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Difference Between Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud

Difference Between Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud

The popularity of cloud computing has led to an increasingly diverse set of cloud technologies, which in turn, has led to some confusion around important cloud paradigms, specifically, public and private cloud technologies and how they intersect in the form of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud models.

public cloud

A public cloud is a set of services and resources that offers a complete virtual infrastructure available on demand and paid for based on actual usage. A user creates an account with a public cloud provider, such as AWS, or Microsoft, or Google, and then deploys those cloud services and resources as needed to handle computing tasks. You can run a few basic instances or you can architect a highly scalable and comprehensive enterprise computing environment.

private cloud

Organizations use private clouds to deploy services and resources within their own data centers, the business owns the environment, which is typically used by a relatively small number of employees and customers, and provides limited services and scalability. In theory, private clouds offer the DIY conveniences of a public cloud, while still enabling the business to maintain direct control over the infrastructure.

hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is basically a connection between a public cloud and a private cloud. Ideally, a business could use a hybrid cloud model to support seamless workload migrations between private and public cloud environments. A workload might also run redundantly in both environments for greater resiliency, or components running in each environment could interoperate. Ultimately, a hybrid cloud offers more flexibility and more control than either a public or private cloud could do alone.

A hybrid cloud is usually associated with cloud bursting, moving resources from the private cloud to the public cloud when demand exceeds on-premises capacity. But cloud bursting is uncommon in practice. Private and public clouds can and do work together, but they're rarely an apples to apples match, which makes cloud bursting technically challenging.


Ideally, a multi-cloud environment incorporates services from two or more public cloud providers. Public clouds can have similar capabilities, but they're not necessarily equal. So there are advantages to being able to pick and choose across providers.

First, different business units have different IT needs. For example, Google Cloud is recognized for its AI services. So data scientists might turn there for machine learning projects. At the same time, AWS offers a mature and diverse set of infrastructure services, such as DNS routing, caching, and load balancers. Pretty much everything developers might need in order to deploy a complex enterprise application in the public cloud. The idea here is that a business can use almost any public cloud services to support its own specific goals.

Second, organizations want to avoid vendor lock in. In theory, an organization builds its cloud environment in a way that enables straightforward workload portability should it ever decide to switch providers. In practice, this goal is rarely enough to justify a formal multi-cloud strategy because public clouds are not interchangeable. Differences in resources, services, APIs, and other components make it difficult to migrate complex applications without some amount of re-architecting.

Finally, a multi-cloud environment typically involves two or more public cloud providers. Notice we didn't include private clouds. That is, connecting a private cloud to a public cloud doesn't make it a multi-cloud as we're defining it. However, almost any multi-cloud strategy will likely still involve some amount of on-premise physical, virtual, and even private cloud infrastructure.