This post is part 1 in a 4-part series on how companies use the hybrid cloud to solve real-world problems. Part 2 addresses leveraging hybrid clouds to incorporate cloud-based functionality; Part 3 discusses using the hybrid cloud for app migration; and Part 4 details the many paths enterprises take to the hybrid cloud.

The term “hybrid cloud” has found its way into common usage among IT operations folk, but not everyone agrees on exactly what it means. Basically, a hybrid cloud refers to any situation in which you have an application running partially in your company’s data center, and partially in one or more public clouds, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.

A private cloud, meanwhile, is when your company incorporates cloud-type architectures and capabilities into your own private data center. The goal here is to make your data center “look” like a cloud and take advantage of cloud principles and best practices, but it is reserved only for your company’s own use.

Some people use the term “hybrid cloud” specifically to refer to companies that use a public cloud and have implemented a private cloud in their own data centers.

hybrid cloud iconTo me, though, any time you have a data center connected to the public cloud and applications shared between that data center and a public cloud, you’ve got a hybrid cloud … no matter how you choose to manage your private data center.

Given that definition, lots and lots of companies have a hybrid cloud to one extent or another. There is nothing magical about it.

Basically, the hybrid cloud is a tool for any organization that wants to take advantage of some of the benefits that the cloud provides without having to move everything in their application infrastructure over to a public cloud.

A mo’ better data center

One of the most common hybrid cloud use cases comprises companies that simply want to be able to provision new servers faster than they can in their own data centers. Their purpose for moving to a hybrid cloud architecture is not to adopt particular cloud capabilities, but simply to leverage the cloud as an extension of their own data centers.

This may be to quickly address ongoing growth in production capacity requirements, since public clouds can often add capacity at a rate much faster than can a traditional data center. Or a company may want to merely spin up temporary application environments for testing and debugging applications. Or it may want to create a whole new data center in the cloud to improve its availability, or to get better “coverage” in specific regions of the world. Again, public cloud vendors can often do this much faster and cheaper than a company could build its own data center.

Compliance is another common driver for hybrid cloud adoption. For instance, some industries have specific geographic compliance requirements that specify where data must be stored. Some insist that data be stored locally or regionally (as is the case with some European Union compliance regulations), while others may require data to be geographically distributed (often, in data centers at least 100 miles apart) for backup, redundancy, and disaster recovery reasons.

Whatever the reason, the cloud can be a relatively easy, quick, and affordable way to spin up an entire new data center—or additional data center capacity—to augment existing data centers.

Monitoring challenges when adding data center capacity in the cloud

Every hybrid cloud use case brings its own monitoring challenges. When using a cloud provider as an additional data center or for additional data center capacity, it is important to ensure that your monitoring tools work consistently across all your infrastructure—including the portions in your own data centers and in the cloud.

If you have different monitoring tools based on the location of your application or infrastructure components, you may have a difficult time diagnosing problems across domains. Additionally, configuring your tools, setting up alert thresholds and conditions, and similar monitoring management tasks can be more complicated when you have to use multiple monitoring tools.

Read the other post in this series: 
Using Hybrid Clouds: Adding Cloud-Based Capabilities
Using Hybrid Clouds: App Migration
Enterprises Take Many Paths to the Hybrid Cloud

Be sure to also read our informative ebook: The Many Paths to the Hybrid Cloud

Want the opportunity to learn more about the hybrid cloud? Be sure to check out this recording of Lee’s super-informative webinar on Monitoring the Hybrid Cloud: How do you measure and make decisions across on-premises data centers, dynamic clouds, and hybrid clouds?


Cloud image courtesy of

Lee Atchison is the Senior Director, Cloud Architecture at New Relic. For the last eight years he has helped design and build a solid service-based product architecture that scaled from startup to high traffic public enterprise. Lee has 32 years of industry experience, including seven years as a Senior Manager at, and has consulted with leading organizations on how to modernize their application architectures and transform their organizations at scale. He is the author of the O’Reilly book Architecting for Scale and author of the blog Lee@Scale. View posts by .

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