Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud Architectures

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The workloads (applications) running on an enterprise hybrid or multi-cloud network determine the architectural requirements. All cloud architectures share some common patterns, while the specifics of running workloads necessitate custom architectures. The architecture patterns are broadly of two types: “distributed-deployment” pattern and “redundant-deployment” pattern. In the former, an application runs in an environment best suited to the application, while in the latter, the same applications are run in different computing environments for increased capacity.

Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud: The Significant Difference

RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report indicates while 51 percent of North American and European companies have deployed the hybrid cloud, only 21 percent of them have implemented the multi-cloud model, with an average of five cloud providers per business.

DZone’s comparative feature study, Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud offers a useful method for distinguishing hybrid from the multi-cloud environment. According to this comparison, hybrid cloud primarily enables users to perform the same task by “leveraging resources from two separate clouds.” Here, essentially, the term “two” is important as it indicates a variety of cloud architecture choices: “two private, two public, or a mix of both.” The major objective of hybrid cloud model is to provide data security and “scale and elasticity” of the public cloud.

A multi-cloud environment precludes the notion of using many different cloud environments with complex interoperability issues. Multi-cloud architectural models typically involve distributing workloads over many cloud environments to enhance availability and resiliency at a reduced cost.

Multi-cloud may be the only option for large businesses with variety of Data Management use cases. If lost in a debate over whether to select multi-cloud over hybrid cloud, review the Syncsort post Is Multi-Cloud Architecture Right for Your Data?

The Hybrid Cloud Architecture Pattern

In a hybrid cloud environment, the on-premise, private cloud is usually combined with at least one public cloud provider and in some cases, with more than one. The combined architecture is managed as “a single, policy-based environment.” The goal of this type of cloud architecture is to extend the capabilities of on-premise Data Management facilities for development, storage backup, additional workload, or archiving purposes. Many times, the hybrid cloud is used as an “experimental” exercise before transitioning to a full-fledged cloud deployment. Designing an Efficient Hybrid Cloud Solution explains the features and benefits of different hybrid cloud services.

In a tiered hybrid-cloud model, only frontend applications are migrated to the cloud as these applications are stateless, do not handle volume data, and have fewer dependencies. The backend applications may have “complex dependencies” and are harder to migrate. On the public cloud, it is also much easier to run frequent updates on frontend applications through automated processes.

The Multi-Cloud Architecture Pattern

Shift to Multi-Cloud Architectures Requires New Data Management Approaches states that businesses are under tremendous pressure to shift to the multi-cloud to meet “changing business and user needs.”

Typically, in a multi-cloud environment, computing and storage services are provided by multiple cloud service providers spread over a distributed network architecture. The multi-cloud architecture ensures freedom from vendor lock-in, while enhancing operational flexibility and business continuity for developers. On the flip side, multi-cloud network management can be a challenging issue, necessitating well-rounded governance and security strategies. Discover more information in 3 Tips for Managing Multi-Cloud Network Architectures. This article is from the e-book titled How to Handle New Network Monitoring Complexities.

The rest of this article is devoted to identifying the common and contrasting characteristics of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments.

Common Features for Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Architectures

1. Deployment Models

In both hybrid and multi-cloud architectures, the deployment models can either be “distributed” or “redundant,” as mentioned earlier in this post. In a distributed architecture, different components of the same app are run on two or more environments, for example, the tiered hybrid model. Similarly, in a partitioned multi-cloud environment, an app is deployed where it is most suited. On the other hand, in a redundant architecture, a single app and its components are deployed across many “computing and storage environments” for enhanced capacity or resiliency.

Frontend applications, designed for end users, are generally “performance sensitive” and rely on backend applications for data storage and management purposes. So, typically frontend applications are places on a public cloud.

On the other hand, backend applications are used specifically for data storage or management and find their homes in private cloud environments, where high-volume data handling, security, and Data Governance policies are in force.

2. Analytics Workloads

For business analytics workloads, transactions in both hybrid and multi-cloud environments may run on on-premise or private cloud, but thereafter the input data is loaded on the public cloud for analytics.

3. Production Workloads

Typically, production workloads in both cases are run on the private cloud while non-production workloads such as development and testing are carried on the public cloud.

4. Fail-Safe Business Continuity

In case of both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments, backups, archives, or alternative standby systems are deliberately stored redundantly across different cloud environments to avoid single point of failure (SPOF).

5. Scalability Requirements

In both types of cloud architectures, adequate space is reserved on a public cloud environment to scale up (cloud bursting) from one environment to another, based on sudden requirement.

6. Common Benefits

A significant benefit that businesses get from both hybrid and multi-cloud environments is operational flexibility — the freedom to design, distribute, and deploy applications and workloads-based enterprise needs, thus eliminating vendor lock-in and rigid Data Management. This allows for more system compliance, availability, and durability.

7. Common Drawbacks

In both cases, businesses may have to keep track of multiple billing, usage monitoring, and performance KPIs, which can make network management very complex. Tracking and managing business data spread over multiple cloud environments is no less of a challenge, especially when different service providers may have their own esoteric Data Management policies in force. The final challenge is meeting the skill gap in cloud expertise, when personnel with varying skill levels are interfacing across multiple cloud environments.

Contrasting Features of Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Architectures

  • Hybrid Cloud Model Is Suited for Transitional Migration: For businesses that are new to cloud environments, it is best to begin with hybrid cloud architecture. This model will provide ample opportunity for the business to go through a trial period of migrating specific resources and workloads to the public cloud, while retaining more security-sensitive data assets in the on-premise data centers. This trial period is good way to find out if a business is ready for the cloud.
  • DevOps Is Made for Hybrid Cloud: When looking for a perfect DevOps development environment, there’s nothing to beat the hybrid cloud, which promises a perfect blend of self-service resources (private cloud) and economical platform for executing test workloads (public cloud).
  • Cost vs. Performance – Relative Advantages and Disadvantages: Although it appears that major public cloud providers offer similar pricing models for same levels of performance, both private and public cloud mix-matches have to be carefully managed for optimized pricing without losing performance.
  • Multi-Cloud Is Ideal for Wide Geographic Span: If a business has target customers spread over a wide geographical network, it makes sense to geographically distribute their apps and services based on where the customers are. The closer the customers are to their apps, the better will be their user experience. Multi-cloud supports both widespread distribution network and use of edge computing for real-time analytics.
  • Multi-Cloud Requires Dealing with a Variety of Cloud Platforms: One way to look at this characteristic of the multi-cloud environment is having access to many different Data Management capabilities, tools, and resources, but another way of looking at it is struggling to keep up with multiple learning curves imposed by different operating platforms. This multi-cloud characteristic can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
  • Multi-Cloud May Be the Path to Constant Data Availability: When your business requires high data availability on a 24/7 basis and also requires complex data-integration tools, multi-cloud may be the only solution. On the flip side, if your business is small enough to tolerate some hours of downtime, hybrid cloud may be a lot more cost-effective and a more secure Data Management environment. These clouds are compared in the article, Multi-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters.


Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud — both these cloud architectures provide operational flexibility to businesses, but in different ways. If cost is the main focus of your cloud provider selection, then keep in mind that a hybrid cloud environment will have additional cost requirements due to private cloud infrastructure and bandwidth facilities. Gartner has predicted that within the next two years, over 50 percent of global enterprises are likely to “adopt an all-in-cloud strategy.”

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