The Unique Advantages of Hybrid Clouds in Colocation Data Centers

Here’s a look at why investing in a hybrid cloud might be worth it (and why it might not) for colocation customers.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

November 23, 2020

4 Min Read
The Unique Advantages of Hybrid Clouds in Colocation Data Centers

If you use a colocation data center to host your infrastructure, building a hybrid cloud may not be the most obvious thing to do with that infrastructure. Many of the core types of cloud services that are available through hybrid cloud frameworks can be implemented more simply and at a lower cost by creating a private cloud, or even avoiding the cloud altogether in favor of traditional virtual machines.

On the other hand, there are some unique advantages that you get when you build a hybrid cloud, especially on colocated hardware. Here’s a look at why investing in a hybrid cloud might be worth it -- and why it might not.

What You Can Do Without Hybrid Cloud

If you have a rack of servers sitting in a colocation data center today, you probably don’t want to deploy workloads directly on the bare-metal hardware. Instead, you want to provision and manage the physical servers in a way that makes it easy to deploy and orchestrate multiple applications across them, without having to worry much about the underlying hardware.

There are several approaches to doing this without using a hybrid cloud architecture.

One is to build a conventional private cloud using a platform like OpenStack. That strategy allows you to implement and consume the same types of IaaS services -- compute, storage, and so on -- that you would use in the public cloud, except they’d be hosted on your own infrastructure. Deploying these services with OpenStack also means you would centralize monitoring and administration of your infrastructure.

Related:Hybrid Cloud: The Benefits of NOT Going All-In update from October 2020

You could do something similar by building a Kubernetes cluster with your servers. The big caveat for that approach is you’d have to deploy and manage your applications in a way that is supported by Kubernetes -- which, in general, means using containers, although it’s possible to run virtual machines on the platform, too.

Another possibility is simply running traditional virtual machines on the servers, then using your virtualization platform of choice to orchestrate them. You wouldn’t get neatly consumable IaaS services under this model, but you’d enjoy the simplicity and security of allowing each of your workloads to run inside its own virtual machine. You could also easily move virtual machines from one bare-metal server to another, and take advantage of features like automated failover, if they are available from your virtualization platform.

This is all to say that joining your colocated infrastructure with a public cloud platform as part of a hybrid cloud strategy is by no means the only way to achieve the agility of modern architectures.

Related:What Data Center Colocation Is Today, and Why It’s Changed

What You Can Do With a Hybrid Cloud

On the other hand, there are certain types of functionality that only a hybrid cloud strategy can enable for colocated infrastructure.

The most obvious is the ability to use native public cloud services to deploy and manage workloads hosted on your colocated servers. With solutions like AWS Outposts and Azure Stack, you can use the core IaaS services of the respective vendors’ public clouds -- like S3, Blob Storage, Azure Virtual Machines, and EC2 -- within your colocated environment. You can also move workloads between your private infrastructure and public cloud environments with ease, since the workloads will run using the same APIs in either setting.

Perhaps more compellingly, hybrid cloud frameworks also allow you to take advantage of some types of more sophisticated public cloud services within a private data center. For example, AWS Outposts supports EMR, Amazon’s big-data-as-a-service platform, as well as Amazon RDS, a database service that supports some types of databases that you can’t deploy using a private cloud.

These types of services are more interesting than basic IaaS, because the latter can be implemented using a platform like OpenStack, while the former are available only when you use a proprietary hybrid cloud framework.

It’s worth noting, too, that hybrid architectures built with colocated infrastructure also provide easy integration with cloud interconnects, which can dramatically improve performance in environments that require data exchange between colocation data centers and public clouds. Interconnects may not matter if your workloads reside purely within a colocation facility, but for organizations that use the public cloud and colocation center at the same time, interconnects are an important asset.

A third advantage of most modern hybrid cloud frameworks is that they allow you to use public cloud vendors’ native management tools -- like CloudWatch in the case of Outposts, or Google Cloud Console for Anthos -- to manage workloads running in a colocation facility. That’s likely to be a benefit to teams that are already invested in the public cloud, and don’t want to have to learn new management tooling in order to deploy workloads in colocation facilities.


In short, if your goal is simply to deploy workloads inside a colocation data center and you don’t need integration with public cloud services or tooling, building a private cloud, or sticking with plain-old VMs, is probably the best solution for you. But if you need special public cloud services whose equivalents you can’t implement using a private cloud, and/or if you want to use public cloud management tools for your colocated infrastructure, a platform like Outposts or Azure Stack is worth the added cost.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

Subscribe to the Data Center Knowledge Newsletter
Get analysis and expert insight on the latest in data center business and technology delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like