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Cloud computing continues to be an increasingly attractive option for IT decision makers who look to the significant benefits of cost savings and ease of use. However, there has also been a strong pushback from organizations with concerns over security and performance. In recent years we have seen a new model of cloud computing beginning to gain a foothold in business: the hybrid cloud.

So what exactly IS the hybrid cloud? IT expert James Sanders breaks it down:

The hybrid cloud is the combination of a public cloud provider (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or Joyent Compute) with a private cloud platform — one that’s designed for use by a single organization. The public and private cloud infrastructures, which operate independently of each other, communicate over an encrypted connection, using technology that allows for the portability of data and applications.

The precision of this definition is quite important: The public and private clouds in a hybrid cloud arrangement are distinct and independent elements. This allows organizations to store protected or privileged data on a private cloud, while retaining the ability to leverage computational resources from the public cloud to run applications that rely on this data. This keeps data exposure to a bare minimum because they’re not storing sensitive data long-term on the public cloud component.

It’s important to understand that the concept of a hybrid cloud is not simply connecting any arbitrary server to a public cloud provider and calling it hybrid. The private infrastructure must run some type of cloud services, such as NemakiWare, an open-source enterprise content management (ECM) software stack based on the interoperable CMIS standard, or Joyent SmartDataCenter, a cloud management platform for private and hybrid cloud deployments.

Sanders makes an important point. Now that the underlying technology behind cloud services is available for cost-effective internal deployment, the hybrid cloud model offers organizations a way to reap the benefits of cloud computing while preserving a greater degree of security and privacy. He goes into more detail regarding the benefits of having on-premise infrastructure. It is directly accessible, which can significantly reduce latency. Moreover, you can deploy high performance infrastructure that supports your workload while leveraging the public cloud for failover and paying only for what you compute, as opposed to the costs issued from third-party providers. Finally, since you are in control of the private end of the hybrid cloud, there is far greater flexibility when it comes to how you design your server(s) and configuration(s)

They aren’t perfect though… in fact Sanders notes that though privacy and security are more problematic with public cloud only solutions, the hybrid cloud isn’t impervious to these issues as data can still run across a network that outside parties can get to. Moreover, it isn’t the best fit when data transport on both the private and public ends are mission-critical and extremely latency-sensitive.

That said, it is quickly becoming a popular option for many organizations, particularly in industries such as financial services, healthcare, and retail sales. Even EMC is “intensifying [its] approach to hybrid cloud.” As Sanders has pointed out before, for these organizations that adopt the hybrid cloud, striking the right balance between what runs on the private and public clouds requires careful and thoughtful management of an organization’s IT resources. Sanders most recent article is part of a TechRepublic and ZDNet collaborative series on “The Art of the Hybrid Cloud“. I highly recommend you check out some of the other articles to get a better sense of where we are and where we are going with the hybrid cloud.