Blog post

Mind the Gap: Here Comes Hybrid Cloud

By Tom Bittman | September 24, 2012 | 9 Comments

private cloudHybrid CloudCloud

Just when you thought you were starting to understand cloud computing, and private cloud computing, here comes hybrid cloud!  hybrid car small

Vendors are already flocking to the term – it means everything from remotely managed appliances to a mix of virtual and non-virtual servers to traditional applications using cloud services, and everything in between. So what is it?

Gartner defines a hybrid cloud service as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services, from different service providers. A hybrid cloud service crosses isolation and provider boundaries so that it can’t be simply put in one category of private, public, or community cloud service. This definition is intentionally loose, because there really are a lot of interesting edge exceptions, and rather than draw a tight boundary around what is, and what isn’t, this seems to get to the central point of the matter well enough.

So why is hybrid cloud computing useful? It allows you to extend either the capacity or the capability of a cloud service, by aggregation, integration or customization with another cloud service. For example, there might be a community cloud service that needs to include data from public cloud services in its analysis – while retaining a certain amount of analytics or data privately. Or a private cloud service that needs to expand its capacity by extending temporarily into a public cloud service (or perhaps a somewhat private cloud service offered by a third party provider). It allows you to balance your privacy needs with additional capacity and capability needs.

The terms “overdrafting” and “cloudbursting” have been used to describe how a hybrid cloud service could be used for capacity, but they paint an extreme example. Hybrid cloud compositions can be static (designed to require multiple services), composed at deployment/usage time (e.g., perhaps choosing one service provider or another, or combining based on policies), or composed dynamically (e.g., cloudbursting – or perhaps at disaster recovery time). 

While these compositions can be designed into services and/or cloud-based applications, they will often be managed by cloud services brokerages – the intermediary that Gartner expects to become a major phenom in the next few years (something like the system integrator of the cloud world). Large enterprises will often take on this role themselves – in fact, this is central to Gartner’s vision for the future of IT.

So what does all this mean now? It means look out – the world is not going to be neatly divided into separate private and public cloud services. To maximize efficiency and take advantage of publicly available cloud services, we’re going to munge them together. Private clouds, in particular, will not stay simply “private” for long – Gartner expects most private cloud services to become hybrid. Minding the gap is key – planning for it, balancing isolation and value, leveraging it – hybrid will move from the realm of hype and vendor cloud-washing to reality in the next few years.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment


  • Luhacovice says:

    So which service or hybrid cloud would you personally recommend as reasonable.

  • PJ Morse says:

    Hybrid Clouds will become the dominant cloud computing model in the enterprise. Some amount of critical or convenient computing will happen locally and the rest will happen at public cloud providers. The battle lines are already being drawn by the big players. I disagree that the entire hybrid solution has to be from different vendors. Eventually, all the majors will provide Hybrid solutions. There are some initial small players that are building platforms for this new reality and the market will be flooded with these types of solutions within two years. US Micro CriKit and Morphlabs mHelix are two examples of these new solutions. Compact, energy efficient, very capable compute platforms that reduce all the traditional costs of computing on-prem and allow CIO’s to inexpensively test this new computing paradigm and then expand the architecture if it proves valuable. Dell, IBM and HP are in trouble here because they can’t afford to make inexpensive, powerful servers in this class. They have revenue streams they need to uphold from more expensive gear. Look for the disruption on the platform side to come from vendors that have no major server revenue stream today so they won’t be cannabalizing exisitng server sales. Certainly small players like the ones mentioned, but Lenovo, Acer, Asus or even NetGear could easily jump into this fray and steal server market share from the big guys. One more example of how cloud is disruptive to the computing industry.

  • stuiesav says:

    it still somewhat amazes me that the talk about cloud, hybrid, internal / external etc gets discussed in infrastruture areas as if infrastructure are the only areas that consume this technology. the real enabler for this tech, and making hybrid tech and federation technicqes possible should be as much to do with the application and how it is architected / tolerant of movement as much as anything. There are also other key attributes that need to be considered (i.e. security models, patriation of data, predicatable performance characteristics, up and down stream dependencies on other application sets, RTO, RPO, regulatory concerns etc etc etc).

    The question should not be which vendor should i use for cloud but which application am i looking at consuming, is it written in a way that makes it easy to put on a cloud service / federate across services. when you think in these terms bursting etc may not be so easy…

    I guess a final thought (and feeding back to the main article) its not really if hybrid cloud / bursting etc is hype its if the applications being considered / consumed on this platform can meet the promise / coded in a way that allows this functionality.

