Demystifying the Hybrid Cloud

Keeping up with technology can be an impossible task. It only feels like a few months ago when we were all still trying to figure out what exactly the cloud was. For those still living under a cloud (for lack of a better word), cloud computing refers to the ability to access you data from anywhere. Your information is stored by cloud providers (such as Amazon and Google) inside their own physical infrastructure instead of on your devices (such as hard disks) as done previously. Cloud host interfaces then allow you to connect any device to their storage and hence provide ubiquitous access.

But just as we were getting comfortable with this, enterprises and startups everywhere have started promoting the hybrid cloud. So what exactly is this hybrid cloud!?

To understand the hybrid cloud phenomenon, we will need to back up a bit and understand how businesses traditionally stored all the information they carried. Back in the day, and in the majority of cases today, everyone from small/medium sized businesses to large enterprises stored their data on storage arrays. Think of these as extremely intelligent giant hard disks providing critical services such as data protection, security, backup, disaster recovery, and fast access. These data storage arrays reside in data centers on the premises of companies owning the stored data- referred to as on-prem storage. The cloud has theoretically made possible the elimination of the need for on-prem storage. Cloud providers provide the option for enterprises to upload data into the cloud and hence store their data “off prem”. 

However purely storing all data on a cloud still has lots of disadvantages (at least for now)- cloud access tends to be slower, lacks essential security features, comes with high bandwidth requirements, and requires sharing proprietary data with a third party. Hence most businesses are reluctant to completely rely on cloud storage. 

The Hybrid Cloud approach combines the best of both worlds- on-prem storage (which is often referred to as the private cloud) and public cloud storage. Enterprises typically classify their data as hot and cold data and to understand the hybrid cloud approach we need to understand the differences between these two types of data.  

The Hybrid Cloud is a combined solution that provides enterprises the ability to use on-prem (mostly traditional data storage arrays) to store hot data and cloud storage to store cold data. The on-prem storage provides the necessary security, access times, and data services essential for handling hot data. The off-prem cloud storage is slower but provides a cheaper option to store cold data. Today traditional storage companies such as EMC, HP, NetApp, and new emerging upstarts such as Nasuni and Panzura provide customers the ability to implement a hybrid environment for their storage needs.   

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