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What are the two types of hybrid cloud infrastructure?

Hybrid cloud designs are shifting as public cloud providers push on premises with alternatives to a two-vendor approach. Learn the pros and cons of heterogeneous and homogeneous models.

Traditionally, enterprises built a hybrid cloud through a software stack they have on premises and integrate it with a public cloud. However, the emergence of physical appliances from public cloud providers reverses that approach and enables enterprises to operate a hybrid cloud infrastructure with the same software stack in their data centers as the one they use in the public cloud.

Now that there are two different hybrid cloud architectures -- heterogeneous and homogeneous -- enterprises need to find the right fit in terms of cost, performance and ease of management.

In a heterogeneous model, the environment is built with public and private technologies from different vendors. An enterprise chooses a public cloud provider, such as AWS or Azure, and pairs it with a private offering, such as VMware, OpenStack and CloudStack.

In a homogeneous hybrid cloud, services such as Azure Stack, AWS Outposts and Google Cloud Services Platform rely on the same software -- and hardware, occasionally -- on premises and in the public cloud. While there were many larger enterprise providers that offered this approach in the past, most fell from the market years ago. The recent push from AWS and Microsoft is a bit of a rebirth of homogeneous hybrid clouds.

Choose a hybrid cloud model

While hybrid cloud is a popular deployment model, both approaches to it have their advantages and drawbacks.

A homogeneous hybrid cloud infrastructure, which is basically a bundled, turnkey offering, is typically easier to deal with from an operations and management standpoint -- installation and setup as well. With both the public and private aspect from one provider, these clouds are engineered to work together. This means that the provider offers prebuilt services for disaster recovery, security, governance, ops monitoring and more, which span both environments.

Additionally, homogeneous offerings are typically cheaper because the on-premises aspect is delivered as a drop-in hardware appliance or prebuilt rack. Conversely, most of the cost of a heterogeneous hybrid cloud infrastructure is spent in the installation and setup. The enterprise needs to assemble an on-premises software system that's configured to communicate with a specific public cloud.

However, there are downsides of a homogeneous hybrid cloud infrastructure. One of the core drawbacks is vendor lock-in. What makes homogeneous hybrid clouds easy to use, also makes them difficult to leave. As you become dependent upon native interfaces and services, such as security and governance, leaving becomes risky, expensive and difficult. Heterogeneous hybrid clouds may be more complex upfront, but the mix of private and public cloud technologies gives you more control to change your architecture in the future.

One important aspect to keep in mind is your staff's cloud skill sets. If you choose a homogeneous hybrid cloud, then you typically only need provider-specific skills. Top public cloud providers offer hands-on labs, training and numerous certifications. In going with heterogeneous, the training is more formal and more complex. Make sure your staff is prepared for your choice.

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