Of all the cloud computing architectures, hybrid cloud is arguably the least well-understood. A variety of myths persist about how hybrid cloud works, why you should (or shouldn't use it), and even what hybrid cloud means.
- Myth 1: Hybrid Cloud Is a Lesser Version of Public Cloud
- Myth 2: To Build a Hybrid Cloud, You Start With a Private Cloud
- Myth 3: Hybrid Cloud Doesn't Require Unified Control
- Myth 4: Hybrid Cloud Lets You Choose Your Own Infrastructure
- Myth 5: To Build a Hybrid Cloud, You Need a Public Cloud Vendor's Platform
- Myth 6: Hybrid Cloud Is More Secure
- Myth 7: Hybrid Is Hard to Manage
Myth 1: Hybrid Cloud Is a Lesser Version of Public Cloud
Some IT professionals seem to assume that hybrid cloud architectures provide some of the benefits of public cloud, but not all. Hybrid cloud, they think, is a sort of compromise that you settle for when you want more than you can get from on-premises infrastructure, but you're not prepared to go all-in on public cloud alone.
The reality, of course, is that hybrid cloud — when well-implemented, at least — gives you the best of on-prem and public cloud infrastructures. For example, you get the privacy and control advantages of on-prem along with the increased scalability of public cloud. Hybrid cloud isn't a compromise you make; on the contrary, it's a way to avoid compromising by being limited to on-prem or public cloud infrastructure alone.
Myth 2: To Build a Hybrid Cloud, You Start With a Private Cloud
That's one route you can take. But it's certainly not the only one. There's no reason why you can't move workloads to the public cloud, then extend into a hybrid architecture later, without ever operating a private cloud.
Myth 3: Hybrid Cloud Doesn't Require Unified Control
Some definitions of hybrid cloud can be read to imply that any business that uses both public cloud and private or on-premises infrastructure has a hybrid cloud. Consider, for example, this excerpt from VMware's definition of hybrid cloud:
"Hybrid Cloud refers to a cloud computing model that uses a combination of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud."
The definition goes on to explain that private and public cloud resources need to be integrated to create a "single operating model" in order to constitute a hybrid cloud. Indeed, having a unified, integrated control layer is what really defines hybrid cloud.
But if you skim over hybrid cloud definitions, it's easy to miss that nuance, and to end up with an overly broad understanding of hybrid cloud as any type of IT strategy that involves both public and private resources, even if they are not integrated with each other.
Myth 4: Hybrid Cloud Lets You Choose Your Own Infrastructure
One of the selling points of hybrid cloud is that — in some cases, at least — you can take servers you already own and integrate them with public clouds to create a hybrid cloud.
But that's not always true. Some hybrid cloud frameworks, like AWS Outposts, require specific hardware, which means you can't repurpose your existing servers for the purpose of creating a hybrid cloud.
The point here is that it's easy to overestimate the infrastructure flexibility that comes with hybrid cloud. Although some hybrid cloud frameworks and platforms are infrastructure-agnostic, others are not.
Myth 5: To Build a Hybrid Cloud, You Need a Public Cloud Vendor's Platform
By definition, hybrid clouds combine on-premises resources with services offered by a public cloud vendor. And in some cases, you can use platforms from public cloud vendors themselves — like AWS Outposts, Google Anthos, and Azure Arc and Stack — to build your hybrid cloud.
That doesn't mean, however, that you have to use a public cloud vendor's own technology to create a hybrid environment. You could also use an open source platform such as Kubernetes, or a solution from a vendor that doesn't run its own public cloud, like VMware.
You'd still have to use public cloud services as part of your hybrid cloud, but you wouldn't be depending on a public cloud vendor to supply the hybrid control plane software or platform, too.
Myth 6: Hybrid Cloud Is More Secure
It can be tempting to assume that hybrid cloud is inherently more secure than public cloud. After all, hybrid clouds give you more control over your infrastructure and data, so they must be more secure, right?
Not necessarily. Greater control doesn't automatically translate to tighter security. Hybrid cloud environments are subject to most of the same types of security risks as public cloud environments. In fact, you could argue that hybrid clouds may be less secure because they require businesses to handle more security responsibilities on their own, and the typical business is not as good at cybersecurity as the typical major public cloud provider.
Hybrid clouds do support practices like air-gapping of sensitive data, which you couldn't do in a public cloud. But by and large, it's wrong to say that hybrid cloud is any more (or less) fundamentally secure than public cloud.
Myth 7: Hybrid Is Hard to Manage
Traditionally, finding a way to unify private and public cloud infrastructure under a single control layer was difficult. Operating hybrid clouds was complex as a result, and it required specialized expertise.
Today, that's no longer the case. The hybrid cloud frameworks from the major public cloud providers make it almost as easy to deploy workloads to a hybrid cloud as it is to deploy them on a public cloud. Hybrid cloud does involve more complexity in areas like networking and identity management, but the extra effort it requires in those respects is only incrementally greater than what you'd encounter in public cloud.
Conclusion: Laying Hybrid Cloud Myths to Rest
In short, there remains a lot of misunderstanding about what hybrid cloud means and how it works. To dispel the misunderstandings, stakeholders need to dive deeper into the relationship between hybrid cloud and public cloud, hybrid cloud security risks, modern hybrid cloud frameworks, and more.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.