Hybrid cloud vs. multi-cloud: What’s the difference?

 In Cloud, Hybrid

I often hear discussion among peers and customers about hybrid cloud and multi-cloud, and frankly, most of us tend to conflate the terms.

It’s easy to do, but there are differences, no matter how subtle they may be, and they’re important when defining your cloud strategy.

Most people associate hybrid cloud with a combination of an on-premises cloud and off-premises cloud– often a service like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

While this definition may have served well initially, consumption of public cloud services has grown and new technologies spanning private and public clouds have emerged and evolved. There’s now an important difference between using multiple clouds and how you use them. Let’s define both.

What is a multi-cloud strategy?

At its simplest, a multi-cloud strategy is exactly what it sounds like: the use of more than one cloud service.

This could include on-premises as well as public, or it could be a multi-public cloud approach or even one of these plus a hosted cloud solution. Virtually every enterprise has some level of on-premises cloud these days, and most have implemented some form of a multi-cloud strategy. It enables organizations to leverage the best tool(s) for the job, or just to avoid vendor–and price–lock-ins.

Containing cloud provider sprawl is important. The best multi-cloud strategies involve a layer of abstraction to choose the best platform for the desired workload, and therefore limit what users have access to. However, most current implementations lack this abstraction, and most enterprises are grappling with the effects of cloud sprawl.

What is a hybrid cloud strategy?

In a simple multi-cloud deployment, the disparate cloud solutions tend to operate independently. Hybrid cloud is a multi-cloud strategy that encompasses some level of interaction between the different cloud platforms.

This interaction takes place can be simple, like leveraging the load-balancing and web capabilities of a public provider while housing back-end services in your private cloud, or sophisticated, like distributing work between the two in a bursting type model. Interaction could also take place between two public cloud providers as part of a strategy to take advantage of the lowest cost provider, or to migrate workloads in the event of an outage.

Hybrid isn’t necessarily limited to computers. Companies can also take advantage of things like hybrid cloud storage, where storage is provisioned across different providers for purposes of disaster recovery or archives.

Azure Stack, VMC on AWS, Druva, and WANdisco all enable hybrid strategies, along with many others. Choosing and implementing the correct set of technologies can make or break your hybrid cloud implementation.

Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud: What really matters

In the end, it doesn’t matter what you call it. In this industry, we tend to get fixated on terminology, but that detracts from the important conversation: What are your business objectives and how can cloud, multi-cloud, hybrid cloud, or even uni-cloud (yeah, I made that one up) help you achieve them?

Want to continue the conversation? SHI’s Cloud and Innovative Solutions team is ready to support the cloud strategy that meets your IT and business objectives. Contact your SHI account team or email us at cloud@shi.com.

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