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hybrid cloud architecture

What is hybrid cloud architecture?

Hybrid cloud architecture is a type of cloud computing architecture that combines public cloud, private cloud and on-premises resources. By allowing data and applications to be shared from different types of resources, a hybrid cloud helps organizations benefit from features and capabilities spread across different types of deployments.

In a hybrid cloud architecture, organizations host their data and applications in multiple locations, depending on workload requirements, regulatory compliance needs, technical capabilities, security and cost.

The private cloud component can be located at a colocation facility or on premises at a company's data center. Hybrid cloud architecture also commonly uses a virtual private cloud that runs on a major public cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. The public cloud component of hybrid cloud architecture can include infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service as well as software as a service elements.

A hybrid cloud architecture also involves having tools, services, processes and governance in place to help determine where different elements reside, how they are controlled, managed and monitored. Network connectivity technologies serve as a strong underpinning of hybrid cloud architecture to ensure services across different deployment environments work together. Tools and platforms -- such as Kubernetes -- also aid in unifying management, monitoring, offering workload portability and orchestrating across the hybrid infrastructure.

How does hybrid cloud architecture work?

Hybrid cloud architecture works by integrating on-premises infrastructure with public and private cloud services. This dynamic approach to computing combines the advantages of different environments, promoting connectivity, resource pooling, automation and unified management.

Here are the core components that make hybrid cloud architecture work.

Hybrid cloud resources

To enable a hybrid cloud, there is a need to have resources from a public cloud provider as well as private computing resources, such as an on-premises data center and some private cloud capabilities.

Connectivity across environments

The backbone of hybrid cloud architecture lies in the interconnection of diverse environments through various network connections. Technologies such as virtual private networks (VPNs), wide area networks or WANs, and application programming interfaces also known as APIs, are critical to enabling connectivity. Hybrid cloud architecture relies on public internet services for private and hybrid cloud connectivity -- such as AWS Direct Connect, Azure Private Link and Google Cloud VPN -- to support connectivity and data movement between private clouds, public cloud services and on-premises infrastructure.

Chart of connectivity factors for hybrid cloud architecture.
When choosing a hybrid cloud architecture, a company must consider these connectivity factors.

Virtualization and containerization

Hybrid cloud architecture makes use of virtualization with technologies such as VMware, and containerization technologies including Docker, to abstract computing resources.

Workload Portability

The use of virtualization and containers in hybrid cloud architecture enables workload portability. This flexibility allows applications and workloads to run in different environments.

Orchestration and automated provisioning

Efficient management of resources in a hybrid cloud architecture is achieved through the orchestration and automation of provisioning. Management software platforms help to facilitate resource deployment across environments.

Data synchronization and consistency

Ensuring consistency across environments can often be a critical part of how hybrid cloud architecture works. This is achieved through data synchronization to employ replication tools.

Unified visibility and control

Using unified visibility and control capabilities makes hybrid cloud architecture work. Centralized management consoles and platforms provide organizations with the ability to oversee and govern infrastructure and services across on-premises, public cloud and private cloud environments.

What are the benefits of hybrid cloud architecture?

Hybrid cloud architecture can provide numerous potential benefits for organizations. The benefits of hybrid cloud architecture include the following:

  • Eases cloud migration. The hybrid model offers an intermediate approach for organizations transitioning from on-premises to the public cloud.
  • Saves costs. There may be cost savings compared to having only on-premises or public cloud because hybrid cloud architecture optimizes resources.
  • Ensures regulatory compliance. Organizations can keep sensitive data on-premises to adhere to regulatory compliance and data sovereignty concerns.
  • Maximize value of existing assets. A hybrid cloud architecture can enable an organization to continue to benefit from existing on-premises assets, alongside new public cloud resources.
  • Enables workload portability. With the use of containers and virtualization, workloads can move across environments, giving an organization more deployment options and flexibility.
  • Improves disaster recovery and resilience. By using different types of environments for deployment, organizations can help to improve resilience, business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Provides scalability. Hybrid cloud architecture provides flexibility and scalability to use the optimal environment for each workload and can allow for cloud bursting to scale dynamically.

