What Is Hybrid Cloud? (And Why Does It Matter?)

In the world of cloud computing, hybrid cloud is a term that’s virtually impossible to ignore. A recent survey of 997 IT professionals found that 71 percent of respondents are currently using hybrid cloud architectures in their workplaces. In 2017, fully half of all enterprises viewed hybrid cloud implementation as their top priority. So: What IS hybrid cloud? And why does it matter?

In simple terms, hybrid cloud is a cloud computing architecture that combines on-premises resources and cloud resources. Or, as an analyst with Forrester Research told ZDNet, it’s “one or more public clouds connected to something in my data center. That thing could be a private cloud, (or) that thing could just be traditional data center infrastructure.”

A hybrid cloud architecture with Okta Access Gateway is part of an end-to-end security      model. Click the image to learn more.

And it matters because of those statistics we just read. Hybrid cloud is everywhere, and it’s not going away. According to a 2016 SolarWinds IT Trends Report (h/t The Enterprisers Project), 92 percent of IT pros said adopting cloud technologies was important to their company’s success. However, 60 percent said it was unlikely their entire IT infrastructure would ever move to the cloud.

In other words, nearly all companies will use cloud services moving forward. But at the same time, most don’t want to put all of their data in the cloud. Nor are companies going to replace the enterprise apps that run their business with SaaS apps.

Naturally, hybrid cloud represents an ideal solution. And at ICSynergy, working with hybrid cloud architectures is our bread and butter. (Which is why you should contact us with any and all of your hybrid cloud questions.)

Before we jump in to some details about hybrid cloud, here are some benefits to using this kind of architecture in conjunction with Okta Access Gateway.

  1. Allows you to plug SaaS systems together with on-premises apps without needing bespoke customizations.
  2. Protects against malware, website defacement, SQL injection, and session hijacking-based attacks.
  3. Easily enables remote access without a VPN.
  4. Provides a “magic bullet” to visualize all of your application utilization.
  5. Eliminates phishing as an attack vector.

Now, let’s get to it.



It’s All In The Cloud

When we talk about the cloud, what do we mean? Speaking broadly, cloud computing can be divided into three categories.

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS): These are web-based apps. Basically, a third-party provider hosts an app or apps and makes them available over the internet. In the business world, customers might use something like Salesforce as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. They don’t worry about installing software or setting up servers. They just go to the app, log in, and use it.
  2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): With IaaS, you’re effectively renting computers in somebody else’s data center. For example, you might go to AWS EC2 and launch a server. You don’t have to worry about buying the machine, setting up the data center, or any of the infrastructure. What you do get is a hardware environment to optimize business apps. Plus, IaaS offers a predictable cost for business, so you know how much to budget.
  3. Platform as a Service (PaaS): As defined by Microsoft Azure, PaaS is a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud. PaaS includes infrastructure, middleware, development tools, business intelligence services, and database management systems.

Over the past five years, many companies have started to adopt a SaaS-first posture. As a side effect, users have to authenticate to all of their apps. But if you have 50 different SaaS apps, you don’t want to have to memorize 50 different passwords.

Furthermore, companies don’t want to worry about employees using weak passwords for all those apps. What you want instead is an authentication system to take care of all of that for you. Thus, the need for cloud-based services like Okta and Oracle Identity Cloud.

Except It’s Also On-Prem

Meanwhile, many businesses still have lots of applications on their own premises, even while they use all those SaaS apps. Some examples of on-prem apps are Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Hyperion, WebCenter, SAP, QlikView, and SharePoint.

When you have a setup like this, you need a bridge to go between the external cloud of Okta and Identity Cloud to your on-premise apps. This ensures that your end users can have one authentication system to log into everything — whether it’s on-premise, or in the cloud.

That’s hybrid cloud.

 

Hybrid Cloud On the Job

Let’s say you’re a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company. After your morning coffee, you start your day by checking your overloaded inbox. Those unread email messages you’re knocking out one-by-one might come from your company’s on-premise data center.

A little later, once the caffeine has kicked in, you remember to follow up with a sales opportunity. Naturally, you need to access some information from Salesforce. Salesforce is a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) app. The data you’re accessing is stored in the cloud.

Great, so you’re caught up on email, and you’ve followed up on a sales lead. You’re feeling super-productive. And why not? Your technology is enabling you to do everything you need to do for your job. But sometime around lunch, you remember that you need to fill out an expense report.

No problem – just log in to E-Business Suite, an on-premise Web-based app. Pretty soon, you’re done with that, too. Now you’re on your way to an impressively productive day. All thanks to a few apps that all reside in different places. And that’s the hybrid cloud.

But you don’t have to know all of that. All you have to do is you log in once and take care of business.

Various Tasks, Various Resources

In the example above, you wouldn’t want your computer prompting you for a password every time you use a different app. With a hybrid cloud solution, you can simply log in once, and then it’s time to GSD. Thanks to your company’s hybrid cloud architecture, you might be using Okta and Oracle Identity Cloud for various tasks. On our end at ICSynergy, we provide Okta Access Gateway to protect apps like E-Business Suite.

So, what does it mean to protect E-Business Suite? Well, Okta and Identity Cloud speak SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), an open standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data. E-Business Suite doesn’t understand SAML, so it needs way to translate. Okta Access Gateway does that.

(And even if the on-prem app did understand SAML, it’s still a bad idea to leave it exposed to the Internet.)



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Why All of This Matters

As we saw at the beginning of this post, hybrid cloud is huge in the world of cloud computing. And it’s not going anywhere soon. For the next decade, at least, hybrid cloud will be one of the best cloud architecture options for companies of any size. Microsoft Azure explains:

Using a hybrid cloud not only allows companies to scale computing resources, it also eliminates the need to make massive capital expenditures to handle short-term spikes in demand as well as when the business needs to free up local resources for more sensitive data or applications. Companies will pay only for resources they temporarily use instead of having to purchase, program, and maintain additional resources and equipment that could remain idle over long periods of time. Hybrid cloud computing is a “best of all possible worlds” platform, delivering all the benefits of cloud computing – flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiencies – with the lowest possible risk of data exposure.

Written by
Martin Gee
Founder & Chief Technology Officer, ICSynergy International LLC

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