In a recent post on Cloud Sprawl, I looked at the “battle” between private cloud and public cloud, and discussed why those alleging that private cloud was down and out may be getting ahead of themselves.

Ultimately, despite the incredible revenue numbers for public cloud companies, and the high number of virtual machines being created – two metrics often cited to prove public cloud’s dominance – the trend that many IT experts, analysts and cloud pundits are predicting involves a move to a hybrid cloud approach. The factors precipitating this ultimate end-state include overall cost of cloud deployments, increasingly sophisticated requirements, and the feeling that private cloud environments can be more secure.

Now there’s some additional evidence that public cloud-only environments may not be the future. Just this week, it was announced that Dropbox – the online file hosting service – is moving much of their storage away from their chosen cloud provider – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – and into their own private cloud infrastructure.

The reason for this move is simple economics. At the size that Dropbox has grown to – which the company claims is more than 500 million users – the cost to run their service on AWS infrastructure was becoming extremely high. That recurring cloud expense was cutting into the company’s margins and the feeling is a capital investment in their own private cloud infrastructure will be more cost effective over the long-run.

Dropbox is migrating the majority of their users – and their users’ files – into their own private cloud infrastructure. However, that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning AWS and public cloud altogether. The company will continue to use the service in a very smart way – to keep files in specific geographic regions where they don’t have their own infrastructure. This is in response to customers who – due to government rules or other regulations – need to keep sensitive files within their own country.

Dropbox’s move to a hybrid cloud – with an infrastructure comprised of both private and public cloud resources – makes sense for their company. And I anticipate that it will make sense for other large companies in the near future as well.

Public cloud is a solid solution for small companies looking to build out their networks and solutions without the need to shell out big bucks for their own datacenters and private cloud infrastructures. However, as companies grow and scale, the cost of these public clouds can grow along with them. Eventually, large companies can reach a point where certain workloads simply don’t make economic sense to keep in the public cloud – where the more they use, the more they pay.

All that said, operating a Hybrid-Cloud model – especially at scale – comes with daunting challenges. Both public and private clouds represent software-defined, virtual infrastructure that is very dynamic and often opened up to on-demand, self-service provisions by engineers, developers and others that need compute, storage and networking capacity. Trying to maintain visibility, control and consistent processes across disparate cloud planes is not an easy task. This can make management of a hybrid cloud environment cumbersome, and even leave an enterprise’s network infrastructure vulnerable to attack.

The answer is to adopt cloud management and cloud automation technologies that effectively bring control of all cloud resources – public and private – into a single operational framework. This single pane of glass for managing an enterprise’s cloud ecosystem not only makes it easier to move workloads from one cloud to another – when necessary – but also makes it easier to manage and secure clouds by automating compliance and ensuring changes are consistently implemented across all cloud resources.

Cloud automation can even proactively protect companies from cost overruns and security breaches by reacting in real time to changes and bringing a cloud’s security settings back into compliance, and limiting unnecessary cloud servers and costly capacity when it is not really needed.

As more enterprises move to the public cloud – Forrester’s Dave Bartoletti estimates only about 30 percent already have – they’re going to start to experience the pain from surprisingly large invoices and have to make a decision about what kind of cloud environment is truly most cost effective for them. And a large number will discover the same thing Dropbox did, that it makes economic sense to move to a hybrid cloud environment.

I anticipate that we’ll see a sharp increase in hybrid cloud adoption in the near future. And – with it – will come a sharp increase in cloud automation and cloud management solution adoption to help overcome the challenges that enterprises face managing hybrid cloud environments.

For more information on the challenges of managing hybrid cloud environments, and cloud security trend, click on the following resources:

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