Distributed cloud is the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations while still being managed and controlled centrally by a cloud provider. Whereas conventional public clouds are hosted in a provider’s centralized, proprietary data centers, distributed clouds allow resources to extend to additional decentralized nodes like on-premises servers or edge networks.

Companies have driven demand for distributed cloud to address public cloud limitations around latency, network backhaul costs, data residency regulations and operational flexibility as on-premises equipment remains integral to many enterprises. Distributed deployment patterns retain desired cloud capabilities while transferring select services closer to use sources – enterprise campuses, retail stores, factory floors, cell towers and more.

While allowing localized processing and data storage, distributed clouds still enable centralized, unified orchestration, delivery and governance of hardware and services across dispersed nodes from a common platform. IT administrators can provision, command and optimize hybrid resources centrally while positioning capabilities where tactically advantageous. This hybrid model grants expanded deployment flexibility.

By distributing capabilities like storage, computing and analytics into far-flung on-prem and edge nodes yet still federating everything under centralized provider management, distributed clouds essentially offer the best of both worlds — cloud and edge. Organizations garner responsiveness, customization, control and cost savings benefits without losing cloud simplicity, consistency and elasticity.

Early distributed cloud architectures like Azure Stack enabled limited cloud service extensions into on-premises environments. However, providers now pursue more advanced hybrid distribution and coordination. For example, Google Anthos lets organizations implement managed Kubernetes clusters spanning both cloud and on-prem hardware. Meanwhile AWS Outposts offers wide-ranging public cloud functionality on local servers. More turnkey options emerge constantly.

As distributed cloud platforms mature, organizations can further optimize application delivery and data infrastructure across environments through single-source hybrid cloud orchestration. More nimble, resilient and efficient distributed IT is achievable while avoiding cloud lock-in. The distributed cloud model ultimately promises versatility and localization without sacrificing cloud convenience.