Cloud computing continues to gain momentum as a description of service offerings based on a virtualized data center infrastructure and provided over the Internet on an as-needed basis. Public clouds, such as Amazon EC2, first brought attention to this model, followed by private clouds built within an organization, as exemplified by IBM's Blue Cloud initiative. Both public and private clouds have been found to have advantages for the enterprise, but most analysts now agree that the real power of the cloud concept lies in a marriage between the two -- the hybrid cloud.

A hybrid provides services using a mixture of private and public clouds that have been integrated to optimize service. The promise of the hybrid cloud is to provide the local data benefits of the private clouds with the economies, scalability, and on-demand access of the public cloud. The hybrid cloud remains somewhat undefined because it specifies a midway point between the two ends of the continuum of services provided strictly over the Internet and those provided through the data center or on the desktop. Today, almost every enterprise could be said to have an IT infrastructure containing some elements of both extremes. Meshing them into a common structure is what becomes interesting and offers a range of new possibilities in handling local and cloud-based data, but it also introduces a range of complexities in data transfer and integration.

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