Everybody talks about the cloud, everyone uses it. We are though generally referring to the “public” cloud. What is the difference between public and hybrid cloud? We defined in a previous article the five characteristics of the cloud. They are important because they let you know whether a data center creates a cloud or not. Without adherence to its five characteristics, a data center cannot define a private, community, public or hybrid cloud. It’s a data center.
The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) defines the type of clouds. There are four, also known as deployment models: private, community, hybrid, and public. To simplify, I do not make a distinction between the private and community cloud. One organization only uses a private cloud, and a limited set of organizations use a community cloud. Yet, those organizations share the same needs and trust each other. A community cloud appears as a private-public cloud. It’s more like a private cloud though. Let’s look at the features of the different clouds.
The private cloud is, as its name implies, reserved for a single organization. What is the difference between a data center and a private cloud? It concerns the management and the use of resources. A data center constrained by personnel or hardware limits cannot claim to be a private cloud. It needs not adhere to the five characteristics. It may seem anecdotal, but it is not, because it defines who has the power.
In the case of a traditional data center, the power is in the hands of the one who exploits it. In the case of a private cloud, it is in the hands of the one who uses it. The one who exploits it may decide to stop or change its functioning. But, that would go against its service agreement. As soon as there is a service agreement, the power passes into the hands of the user. And that’s what makes the difference between the traditional data center and private cloud.
If you want to put in place a hybrid cloud strategy, you should start by analyzing your own environment. Charity begins at home! Without a private cloud, no hybrid cloud possible. This may seem anecdotal. But, the many painful experiences of implementing hybrid clouds have taught me that everything always starts by adhering to the characteristics of the cloud.
The public cloud is usually the one referred to by default when we talk about the cloud. The public cloud data centers are generally located far from the end user. Sometimes, they are in unknown and very remote locations. Microsoft Office 365 or Azure, Amazon Web Services or IBM Watson are public clouds. They are business-oriented. Gmail, OneDrive and WhatsApp are too, but general public-oriented. Their potential integration as a hybrid cloud makes the differences between these services.
One of the main features of a public cloud is that it’s shared by a large number of users. We call this “multi-tenant”. This means all users share the hardware and software infrastructure.
There are “software barriers” between each user of the public cloud. Mr. X does not have access to Ms Y’s data. The service provider manages the entire network, hardware, and software environment. The guarantee of service is paramount.
A hybrid cloud is built on the best of both worlds. It relies on a private cloud and leverages some workloads in a public cloud. In a hybrid environment, though, all services are managed as if they were all running locally.
Then what are the benefits? The first is flexibility. You use a public cloud when your private one does not fit your needs. For instance, you can choose to migrate your email system to a public cloud, while maintaining your file server services in your private cloud. You can also use artificial intelligence services in a public cloud. You keep your data in your private cloud while using the functions and computing power of the public cloud.
The second benefit is growth. You may find yourself constrained by your private infrastructure while needing more computing power, storage or services. Instead of revolutionizing everything or waiting for weeks or months for the necessary capacity, a public cloud can offer you the solution.
Now if on paper the hybrid cloud seems an ideal solution, it is not always simple to put in place. Indeed, many questions will soon arise authentication, security, and services management. It is always possible to tinker. But, implementing a solution that transparent for the end user is often more complex than it seems. It is important to take the time to make a complete tour of the user experience. Do not accept any compromise on security. You risk introducing potential defects into your system.
We will return to the pitfalls of hybrid clouds in future posts. Don’t wait, though. The future is running and it becomes the present at high speed. The hybrid cloud is an interesting solution, well adapted to many IT challenges. It can help solve the question of data sovereignty. And sometimes, as in the case of the GDPR, allows responding to questions of compliance. Good work!