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How secure is the hybrid cloud?

Mary Branscombe | Aug. 27, 2015
The term hybrid cloud is used loosely, which is probably why so many companies say they're planning to adopt it. If you’re planning a hybrid cloud strategy, the security questions you need to think about may not be the ones you’d expect.

Understanding hybrid cloud

“We use the term hybrid pretty broadly to mean that part of your business is on premise and part of it is in the cloud,” points out Russinovich.

“Hybrid can even come into play when you're talking about using public cloud services, like the Office 365 support for ExpressRoute,” Russinovich continues. “That’s the ability to put your Office 365 endpoints inside your own network infrastructure so that you're not travelling over the public Internet, you're travelling over your network service provider lines into our cloud. In that case, yes, I'm consuming something that's purely in the cloud but I'm connected in to my on-premises infrastructure.”

The more integration, the closer to hybrid cloud you are, he suggests. “Where we get specific on Azure and what I am focused on, is supporting connecting your enterprise environment with the cloud in a seamless way – networking-wise and also in terms of consistency. We'd like to make it possible for you to deploy applications on premise and in the cloud, written to the same app models – cloud application models – and also manage them the same way.”

Hybrid cloud is also a far easier way to take advantage of services that only work at cloud scale, like machine learning and predictive analytics that you want to apply to systems that aren’t in any cloud.

Microsoft is making something of a specialty of this, with services like Clutter and Delve prioritizing email and documents. Power BI offering historical business intelligence and real-time analysis of data from both cloud services and your own SQL Server apps; Azure Active Directory alerting you to stolen credentials or simultaneous logins to managed devices from physically distant places; or the new Operations Management Suite that analyzes your server setup and warns you about potential attacks.

Instead of buying and running your own large-scale hardware, or even using a public cloud, and setting up and maintaining a complex system like a Hadoop cluster, you buy a cloud service that runs against on-premises systems. “It's a nice balance,” suggests Neil. “You get the value on premise but you're not having to take on that burden of responsibility.”

Make no mistake: hybrid cloud is coming

Whether you’re talking about Russinovich’s ambitious idea of cloud consistency, cloud services that analyze or the more common stretch and burst models that can move your applications or your data into the cloud for extra capacity and performance, it’s the seamless part that’s both very appealing to businesses – and where you need to be thinking about security.

That’s especially true because hybrid cloud assumes that your on-premises system is highly automated and standardized – whether you’re using private cloud systems you build with tools like the Windows Azure Pack and the upcoming Azure Stack and OpenStack designed to give you consistency with public clouds, or “converged infrastructure” like Microsoft’s Cloud Platform System, VCE’s VBlock racks, Cisco’s UCS or pre-built systems from Dell and HP.


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