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Cloud use is mission-critical for organizations. From cost-savings to increased productivity, most companies adopt a cloud environment as part of their IT plans. As organizations implement their cloud strategies, they find that the industry continues to use the terms multi-cloud and hybrid cloud interchangeably. When decision makers understand the similarities and differences between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud, they can better align their business objectives to their security strategies.  

What is Multi-Cloud? 

Organizations build multi-cloud environments by deploying two or more public clouds to distribute assets, software, and applications. The organization will have a combination of:

  • One or more Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) 
  • One or more Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) 
  • Multiple Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications 

An example of a multi-cloud environment might be combining Amazon Web Services (AWS), IaaS, and Microsoft Azure PaaS deployments for distributing different SaaS applications and developer products.  

Organizations usually choose a multi-cloud environment because they want to:

  • Gain value from different providers’ strengths 
  • Outsource on-premises infrastructures  
  • Reduce costs by leveraging different pricing structures 
  • Avoid vendor lock-in 
  • Improve resilience to eliminate the single point of failure problem 

What is a Hybrid Cloud? 

Hybrid cloud deployments include at least one private cloud combined with at least one public cloud provider. With a private cloud, the organization has a dedicated infrastructure either hosted in its data center, at a third-party facility, or with a provider offering single-tenant cloud hosting services. In a hybrid cloud, the integration between the public and private environments enables the company to gain the value of both cloud deployment types.  

A hybrid cloud deployment can either be:

  • Heterogeneous: a private cloud using common platforms that integrate with public cloud providers 
  • Homogeneous: specialized software and services that integrate with a specific public cloud 

What are the architecture differences between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud? 

The fundamental difference between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud lies in their architectures. Some sources will argue that any multi-cloud with more than one public cloud that integrates a private cloud is a multi-cloud. Other sources argue that this is a rare example because the challenges of integrating a private cloud with more than one public cloud are cost prohibitive. However, when looking at their architectures, it’s easier to understand the differences.  

Multi-Cloud Architecture 

A multi-cloud architecture can include any combination of the following:

  • Distributed network for computing and storage 
  • Load balancing through application replication and workload distribution 
  • Workload or workflow segmentation 
  • Data transfer to reduce latency 
  • Little inter-cloud communication 
  • Disconnected identity management systems, unified logging, cloud monitoring, and alerting 

Hybrid Cloud Architecture 

In the hybrid cloud architecture, the integration can include:

  • On-premises servers, data centers, storage, networking, and monitoring 
  • Migration of frontend applications to loud 
  • Public cloud policy-based governance extended to on-premises resources 
  • Public cloud as extension of private cloud system 
  • Single identity management system 
  • Unified logging, cloud monitoring, and alerting 
  • Single IT solution by syncing components 

What are the benefits and challenges of hybrid cloud? 

For most organizations, the primary hybrid cloud benefit lies in having complete control over a part of their environment. Simultaneously, this is also that primary challenge that comes with hybrid clouds.  

Costs 

In some cases, an organization will have workloads or data that need to be on a local infrastructure so using a private cloud enables the needed flexibility. The organization can save money by relocating other applications or data to the public cloud.  

Simultaneously, the private cloud infrastructure can be more expensive because the organization is responsible for the hardware and software maintenance. The costs include the purchase of the hardware and the staff necessary to support the infrastructure. 

Security and compliance 

Some regulatory compliance mandates require organizations to store data or run applications locally. A private cloud enables the organization to meet these requirements. Since the organization owns the private cloud’s hardware and networking, it can put controls in place that align to its security goals.  

This also creates a challenge because the organization needs to make sure that it continuously monitors the resources. With a public cloud, the organization shifts some burdens to the provider. The company needs to have the people, processes, and technologies to manage all:

  • Identity and directory infrastructures 
  • Application security 
  • Network controls 
  • Operating systems 
  • Physical hosts 
  • Physical networks 

Agility and scalability 

The private cloud architecture enables the organization to test, deploy, and migrate workloads without worrying about provisioning issues. The organization can shift data and workloads between the public and private cloud as needed.  

The integrations that enable agility and scalability create their own set of challenges. While a homogenous hybrid cloud may be easier because the organization uses tools designed to integrate easily, the deployments often require the IT and security teams to install updates or make changes that match those made by the public cloud provider.  

How Alert Logic Can Help 

Multi-cloud, hybrid cloud, and hybrid multi-cloud strategies provide business value, but many organizations struggle to manage security and compliance across these complex environments.  

With Alert Logic, organizations gain enhanced visibility over their hybrid and multi-cloud deployments’ security and compliance. We provide a global view of threat activity for a deployment that gives customers the flexibility, security, and compliance they need to achieve their business goals. With Alert Logic, customers leverage the experience of our global security research team who develops signatures, correlation rules, log parsers, and web application security policies that protect customers against threats in their unique environments.  

Alert Logic provides comprehensive cloud environment security monitoring, detection, and response capabilities. With a focus on both pre-breach and post-breach security, Alert Logic delivers protection against advanced and unknown threats.  

Angelica Torres-Corral
About the Author
Angelica Torres-Corral
Angelica Torres-Corral is a product marketing expert at Alert Logic. She brings over 15 years’ experience in security, ranging from data loss prevention and user and behavioral analytics to cloud technologies. Prior to Alert Logic, Angelica held roles at Forcepoint and Schneider Electric in product marketing, solution selling and corporate branding. She holds an MBA from California State University, Fresno and a bachelor’s degree from University of Chicago. Angelica is passionate about solving problems, and helping customers enhance their security posture.

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