    (of course a lot of this argument goes away if you are looking at PaaS / SaaS / AaaS etc)

  • Tom Bittman says:

    PJ, totally agree that hybrid solutions do not need to come from different vendors. But on the flip side, they certainly don’t need to come from one vendor. Since hybrid is about aggregating/customizing/integrating multiple SERVICES, as long as those services can talk to each other, they don’t need to be delivered by the same vendor. Hybrid cloud services do NOT need to be designed in some kind of static way to be hybrid, connecting/integrating only these specific services. They can be dynamic, and hybridized by a cloud services brokerage, for example. A specific example is a brokerage that offers IaaS services, but obfuscate the fact that those services are delivered by multiple public, private, or on-premises private cloud services – and the choice is made by the brokerage, not the user. For example, I might have an on-premises private cloud service that has lots of capacity available at this moment. My brokerage (which might be run by an on-premises tech) might deploy the next request there – even if the next request could be performed by a public cloud service – simply to drive up on-premises utilization. Likewise, when on-premises is “full”, my brokerage might do a forklift migration of low-priority workloads to a public cloud service. These are just examples, but the point is the customer-facing service is not specifically private or public. “It depends”.

  • Tom Bittman says:

    stuiesav, true. Hybrid can be at any layer. You can integrate SaaS solutions, aggregate IaaS, customize a PaaS, etc., etc. But the application does not ALWAYS need to be tolerant and aware of everything going on around it. You can abstract the app from that. You could use the same PaaS in an on-premises private cloud or in an off-premises public cloud, for example. Not a lot of offerings out there today, but some and growing. But, of course, if you are planning to have an app SPAN or MOVE, the app needs to be tolerant of that (this is also true about live migration in a single datacenter, or between datacenters). But it is also a hybrid cloud service if it is only used at provisioning time, and never “moved”. The app itself does not need to be “hybrid”, and doesn’t need to “move”. For example, I need a dev/test instance of a certain version of Linux and Apache, some storage, etc. Could that be placed on Amazon EC2? Terremark? On-premises? Sure – a brokerage could make that call, and make it based on available resources. Regardless, to your point, a richly hybridized, dynamic solution that is taking full advantage of cloud scale and flexibility will need to be designed for that and aware. But there is value at the “lower” end of the hybrid cloud services scale, too, and things you can do without rewriting code.

  • Our model is simply different in that we are substantially today a vendor of om premise enterprise applications for SME businesses. By utilizing Windows Azure we have developed a path to the cloud for our on premise legacy clients with minimum pain.

    We have developed at this stage a service that provide a free cloud add-on for Disaster Recovery (SQL Server database back up to Azure) plus a companion mobile app that allows clients to access their Azure based sync copied database for look up and low level transactions whereby the transactions “synch” back to their on premise database using Windows Azure Sych engine.

    This has given our clients remote access without the need to deploy IIS, outside their firewall and at zero cost to them (included in annual maintenance). The web app is HTML 5 which means it is device independent and we are even hanging more new services off the Azure hosted data sets. Our clients are excited, at minimal cost and deployed in the cloud so that we can build out our cloud application set and transition them to either a hosted OR on premise OR Hybrid solution.

    Only Microsoft cab offer this!

  • Sorry about they typos1

  • PJ Morse says:

    Great discussion. I think the entire compute stack is really “infrastructure” these days. You don’t have anything of value without all of it. At one point I wrote an internal document on the concept of “bursting”, which at the time was a relatively new concept, but is critical in understanding a wide range of hybrid scenarios. Looking at it in a really granular fashion, in most cases, “bursting” was simply a re-direct of network traffic to off-prem services to accomodate increased on-prem work loads.

    The mixing of services is another hybrid model as was mentioned above. However, this does not necessarily have an on-prem cloud talking to a Public cloud provider. It can be an on-prem application getting data out of SQL Azure for instance. But is that really in the Hybrid definition?

    Tom, there is a lot of room for forward thinking analysts to categorize the various types of on-prem to off-prem interactions and make some real sense of this growing plethora of integration types. 🙂

    Also, we did work together briefly a long time ago on SNA Server and I think you would get a kick out of the things I am working on now. Imagine a hybrid cloud solution where the on-prem computing is done with inexpensive, low-wattage, Solar-powered Microservers connected via Satellite broadband to public cloud services. Now, put that solution anywhere in the world- No power grid required. Interesting implications all around.

  • Atlantic.Net says:

    As companies develop a longer-term, more advanced vision for a hybrid cloud, the boundaries between the two cloud environments begin to blur. As a result, a cloud infrastructure is created that enables applications to move between the private and public environments based on current needs.