There is no question that the hybrid cloud is the cloud of choice for enterprises. Despite talk of shutting down their data centers and going pure public cloud, necessity is forcing companies to retain some data center equipment and applications.
Many firms saw the cloud as an opportunity to get entirely out of owning and managing their own data center. But as more companies move to the cloud, the all-or-nothing decision of either a fully private cloud or fully public cloud strategy has been tempered by the flexibility of a hybrid cloud solution.
Things like compliance and regulation are forcing some companies, especially in highly regulated industries like medical and financial, to retain their on-premises systems. So hybrid, a mix of on-premises and public cloud, is the way for firms to go.
A recent study by IDC projected that the worldwide data services for hybrid cloud will grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20%, which is 15 percentage points faster than the worldwide software market.
More than a decade into the cloud revolution, the top players are fairly well established and more are old guard IT giants than startups and new players.
Top Hybrid Cloud Providers
Please be aware that this list of top hybrid cloud providers is in no particular order. There are too many variables to strictly "rank" hybrid cloud providers.
Amazon's Amazon Web Services (AWS) unit is still the unquestioned beast of the business, with twice the market share as its next leading competitor, Microsoft. The company has the widest array of services and the largest data center presence and continues to plow billions into expansions.
AWS is known as a public cloud solution but offers numerous services to connect on-premises installations to the cloud. It serves as everything from burst capacity to disaster recovery and much in between.
Microsoft is one of the few vendors that can offer a true hybrid cloud solution because of its massive on-premises legacy. The Azure services is built on Windows Server, the .Net framework and Visual Studio, making lift and shift of on-prem apps to the service relatively painless. And Microsoft didn’t fall into its not-invented-here mentality of the 90s. It has embraced Linux, containers and Kubernetes with a bear hug, offering considerable support for the open source products.
Microsoft also has a product called Azure Stack that essentially lets you replicate your entire Azure environment on premises. This can be done for cost cutting or to act as a disaster backup.
In late 2017 IBM merged all of its cloud services, from Bluemix to SoftLayer to Watson, into one overarching business called IBM Cloud, with more than 170 services for on-prem and public cloud. These services include but are not limited to virtualized and bare metal hosting, DevOps, containers, and serverless computing, blockchain, AI/ML, and HPC. With its bare metal offering, it’s possible to easily lift and shift on-premises workloads running on IBM platforms to the cloud with little to no modification.
The Google Cloud Platform has had some catching up to do but it has caught up to become a competitor with IBM and Microsoft to AWS’s dominance. Google originally tried to be a pure cloud play but realized the folly of that choice and now works with on-prem systems for elastic infrastructure, disaster recovery, DevOps and Big Data. But it also has a lot of cloud-based services, most notably its AI efforts, which are bolstered by its custom AI processor, TensorFlow. You can’t buy a TensorFlow system, you can only run your AI and machine learning apps on them on the Google Cloud.
Rackspace works with a variety of other cloud to offer a variety of services. Rackspace's hybrid cloud solution is powered by RackConnect, which links an organization's private clouds to Rackspace’s services. Most recently it launch Private Cloud as a Service (PCaaS), its term for on-demand provisioning of virtualized servers available at most colocation facilities and data centers. It also has a deal with HPE to offer pay-as-you-go services based on OpenStack similar to the public cloud but located in private data centers.
VMware is relatively new to the cloud space, but its experience in vendor-agnostic virtualization is resulting in some significant partnerships. VMware sticks to what it knows – on-premises virtualization – and partners with cloud veterans for the hybrid part. At the heart of VMware is the vSphere hypervisor, which customers can run in their own data centers or leading public clouds such as the company’s own VMware Cloud on AWS service, IBM Cloud, or one of 4,000 VMware Cloud Provider partners. The ability to run vSphere on-prem and in the cloud enables a consistent hybrid cloud infrastructure.
Toward the end of 2015, HPE made a major announcement that it was throttling back on public cloud and instead focusing on hybrid cloud offerings. HPE's Helion offering is focused on what it calls the Right Mix, where businesses can choose how much of their hybrid strategy will be public and how much will be private.
HPE's private cloud solutions have a strong basis in open technologies, including major support for OpenStack. However, the company also leverages its partnerships with AWS and Microsoft Azure, among others, to provide some of the public cloud aspects of its hybrid cloud offering.
8) Dell EMC
Besides being a major provider of data center equipment, Dell EMC has some major cloud software products under the same roof, starting with VMware. In addition to being a major storage provider, EMC also has strength in the hyperconverged market by offering on-prem cloud solutions like VCE VxRack, VxBlock, and VBlock solutions. Dell is also the owner of Pivotal Software, which runs the Cloud Foundry open source PaaS service for building highly scalable apps.
The database and enterprise app software giant has pivoted to provide most if not all of its software as an on-demand service, at least on its own growing cloud. It does not allow its software to run in virtualized instances like the way AWS, Azure and GCP operate but it can be run on bare metal servers, which Oracle offers. So like IBM, it’s easy to do a lift and shift from running its apps on-prem to the cloud with minimal change.
With more than 180 data centers worldwide, Equinix is the largest independent data center host and provider in the world. Its primary focus is on connecting customers to hybrid providers like Amazon, Microsoft, et. al, through its massive, high speed private network. The company claims up to 100Gbps of bandwidth and sub-millisecond latency.
Like VMware, Cisco is a company of private cloud product that offers hybrid solutions through a partner network. Cisco CloudCenter (formerly CliQr) is used to more securely deploy and manage applications in multiple data centers, both private and public cloud environments.
Cisco's partner network includes companies like Accenture, AT&T, and CDW, but its biggest partner is Google, which it partnered with to offer hybrid connectivity and solutions.
The communications provider offers hybrid support through its Dedicated Cloud Compute Foundation (DCC). Based on VMware Cloud Foundation DCC Foundation is a fully private service that offers customers a converged, software-defined data center model designed to address issues around provisioning, configuration errors and to assist in automating tasks. CenturyLink boasts 32 hosting locations on four continents.
13) DCX Technology (formerly CSC)
One of the biggest independent consultants and managed services providers and the top provider to the federal government, DCX's big focus is on its Agility Platform, which connects different clouds together to simplify management and offer centralized management of all platforms. It offers managed services to AWS, Azure, VMware and SAP.
Verizon Enterprise, the business division of Verizon, specializes mostly in connectivity but also in offering some services necessary for the hybrid cloud, like disaster recovery and cloud backup. It also has data center co-locations, managed services, load balancing between multiple clouds, a digital media content delivery network, a cloud marketplace and it offers authorized Oracle integration.
The Chinese retail giant has copied Amazon’s retail model to great success and now is copying Amazon’s cloud model as well. It offers compute services, database services and Web hosting. Despite being Chinese and centered in the nation, it claims an international presence of 18 data center regions around the world.