What are the challenges of hybrid cloud architecture?

While there are numerous benefits to hybrid cloud architecture, there are also challenges. Key challenges of a hybrid cloud architecture include the following:

  • Complexity. With multiple components across different environments, it can be complex to integrate all the required pieces.
  • Control. As opposed to an on-premises deployment, there can be less perceived control since part of the infrastructure is externally hosted.
  • Performance. With the distributed nature of hybrid cloud architecture, there are potential performance issues for applications requiring extremely low latency.
  • Cost. Hybrid cloud architectures have higher costs compared to pure public cloud since on-premises infrastructure must also be maintained. Network connectivity and bandwidth costs for private links can also be expensive.
  • Security. There are potential security risks in bridging on-premises, private and public cloud resources.
  • Staff skills. Employees need specialized skills to manage the integration.

Hybrid cloud architecture patterns

There are many possibilities in combining private cloud, public cloud and on-premises resources into a flexible hybrid architecture that caters to an organization's specific use cases, priorities and constraints.

Some common hybrid cloud patterns include the following:

  • Public cloud and private cloud. This involves connecting infrastructure from a public cloud provider such as AWS, Google Cloud or Azure with an organization's own private cloud environment. The private cloud can be hosted on-premises or operated by a third-party vendor. Applications and data can move between the public and private clouds as needed.
  • Public cloud and on-premises. In this model, public cloud services are utilized in conjunction with legacy infrastructure that remains on-premises. It allows taking advantage of public cloud benefits without completely overhauling on-premises systems.
  • Multi-cloud hybrid. Organizations can choose to host applications across two or more public clouds or private cloud infrastructures. This provides flexibility to use the best services from different providers.
  • Hybrid host. The hybrid host pattern deploys a gateway architecture between the on-premises data center and public cloud to facilitate secure data transfer and movement.

Five considerations when building hybrid cloud architecture

There are different issues for an organization to consider when deciding to build a hybrid cloud architecture.

Here are five considerations when building a hybrid cloud architecture:

  1. Overall strategy. Rather than just arbitrarily deploying some workloads on premises and some in the cloud, it is best to have a strategy. That strategy could include goals for cost, performance, availability and manageability for different workloads.
  2. Technologies in the foundation. There are several technologies that can be used for hybrid cloud architecture. It's important to choose platforms that enable interoperability and don't lead to vendor lock-in.
  3. Different workloads. Hybrid cloud architecture is all about workload placement with some running on-premises and others in private or public cloud. Build out an inventory of workloads and the criteria for deployment including compliance requirements to help determine placement options.
  4. Digital transformation and workload modernization. For many organizations, hybrid cloud architecture can be a pathway for digital transformation and workload modernization. It's important to determine an approach for migrating workloads to the cloud, such as lift and shift or re-architecting.
  5. Security. With multiple locations for deployment, security can be a complex issue. It's critical to have a unified policy layer to secure workloads and access.

Examples of hybrid cloud architecture

There are numerous ways to deploy hybrid cloud architecture. Some common examples of hybrid cloud architecture include:

  • Backup and disaster recovery. Public cloud IaaS provides an inexpensive way to back up data from on-premises workloads and enable disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Cloud bursting. During peak demand, additional computing capacity can be "burst" to the public cloud, provisioning extra resources.
  • Policy-based placement. Organizations can set policies to determine where data and workloads reside based on factors such as security, compliance, latency and cost.
  • Security segmentation. Host sensitive data and apps on a private cloud or on-premises, with other tiers of less sensitive workloads on public cloud infrastructure.
  • Distributed processing. A hybrid cloud architecture can be used to perform basic collection and processing at the edge using on-premises resources, with aggregation and deep analysis in the public cloud.
  • Legacy application modernization. As part of an overall modernization effort, an organization can leave legacy on-premises apps while modernizing others using containers and moving them to the public cloud.
This was last updated in January 2024

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