Hybrid Cloud Storage combines cloud and on-premises computing environments in order to bolster the efficiency of the entire process. The more efficient a production process is, the more savings a company or an organization can generate, which would have otherwise been unnecessarily wasted behind bottlenecks. As more companies convert from an expensive, strictly on-premises approach to a one based on the cloud, it has become more and more apparent that cloud storage is not a one-stop-solution to an organization’s storage problems. Thus in this article we will be answering your question, “What is Hybrid Cloud Storage?” as well as taking a brief look into “How Hybrid Cloud Storage works?” and “Why Hybrid Cloud Storage” might be worth looking into.
Before What is Hybrid Cloud Storage? Let us answer Why Hybrid Cloud?
So before we delve into why you should be considering Hybrid Cloud Storage, let us take a moment to understand where the argument in Cloud Computing originates, i.e. Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud. So what is Private and Public Cloud? Let’s suppose for an instant that you are running a business which aims to share its resources only within a certain office or workspace i.e. in an internal private network, while barring other users from accessing the same. Such a network is called a Private Cloud. A Public Cloud, on the other hand is set-up by a third-party service provider over the public internet, giving access to its resources to anyone renting or buying the same.
Each have their own advantages and disadvantages which include,
- A Public Cloud has a stupendous amount of resources which can be allocated on demand or unallocated if the demand does not exist. Thus, there is an incredible amount of flexibility and control when considering Public Cloud.
- A Public Cloud also does not require any capital expenditure. On the other hand, a company or an organisation will have to spend a significant amount of capital when setting up resources for a Private Cloud.
- A Public Cloud does not require any maintenance cost as the necessary infrastructure maintenance is performed by the third-party offering the cloud service.
- The expenditure incurred in setting up and maintaining a Private Cloud is fixed and independent of the whims of a third-party organisation offering said Cloud Service.
- A Private Cloud is also built around the requirements of an organisation and is thus predictable in terms of the performance an organization can expect to get out of the investment.
- The organisation building the Private Cloud has complete control over the resources and assets which would be forming a part, or shared over the Private Cloud, translating to superior security and asset management capabilities.
- Critical assets or resources are available immediately 24/7, involving no latency in the process of fetching the same whenever necessary.
Hybrid cloud strikes a perfect balance between the advantages offered by an on-premises infrastructure and by an off-premises, third-party cloud infrastructure. There are two main advantages in going with the hybrid route.
- Flexibility, Elasticity and Scalability
A Public Cloud infrastructure has a tremendous amount of resources at its disposal whenever necessary. However, it takes a great deal of time, planning and resources in order to build a private cloud which after being built also needs to be maintained, adding to the total expenditure over time. Said problem is especially pronounced for a business facing spikes in demand seasonally and lesser demand for the rest of the year. If said business would create a Private Cloud capable of handling the spikes, it would be mostly unused throughout the rest of the year. On the other hand, if it does not, the incapable hardware would not be able to provide a smooth customer experience when said spikes occur.
Cloud Bursting refers to an application deployment model where said application runs on the Private Cloud and temporarily “bursts” on to a Public Cloud when the demand for processing power or resources spike beyond its capability to manage, which can be utilized in a Hybrid Cloud solution.
The added load can be handled by a Public Cloud during the spikes without the need for purchasing expensive hardware from the get go. The demand might also originate from different parts of the world which can be taken up by the public cloud, thus increasing data portability and efficiency of the entire process without compromising the customer experience.
- Efficiency and Cost
The Public Cloud component of a Hybrid Cloud offers cost-effective IT resources at an organization’s disposal in a moment’s notice. Said advantage also does not require any capital expenditure, maintenance or labor costs. The Private Cloud, on the other hand, makes sure that the critical assets and resources are available instantly, maintaining the robustness and security in the organizational infrastructure and bolstering productivity. Both the factors combined, there is without a doubt greater cost savings involved with going Hybrid.
With why you should care about a hybrid solution out of the way, let us delve right into What is Hybrid Cloud Storage.
Let us answer WHAT IS HYBRID CLOUD Storage?
Fundamentally, a hybrid cloud can be thought of as a combination of two or more different types of cloud networks, for example public, private, etc. where the different types of cloud can be utilised differently for the purposes that suit each the best, but are bound together by standardised or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability.
Simply put, a hybrid cloud is a mixture of on-premises and off-premises IT resources. The definition of the exact requirements of Hybrid Cloud varies from person to person and depending on whom you ask, it might be summarized into the following points:
- A single private and public cloud.
- Two or more public clouds.
- Two or more private clouds.
- A standardized or proprietary technology or virtual environment connecting to at least one public or private cloud.
Ideally, a Hybrid Cloud implementation works just like a homogeneous storage solution. Generally, Cloud Storage is implemented by using a commercially available or proprietary storage software and by using a stand alone computer or virtual machine image that serves as a Gateway between an on-premises and a cloud service storage solution or by using an API or Application Programming Interface to move data from the private to the public cloud.
