There are no shortage of buzz words in IT today. A few of them have the word "cloud" in them. While there may be many unfulfilled promises associated with the cloud, there is one category of cloud solutions that is starting to stand out from the others: hybrid cloud . Interest in hybrid cloud has never been higher. But why is hybrid cloud so hot? What technology and business benefits does it bring? What are the potential inhibitors to hybrid cloud? I will examine all these questions and look at a case study in hybrid cloud database technology to help illustrate my points.

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Hybrid cloud really can be “the best of both worlds”, combining the flexibility and speed of cloud with the security and compliancy of physical data centers. Hybrid cloud is hot because it enables companies to put business before technology instead of basing business decisions on technology choices. These are just some of the technology advantages possible with hybrid cloud:

  • Flexible Placement: You can place workloads where they fit best based on specific software architectures.
  • Security: With no need for a one-size-fits-all approach, companies can save money and secure the most sensitive data at the same time.
  • Dynamism: It is possible to temporarily expand and contract application resources as needed.

The benefits of hybrid cloud go beyond these technical benefits. There are very real business benefits too – so many in fact that a majority of enterprises today have some hybrid cloud in use and 75% of C-level executives consider it to be a focus area for the next 12 months (Source: Avanade global study “Hybrid Cloud: From Hype to Reality”). Some of the business benefits include:

  • Responsiveness to the Business: Hybrid cloud removes the barriers of traditional IT infrastructure so that business can respond to rapidly changing market conditions.
  • Support for Growth and Innovation: Hybrid allows companies to try new things before committing to additional physical infrastructure and grow in scale far faster by bursting workloads from on premises to the cloud as demand increases.
  • Balance CAPEX and OPEX: With a careful mix of capital expenditures and cloud operating expenditures companies can grow profitably.
  • Better Security and Compliance: Highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services can place their most sensitive data on premises without giving up the benefits of cloud.

Adopting hybrid cloud does have its challenges. Some of the most common concerns cited include workload sizing, application placement and capacity planning. Companies must be careful not to undersize or oversize their hybrid clouds to deliver expected performance levels at a reasonable cost. Application placement is another concern, addressing the core question of which workloads should use which resources. And without mature capacity planning it will be very difficult to realize the promise of hybrid cloud. A hybrid cloud strategy that does not address these disciplines is destined to fail.

Fortunately, there are many software solutions that manage these complexities. Even previously unimaginable workloads like highly transactional OLTP applications can be successfully deployed with hybrid cloud thanks to advances in software. Microsoft is investing significantly in this area and offers an interesting case study with its latest advances in Azure SQL and the forthcoming SQL Server 2016. Two important new features include Stretch Database and Always Encrypted:

  • Stretch Database migrates historical data to the Microsoft Azure SQL cloud, enabling you to access the most commonly used information quickly while benefitting from the cost and scale benefits of the cloud, all with no changes to your application code.
  • Always Encrypted protects data at rest and during transport, over on premises and cloud databases, preventing privileged cloud administrators from accessing sensitive data. This enables companies to implement a separation of concerns between those who own the data (and can see it) and those who manage it (but should have no access).

Stretch Database and Always Encrypted are just two of many technology innovations from Microsoft that support the adoption of hybrid cloud. In fact, Microsoft is only one of many companies to provide incredibly useful software that enables the promise of hybrid cloud. If you seek the business and technology benefits of hybrid cloud but are worried about the inhibitors, now is the time to jump in thanks to software innovations like SQL Server 2016 and Azure SQL.