First, the public cloud was all the rage as organizations enjoyed new levels of flexibility and the ability to offload capital investments and operational headaches. Then the focus shifted to the private cloud amid growing security and regulatory compliance concerns. Now, organizations are exploring the hybrid cloud as a means of maximizing agility and efficiency.

As the name implies, a hybrid cloud environment combines public cloud services with a private cloud. Organizations can leverage the scalability and cost-efficiency of a public cloud, while maintaining control of mission-critical applications and data. A true hybrid cloud integrates public and private clouds into a single management interface, making it easy to move applications and services between the two environments. Resources can be automatically provisioned according to current business needs.

According to the RightScale 2016 State of the Cloud Report, 71 percent of organizations have implemented a hybrid cloud model, up from 58 percent the previous year. This compares to 89 percent that are using a public cloud, and 77 percent that are using a private cloud. The typical organization employs three public and three private clouds.

While a shift is underway to the hybrid cloud, the technology is still evolving and challenges remain. A hybrid cloud tends to be more complex than traditional environments, making it difficult to develop policies and ensure seamless operation between cloud services and in-house infrastructure. Compatibility issues can lead to frustrating, productivity-draining performance issues.

According to a study conducted by Forrester Research, ensuring the performance of applications and maintaining visibility and control of workloads across public and private cloud services are significant challenges associated with the hybrid cloud. IT must effectively manage configuration, security, and the detection and resolution of network issues while minimizing impact to the production environment.

There are cultural forces at work as well. Gartner suggests the largest obstacle to more widespread hybrid cloud deployments is resistance to the transformational adjustments necessary to make it work. IT must break away from the traditional IT culture, embrace a model centered on automation and self-service, and focus on solving strategic business process problems rather than technical issues.

One way to overcome the challenges involved with hybrid cloud deployments is to partner with a managed services provider. A managed services provider can act as your “virtual CIO,” developing a strategy based upon your organization’s business processes and goals to ensure a cohesive hybrid cloud environment. And because cloud-based services, application and data are critical to your operations, around-the-clock network monitoring and support are necessary to maintain the highest levels of security and performance. Turning over these responsibilities to a managed services provider reduces costs and enables in-house IT resources to focus more on strategic initiatives and take full advantage of the agility made possible by a hybrid cloud.

Technology is now viewed more as a driver of revenue and creator of competitive advantage than a collection of tools. As a result, organizations must reevaluate their approach to how technology is managed and integrated with business processes. By leveraging managed services in a hybrid cloud environment, organizations can streamline operations while delivering the flexibility, scalability, reliability and performance the business demands.