An organisation that wants to move company processes, applications and data into the cloud first has to decide how those apps and data will be hosted and distributed. Businesses that want to use cloud computing have a choice between using a private or public cloud infrastructure, or a mixture of the two in the form of a "hybrid" cloud.
This HP whitepaper looks at the benefits of using hybrid cloud services and comes after previous HP whitepapers looking at the benefits of public and private cloud architectures.
Read more: The benefits of public cloud computing
Read more: The benefits of private cloud computing
Hybrid cloud infrastructures
If organisations are not sure whether to fully rely on either a private or public cloud solution, depending on what type of industry they are in, they can instead choose to use a hybrid cloud deployment. A hybrid cloud is an option for companies that have already adopted private clouds or for those not sure about putting too much data or high numbers of apps into the public cloud.
IT industry analyst Gartner reckons the hybrid cloud model will become a reality in 50 per cent of enterprises by 2017. As Gartner says, the focus of cloud adoption is now gradually moving away from cost factors - it can be cheaper to use most cloud services - to one of business agility.
A good half-way house
Hybrid cloud solutions are a good half-way house, as most organisations at the moment are not yet ready to outsource their entire IT operations into the public cloud, although a number of smaller ones already have.
SoHo (small office, home office) operations and many SMEs can quite easily rely on the public cloud to host and deliver email, desktop productivity suites, data storage and security services. But it can get quite complicated for those organisations that need to securely manage and store large amounts of data generated from applications like CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) and customer financial information.
A hybrid model can offer the first safe steps into the cloud for organisations that know there are benefits to be enjoyed, but are unable, for a variety of reasons, to move as quickly as others. As we will see in this HP whitepaper, a hybrid cloud adoption model can help organisations enjoy scalability, flexibility and overall business agility as a result.
Hybrid cloud flexibility
As the name suggests, a hybrid cloud comprises both private (internal) and public (external) cloud servers and services. For instance, a business might run an application primarily on a private cloud using internal servers, but rely on a public cloud via externally hosted servers to accommodate spikes in usage. A hybrid cloud, therefore, can deliver additional flexibility and scalability to businesses employing private clouds, but which at times also require additional on-demand scalability in response to unexpected surges in business workload or at recurring times of peak usage.
Customised rules and policies set out by the organisation can govern areas such as security and the underlying infrastructure, with tasks automatically allocated to private internal or external clouds as necessary. Businesses can house less-sensitive data in a public cloud and more sensitive data in-house, where access control measures - such as authentication, encryption and data confidentiality - can be more easily implemented and controlled for greater security.
Such a hybrid solution is chosen for some e-commerce operations, for instance. The work of processing the orders can benefit from the scalable characteristics of public cloud resources. Meanwhile, legal regulations, that strictly govern how personal and payment information can be handled, dictate that sensitive data stays "on-premise" in a private cloud.
This hybrid solution therefore places the order processing and transactional front-end of the "shop" in the public cloud, while it keeps the payment and account management services protected in a private cloud, using internal servers and data storage devices that can only be accessed by the e-commerce organisation.
A flexible solution
Employing a hybrid cloud strategy allows organisations to use different cloud delivery services for specific applications. For instance, a public cloud may be a more cost-effective service for the computer-intensive task of processing analytics, but the data would remain local, or private, to comply with regulations.
And because a hybrid delivery strategy allows organisations to run applications and services across different clouds, co-location facilities and data centres, a big benefit is that organisations can easily move processes, services and applications from one geographic location to another.
As well as in response to normal business needs, this flexibility can also be used to help the organisation deal with outages, and man-made and natural disasters, with valuable corporate data potentially having a better chance of being protected.
The widening take-up of cloud solutions is undisputed and the option of hybrid cloud computing will no doubt fuel demand and make it easier for those organisations not so quick off the mark to enjoy the benefits.