling is more accessible, the organization can grow sooner and therefore generate more income sooner. With purely on-site storage, growth can be hindered, which results in higher opportunity costs due to the company missing out on potential income.

Another important factor is that when you store crucial data in the private section of a hybrid cloud environment, you can reduce the potentially crushing costs of migrating digital assets between two different cloud providers. If you are using a multi-cloud setup, for example, you may have to pay termination fees before you migrate your data from one silo to another. Some cloud services also charge an additional fee to move your data. A hybrid cloud infrastructure precludes these expenses.

Control

Control is one of the primary benefits of a hybrid cloud environment. Instead of putting all facets of your IT infrastructure in the hands of a third-party provider, you can customize the private side of your cloud model so that it suits the needs of your organization. You could allocate other sectors of your hybrid cloud to handle less critical or time-sensitive tasks.

Also, with a hybrid model, it is easier to make adjustments as to which parts of the infrastructure should handle each application and process. With a multi-cloud or purely on-site solution, you may have to ink new agreements with providers or purchase new equipment to gain adequate agility. A hybrid cloud gives you the control you need to avoid these kinds of costly or complicated processes.

Speed

Another advantage of maintaining control over your network resources is enhanced speed. While a hybrid cloud environment is not, by itself, quicker than a public or multi-cloud setup, it allows IT teams to optimize the network in ways that reduce latency and simplify the data transfer process. Also, with a hybrid environment, you can use the power of edge computing, which can make your entire IT infrastructure faster.

While public clouds are forced to share their resources across their portfolio of users, the function of private clouds can be custom designed so the resources are used in the most efficient way possible. This kind of enhanced control can save critical processing time, particularly if each application is set in a sector of the environment that is specifically optimized for that application’s operation.

Are Hybrid Clouds Secure?

When properly protected, hybrid cloud infrastructure is not only safe but it can also help boost the entire company’s security profile. 

However, when choosing a security solution for a hybrid cloud environment, you need to ensure you can maintain visibility and control over the network, as well as the security options used to protect it. In some industries, compliance and governance are other key factors, particularly in the financial, government, healthcare, and other sectors controlled by legislated regulations.

Fortinet Hybrid Cloud Solution

Many companies are undergoing the process of transitioning from an on-premises data center to an option that incorporates cloud infrastructure. A hybrid cloud security solution provided by Fortinet can help make the process easier and safer. The Fortinet hybrid cloud solution provides you with secure data and application migration, regardless of how much you have to move. You also get more reliable connectivity between two sites, as well as an extension of your IT framework all across your WAN.

With the Fortinet hybrid cloud solution, your organization can benefit from:

  1. Enhanced control due to a centralized management structure that allows you to apportion resources how you see fit
  2. Connectivity between sites via a VPN
  3. Complete visibility into and control over the security system and all alerts
  4. Automatic scaling of your network security system

With the Fortinet hybrid cloud solution, your organization can scale, tweak, and improve its operations in a safer, more productive environment.