To expand on hybrid cloud storage a little bit more we can consider it to be a cloud environment made up of on-premises private cloud resources combined with off-premises public cloud resources that uses some form of technology to orchestrate the transfer of information between them.
In modern days, however, the strictly public cloud and private cloud oriented definition of hybrid cloud has changed drastically and the separation between the two has become somewhat blurred. What changed the traditional definition of Hybrid Cloud? Public clouds which traditionally run off-premises, are now often run on the premises of the client’s data center by the third-party provider. Consequently, private clouds which traditionally ran on-premises are now often rented on third-party vendor data centers running off-premises.
The advantage of the hybrid cloud infrastructure lies in the fact that it allows workloads and data to sift around between the public cloud and private cloud, often seamlessly and without the need to make any changes to the pre-existing softwares, depending on the third party cloud service provider. This allows an organisation to maintain their resources and assets based on how the demand, needs and cost changes in a more flexible fashion, inevitably resulting in greater savings and productivity.
Hybrid cloud storage solutions are also a boon to the organisations looking to integrate robust data backup and disaster recovery processes to their infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. This is facilitated by having a backup of the data on the cloud instead of a separate data center. Such secondary data centers are expensive to build and maintain and also take relatively longer to restore the data lost in the event of a disaster when compared to the cloud storage solution, making the latter a more logical choice.
In an organisational capacity, dispersing the data is the best when it comes to keeping said data secure as well as utilising the existing storage capacity to the maximum extent. In a hybrid cloud storage solution, infrequently used data can be kept in conjunction with frequently used data, so that dormant data lying around in the primary storage does not reduce the useful capacity to store new data as well as preventing the same from complicating data recovery processes in the event of a disaster.
Keeping everything above in consideration, it might be more suitable to define Hybrid Cloud Storage in terms of what it does, which can be summarized as follows.
- A Hybrid Cloud storage solution must connect multiple computers through a network while consolidating an organization’s resources to the maximum possible extent.
- Should be highly scalable while retaining the ability to provide additional resources as and when the need arises.
- Orchestrate various processes using automation.
- A Hybrid Cloud storage solution must be able to move workloads between environments.
- There should be a single, unified management tool to maintain synchronisation between various processes.
When is Hybrid Cloud not a good fit?
Though the hybrid cloud is incredibly useful, cost-effective and flexible In dealing with the need for increased storage capacities or processing power, there are certain circumstances where it might not be the best fit.
- For smaller businesses operating on limited budgets, a purely Public Cloud-based approach might be more cost-effective as the expenditure associated with setting up a private cloud is substantial.
- For applications that are highly dependent on maximizing speed and minimizing the associated latency, especially for highly compute-heavy tasks.
It is critical while considering a Hybrid Cloud solution to analyze and understand the specific requirements that said solution would need to cater. Consequently, it is imperative that one plans the hybrid infrastructure in the way that maximizes efficiency and savings for that specific use-case.
Security in Hybrid Clouds
Even though Private Clouds are generally more robust and secure than Hybrid Cloud solutions, the separation between the two has become more and more blurred nowadays. Properly managed, integrated and designed hybrid cloud solutions can nowadays be just as secure as a more traditional private cloud approach. That is not to discount from the still relevant security challenges that Hybrid clouds face. However, since the Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure integrates multiple environments, it can be easily determined by an organization which environment is fit for which data or vice versa in mitigating or reducing the security risks related to such an infrastructure.
Now that we have a fundamental understanding of What is Hybrid Cloud Storage, when is it not a good fit and the security risks associated with the same, let us move on to briefly discussing how it all works.
How does Hybrid Cloud Storage work?
The most important and thus the first step in the working of a hybrid cloud infrastructure involves connecting multiple computers in a network. Said objective can be achieved by utilizing various types of connections such as LAN (Local Area Network), WAN (Wide Area Network) and VPN (Virtual Private Network). In case you are not familiar with these terms we have also included a short description of the same below
LAN (Local Area Network): A computer network that connects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building, etc.
WAN (Wide Area Network): A network connecting computing devices over vast regions, countries, or even the world.
VPN (Virtual Private Network): A private network across a public network which enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.
Consequently, Various processes such as Virtualization, application Containers and Software-defined storage are used for Resource Abstraction.
Virtualization: The process of simulating multiple environments with their own allocated resources from a single physical hardware system, such as creating Virtual Machines (VM). Any process inside such a virtual environment is safely isolated from other processes running on the same computer.
Application Container: It is the process of isolating a process and everything it needs to run from the rest of the system.
Software-defined storage: It is used to refer to the process of separating the storage hardware from the software that manages it, to control the storage hardware with a centrally managed software. In other words, implementing SDS, a storage pool will be managed uniformly giving you much greater flexibility over the storage hardware you have invested in, removing the bounds of choosing a specific vendor, model or type of said hardware. This takes away a large part of the hassle in changing the storage hardware in any way.
