Cloud computing

What is hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud is an IT architecture that incorporates some degree of workload portability, orchestration, and management across 2 or more environments. Depending on whom you ask, those environments may need to include:

  • At least 1 private cloud and at least 1 public cloud
  • 2 or more private clouds
  • 2 or more public clouds
  • A bare-metal or virtual environment connected to at least 1 cloud—public or private

These varying requirements are an evolution from the earlier age of cloud computing, where the differences between public clouds and private clouds were easily defined by location and ownership. But today’s cloud types are far more complex, because location and ownership are abstract considerations. For example:

Public clouds traditionally ran off-premises, but public cloud providers are now running cloud services on their clients’ on-premise data centers.

Private clouds traditionally ran on-premises, but organizations are now building private clouds on rented, vendor-owned data centers located off-premises.

This is why it can be more helpful to define hybrid cloud computing by what it does. All hybrid clouds should:

  • Connect multiple computers through a network.
  • Consolidate IT resources.
  • Scale out and quickly provision new resources.
  • Be able to move workloads between environments.
  • Incorporate a single, unified management tool.
  • Orchestrate processes with the help of automation.

How do hybrid clouds work?

The way public clouds and private clouds work as part of a hybrid cloud are no different than how standalone public clouds or private clouds work:

Separate clouds become hybrid when those environments are connected as seamlessly as possible. That interconnectivity is the only way hybrid clouds work—and it’s why hybrid clouds are the foundation of edge computing. That interconnectivity is how workloads are moved, management is unified, and processes are orchestrated. How well-developed those connections are has a direct impact on how well your hybrid cloud works.

How do I build a hybrid cloud?

Every cloud is unique. Private clouds are one-of-a-kind and there are thousands of public cloud providers. There's no one-size-fits-all hybrid cloud model. The way you organize your cloud resources and build a hybrid cloud will be as unique as your fingerprint. But there are a few basic principles that correspond to 2 general ways of building a hybrid cloud environment: The traditional way and the modern way.

Traditional hybrid cloud architecture

Hybrid clouds used to be the result of connecting a private cloud to a public cloud. You could build that private cloud on your own, or you could use prepackaged cloud infrastructure like OpenStack®. You would also need a public cloud, like one of the few listed below:

Alibaba Cloud Logo
Amazon web services
Microsoft Azure logo

Finally, you would need to link the public cloud to the private cloud. This was typically done using a complex network of LANs, WPNs, APIs, and VPNs. Many cloud service providers even give customers a preconfigured VPN as part of their subscription packages:

Modern hybrid cloud architecture

Today’s hybrid clouds no longer require a vast network of APIs to move workloads from one cloud to another. Modern IT teams build hybrid clouds by running the same operating system in every IT environment; developing and deploying apps as collections of small, independent, and loosely coupled services; and managing everything through a unified platform. In more practical terms, a hybrid cloud can be the result of:

Using the same operating system abstracts all the hardware requirements, while the orchestration platform abstracts all the app requirements. This creates an interconnected, consistent computing environment where apps can be moved from one environment to another without maintaining a complex map of APIs that breaks every time apps are updated or you change cloud providers.

This interconnectivity allows development and operations teams to work together in a DevOps model: A process by which teams work collaboratively across integrated environments using a microservice architecture supported by containers.

Are hybrid clouds secure?

A properly designed, integrated, and managed hybrid cloud can be as secure as traditional on-premise IT infrastructure. While there are some unique hybrid cloud security challenges (like data migration, increased complexity, and a larger attack surface), the presence of multiple environments can be one of the strongest defenses against security risks. All those interconnected environments let enterprises choose where to place sensitive data based on requirements, and it lets security teams standardize redundant cloud storage that can augment disaster recovery efforts.


Why Red Hat

Because it’s hard to get the benefits of a unified environment when proprietary code stands in the way. That’s why we promote an open hybrid cloud strategy as a way enterprises can achieve their digital transformation objectives.

An open hybrid cloud strategy brings the interoperability, workload portability, and flexibility of open source software to enterprise environments. Everything above and below the operating system is abstracted—every environment, every app—thereby providing consistent interaction with any app in nearly any environment without retooling the app, retraining people, splitting management, or sacrificing security. And because it's all open source, your data will move with you—no matter where tomorrow takes you.

Useful tips for IT leaders―delivered right to your inbox

Get important tech insights―like this hybrid cloud advice―in the Red Hat Shares newsletter.

Currently available in English only

All the pieces you need to create a hybrid cloud


A stable, proven foundation that’s versatile enough for rolling out new applications, virtualizing environments, and creating a secure hybrid cloud.


A multicloud operations and cloud management platform that unifies hybrid cloud solutions.


All the private cloud infrastructure and management tools you need plus a container application platform that helps you move workloads across hybrid environments.


Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Provider Program

Find or become a cloud vendor or service provider that uses Red Hat infrastructure to build cloud environments.

There’s a lot more to do with hybrid cloud