There's a new term that’s getting thrown around out there in the tech world: “hybrid hosting.” Although Chief Information Officers and other insiders are pretty familiar with it, to somebody with a passing involvement in IT, it really sounds pretty vague.

First of all, we’re inundated with the word "hybrid" in all sorts of industries. What does “hybrid” mean? Well, it just means a mixture of two things. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are "hybrid." Hybrid cars are hybrid, because they use battery-powered motors and mechanical engines. So what's hybrid hosting?

To make things a little more interesting, there are actually two definitions of hybrid hosting that you're going to commonly see in cloud-related articles and white papers. One is the idea that hybrid hosting means adding cloud services to existing on-site legacy systems, and using a mix of in-house physical equipment and remote vendor setups (this resource from TechWench provides a little more on this concept). But another one that's probably dominant today is the idea of hybrid cloud hosting, which is the idea that you're taking part of one cloud hosting service, and part of another: specifically, a mix of public and private cloud solutions.

Actually, these two definitions have a lot to do with each other. You could say that the company's in-house systems are the "private" cloud element and the remote cloud services are the "public" services. But you’d be forgetting that some cloud companies also build private cloud solutions for a single client that are remote to that client, that are maintained at the vendor's office. So hybrid cloud hosting can really come in many forms, where one part of the system is served differently than another.

Adding On-Demand Services

One of the big value propositions of hybrid hosting involves the scalability of the cloud in general.

Businesses or public institutions may have systems that work okay, but they need to provide for growth and expansion. In these kinds of situations, finding solutions can be like renovating an old building. Do you scrap the whole thing and build an entirely new edifice? Or do you work to complement what's already there with a new structure?

Adding remote cloud services to existing systems can solve this problem. In this ComputerWeekly article, writer Tracey Caldwell goes into detail about a hybrid project by Loughborough University, where leaders found established add-ons for the school's existing data center. Where a complete rebuild wasn't feasible, a hybrid model added what the provider, Logicalis, called “burst” capacity to supplement existing server activity with on-demand data center resources, linking the two together through a government-funded academic wireless area network called JANET.

Here you can see the interplay of private businesses, vendors and modern governments in providing hybrid solutions for IT needs.

The Security Puzzle

Hybrid cloud options can also help solve issues where security concerns make traditional implementations less than feasible. This TechTarget article by Senior Technology Writer Carl Brooks talks about Major League Gaming, a business maintaining massive multiplayer server operations, and how the company eventually found a solution from RackSpace. Major League Gaming CTO Brian Corrigan talks about how the company couldn’t use a conventional “commingled network with public facing IP addresses” with traditional Amazon Web Services or Rackspace services. However, the firm found that a new Cloud Connect offering by Rackspace could put the implementation into the client firewall, partly because of standardized equipment setups, in a plan that can, in Corrigan’s words, “connect its cloud to the ground.”

More About Rackspace Cloud Connect

A look at the landscape of today's hybrid hosting movement shows that Rackspace is out in front of a lot of other companies in terms of offering these types of synergized networks.

This article from TechTarget by Jessica Scarpati goes into much greater detail about how Rackspace decided to bridge networks, creating client-specific "mini-networks" in multitenant operations, and piggybacking off of the functionality of things like F5 BIG IP application delivery controllers and firewalls using Cisco conventions.

The article quotes Rackspace product manager Toby Owen explaining how customers link up to the Rackspace mothership:

"It's moving beyond a bridge of those two networks … that connection is essentially filtered, so we automatically apply security rules that allow cloud servers to only talk to their hosting environment.” Owen says. "If (customers) have a cloud database and aren't getting the performance they'd like, we can move it to a dedicated machine and connect that to the cloud environment."

In short, cloud companies are now focusing their efforts on how to combine to formerly separate pieces of an IT service puzzle — how to seamlessly integrate public and private designs in order to, again, give customers more choices and more customized services — and that's really a lot of what the cloud’s about in the first place.