Resource Abstraction: Hiding the background details of how different hardwares operates, making the task of programming an application on any given hardware, a much easier task for an application programmer.
All of the abstracted resources are then pooled into Data Lakes.
Data Lakes: It is a type of data repository that stores a wide array of various unrefined or raw data. Unrefined or raw data refers to data that has not been processed and organized for a specific purpose or use case.
IT Management softwares then allocates the resources into environments where applications can be run. These environments are then provisioned for use at a moment’s notice using an authentication software or service.
Thus the connection between different clouds in Hybrid Cloud is of prime importance. The quality of the connection, determined by how seamlessly data can be moved from one to the other is a critical factor in determining how well the Hybrid Cloud infrastructure performs in moving workloads around and managing resources for the same.
Traditionally, hybrid cloud infrastructure was built by simply connecting a private cloud network with a public cloud and using a massive and complex software to coordinate the transfer of information between them or a pre configured VPN. Nowadays, however, the focus has shifted from the environments themselves to the kind of applications that are run on the environments for the purposes of portability. That is to say that the apps that are run on the same are designed to be more universal.
Thus, apps built for the purposes of a Hybrid Cloud infrastructure are highly independent, i.e. without many environment centric dependencies as well as lightweight. Thus, as long as every environment is running the same operating system, such an app can be universally run on any environment. With the abstracted resource and data creating an interconnected and unified computing environment, apps and data can be moved from one environment to the other without the need to maintain compatibility and a complex map of version or hardware specific APIs.
Hybrid Cloud Storage examples and uses
Some of the most popular Hybrid Cloud Storage providers are AWS (Amazon Web Services), Cisco, Dell EMC, HP, Microsoft, IBM, Rackspace and VMWare with products such as Dell EMC’s CloudArray which works as a Cloud Storage Gateway, AWS Storage Gateway and IBM Spectrum.
The incredible scalability and flexibility associated with Hybrid Cloud solutions makes it technology suitable for many business uses.
- Testing something new
Everything new and untested brings with it a certain amount of risk and initial investment in order to analyze how it performs. Hybrid Cloud mitigates that risk by reducing the need for a substantial initial investment. The organization creating said application can choose to opt for the Hybrid Cloud solution and in the process, pay only for the resources it uses rather than paying for everything upfront, thus wasting less money or resources behind a product, in the event that it fails to meet expectations.
- Regulatory compliance
Certain industries are regulated to protect private data. Hybrid Cloud solutions offer an organization to comply with regulations while still benefiting from the expanded computing power at its disposal in a moment’s notice.
- Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Hybrid cloud storage solutions allow an organization to integrate robust data backup and disaster recovery processes to their infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. Data is backed up into the cloud instead of a secondary data center, as they are expensive to build and maintain and also take relatively longer to restore the data lost in the event of a disaster when compared to the cloud storage solution.
- Utilizing the available resources to the maximum extent
In a hybrid cloud storage solution, infrequently used data can be kept with regularly used data, so that no dormant data is lying around in the storage and occupying space which could have otherwise been better utilized in storing newer data, thus negatively impacting the amount of useful space available. Dormant data also complicates data recovery processes in the event of a disaster and has a negative impact on the time it takes to fetch data.
- Managing Cloud Bursting or other anomalies
Often hardware requirements for running a certain process might change. In the event that an application requires additional computational power, a Hybrid Cloud can adapt to the workload requirement and keep the application or service running without any hiccups, due to the incredible amount of processing power that it can leverage on demand. Thus, when the demand on a private cloud exceeds the amount it can smoothly handle, the workload can be handled by the public cloud seamlessly. This allows a Hybrid Cloud infrastructure, which integrates both, to dynamically adapt to changing workloads or demand, while remaining efficient and cost effective.
- Unified interface to manage all cloud services seamlessly
Each cloud solution has its own API, storage capabilities, processing power, network capabilities, etc. It is thus unsustainable to master each solution’s complexity. Thus, Hybrid Cloud management professionals often construct a single interface which can manage all cloud services seamlessly.
- Flexibility and Cost-effectiveness
Traditionally, it takes a great deal of time, planning and resources in order to build a private cloud which after being built also needs to be maintained, adding to the total expenditure over time. On the other hand, in a public cloud, a client has no control over the data or infrastructure. A public cloud also has relatively less security and performance (performance of the network depends on the speed of the internet connectivity).
However, in a Hybrid Cloud approach, the client retains a large part of the control over the infrastructure and data, while also retaining the ability to transfer workloads and data from the private to the public cloud as and when required, reducing overall cost and improving robustness and productivity. A Hybrid solution, thus strikes a great balance between both worlds while retaining much of the advantages related to the same.