What is hybrid cloud management?
Hybrid cloud management characterizes the processes and tools for managing applications that span public and private cloud computing infrastructure. A hybrid cloud scopes out the integration between resources running in private data centers and a single cloud provider. A related discipline, multi-cloud management extends this concept across various public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud.
There are multiple facets related to hybrid cloud management across different categories of virtual infrastructure, including computing, networking, storage and data management. The leading cloud providers support this work within their cloud and compatible cloud services running in private data centers. Numerous third-party tools can integrate with or replace these platforms.
Aside from the tools themselves, it's often more useful to approach hybrid cloud management as a discipline that considers how to manage costs, applications, infrastructure, security and governance across private and public cloud services.
Why is hybrid cloud management important?
Hybrid cloud management simplifies decisions, workflows and tool selections when trying to connect workloads that run on premises and in the cloud. Traditional legacy apps run on dedicated bare-metal or virtual machine (VM) hypervisors running on similar bare metal. There is little bare-metal and associated management headaches in the cloud, which is one of its key attractions. Modern cloud apps generally run across infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service models.
Hybrid cloud management can help harmonize processes across different technologies. However, traditional legacy apps must be moved from existing bare-metal hardware. VM hypervisors should be moved to cloud-compatible infrastructure that runs in a private data center compatible with the target public cloud.
Additionally, new cloud architectures support a variety of relatively new ways to think about deploying workloads, including containers, serverless applets, application programming interfaces (APIs) and infrastructure as code. Cloud architectures also introduce new concepts for data storage, such as objects, new types of data services and managed virtual networks.
Many of these new constructs don't match up well with the way IT teams have traditionally thought about provisioning physical servers, hard disk drives and networking cables. As a discipline, hybrid cloud management can help unify visibility, automation, security and governance across both types of infrastructure. Even though all the major cloud providers support basic hybrid cloud management, they may lack integration with and support for existing physical infrastructure, especially if they need to connect to non-cloud enterprise systems.
What are the benefits of hybrid cloud management?
Some of the top benefits of hybrid cloud management are the following:
- Improve visibility into workloads that run on premises and in the cloud.
- Ease migration from legacy systems to modern cloud platforms.
- Align data management processes across on-premises and cloud services.
- Support coherent network management across physical and virtual local area networks.
- Enable cloud cost management across private and public services.
- Help align data engineering efforts required for provisioning artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
- Simplify compliance and risk management, particularly data sovereignty issues.
What are the challenges of hybrid cloud management?
The top challenges in developing a hybrid cloud management practice include the following:
- Many cloud-specific management tools may not integrate with existing tools and workflows.
- Security visibility can be reduced as data and processes span different types of infrastructure.
- Different operating models in the cloud and on premises may make it harder to assign responsibility and fix problems.
- Disparate applications, API and infrastructure boundaries can complicate cybersecurity efforts.
- Cost management can be challenging because of the different cost basis for the operational expenses of cloud services and the capital expenses of private hardware.
- Differences in network costs, such as egress costs from cloud services, can be difficult to compare and optimize versus existing networking hardware and service plans.
- Data engineering workflows can be complicated by different types of data stores on premises and in the cloud.
Hybrid cloud management strategies
The top hybrid cloud management strategy starts by evaluating a target hybrid cloud environment use case and then identifying the top management challenges required to support it. Businesses need to determine how these can align with existing tools and processes for managing data, networking, IT systems, governance, security and costs.
Simple use cases, such as disaster and recovery management, might be able to take advantage of existing hybrid cloud management capabilities or third-party add-ons that work with existing tools.
On the other hand, new use cases, such as provisioning hybrid cloud infrastructure to support new AI and data science workloads, may be better off using hybrid cloud management capabilities built into the target public cloud platform. This could enable teams to use new cloud-native AI services to build generative AI apps employing modern cloud services, while running AI development tools on private cloud infrastructure to ensure compliance when working with sensitive data.
A more nuanced approach is required when enterprises migrate core applications and services to the cloud. In these cases, it may make the most sense to inventory existing management tools and explore how they can be extended to hybrid cloud management scenarios either directly or through the appropriate third-party tools and services.
Hybrid cloud management tools
It should be observed that there is a dizzying array of hybrid cloud management tools. Here are some of the top hybrid cloud management tools to review. At a high level, it is worth investigating the different categories of tools for various use cases.
All the major public cloud platforms have rolled out hybrid cloud management tools optimized to work across their ecosystem of tools and services. These include AWS Systems Manager, Microsoft Azure Arc and Google Cloud Anthos. Additionally, all major enterprise vendors, such as IBM, HPE, Dell and VMware, also support hybrid cloud management capabilities that integrate with their existing hardware management tools to manage across infrastructures. Most of the traditional IT service management vendors are also adding hybrid cloud management capabilities.
Various best-of-breed hybrid cloud tools focused on different domains, such as cost reduction, security, data management, governance, compliance and networking, can sometimes integrate and enhance the major cloud and enterprise vendor offerings.