1. The definition varies. There's no consensus definition for what makes up a hybrid cloud environment, says IDC analyst Benjamin McGrath. "At the very least, it requires a mix of cloud and\/or on-premises IT," he says. "But some would add the requirement for the entire environment to be managed under the same umbrella. And some would add a portability component, where workloads can shift across public and private clouds, or nonclouds, as needed." Hybrid clouds are more than just private and public cloud combinations, says Gartner analyst Ed Anderson. "Hybrid cloud is anytime you combine two or more clouds in a coordinated configuration," he says. Vendors like to position hybrid cloud as the combination of their private cloud offerings and their public cloud offerings, Anderson says, but that is "only a small subset of the possible hybrid cloud configurations."\n2. Start planning now. Whatever cloud technology it has today, a company is likely to end up with a hybrid cloud in the near future, Anderson says. "It's better to be proactive and establish a framework for hybrid cloud now, so as new cloud services are introduced to the environment they have a home," he says.\n3. This is the big leagues. "Organizations with a hybrid cloud strategy are generally more advanced both in terms the people within the organization and the processes in which they engage with their technologies," McGrath says. "A hybrid cloud environment is the goal state for a lot of cloud-using organizations."\n4. Many tools are available. The tools to manage hybrid clouds come from many sources, including cloud management vendors, IT operations management vendors, pure-play cloud management startups and cloud service providers\u2014which have their own tools for their platforms, Anderson says. "Organizations implementing hybrid cloud should consider their wide array of options, most likely including the IT operations management tools they are using today," he says.\n5. Expect management challenges. Organizations that aspire to having a hybrid cloud strategy face big challenges because they must get to the point where they have a unified service catalog for IT resources and the ability to define cloud management policies and service-level agreements, McGrath says. "A lot of organizations have adopted some sort of cloud, or even some public and private clouds, and nearly everyone still runs some workloads on-premises," he says. "But the key to a hybrid cloud environment is being able to manage those different deployment options."