What Is The Relationship Between Hybrid Clouds And Federated Clouds?

The cloud world is awash with buzzwords and marketing jargon as cloud vendors seek to differentiate themselves, as the cloud marketplace adapts to the changing needs of clients, and as legacy vendors try to jump on the cloud bandwagon. Some of it’s just verbiage for the sake of verbiage, but there are a few key terms that business users of cloud services need to understand if they’re to make the most of the cloud.

Two of the most important conceptual distinctions in the modern cloud landscape are hybrid clouds and federated clouds. They aren’t the same thing–though there are some similarities–and many businesses are successfully making use of both cloud computing models. In this article, I’d like to clear up the confusion.

Federated Clouds

In a nutshell, a federated cloud is a cloud environment that is composed of offerings from multiple vendors — a synonymous term is multi-cloud environments.

The Three-Minute Guide to Cloud Marketplaces

Over the last few years, many new cloud vendors have entered the market — they offer slightly different services, with different focuses, different hardware, and with data centers in different locations. At the same time, the barriers between these vendors have dropped. Cloud services are more compatible than they ever were previously, and by offering open APIs, they create the opportunity for clients to build bespoke cloud environments that meet their needs better than any single vendor could. Data can be more easily moved between platforms, and integrations layers like ComputeNext make it quite simple to combine offerings and manage federated clouds.

Hybrid Cloud

Understanding hybrid clouds depends on an understanding of two other cloud modalities: private clouds and public clouds. Public clouds are what is familiarly understand by the term cloud: they are the prototypical cloud environment. Public clouds use virtualization technology to offer infrastructure and software services to the public. The underlying infrastructure is shared by many different users. Amazon Web Services are a public cloud platform.

The Difference Between Cloud Computing and Virtualization

Private clouds use the same virtualization technology as the public cloud, but the underlying hardware and all the virtual machines and services that run on it are used by only one organization. Typically private clouds are hosted in private data centers or on colocated servers.

As you might have guessed, hybrid clouds are a cloud environment that combines both public and private clouds. Often a company will deploy its core computing and storage infrastructure on a private cloud and augment that capability with components drawn from the public cloud.

Their Relationship

It should be clear that although hybrid and federated clouds are not identical, they can be related. It’s perfectly possible, and indeed common, for a federated cloud to also be a hybrid cloud — we speak of them as separate categories because it makes it easier to pick out important features.

If you follow the cloud media, you’ll be aware that pundits frequently trumpet the rise of public clouds, or the ascendency of private clouds, as if they were somehow in competition; they aren’t. Each vendor and each cloud modality has its strengths and domain of optimal application. The most intelligent cloud strategy is to combine cloud deployment methods, service modalities, and vendor offerings in ways that best meet the operational needs of a specific business.

Image: Flikr/Cast a Line