Cloud computing has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, and will only continue to do so in the future. In fact, Gartner predicts more than half of global enterprises already using the cloud will adapt an all-in-cloud strategy by 2021. An all-in-cloud strategy, however, doesn’t mean that the company’s using only one cloud provider.
Cloud technologies have been the driving force behind Digital Transformation for the past few years, a lot of companies who were to expand, the cloud offered more security, scalability, and lower upfront costs. Today, many companies use public cloud options, a hybrid cloud infrastructure, or even an on-prem option, but now there's a model that could bring significant benefits to organizations: Multi-Cloud. Leveraging multiple clouds allows companies to take advantage of the core competencies of different cloud providers. This best-of-breed style infrastructure has the potential to improve security, scalability, and flexibility across enterprises.
Let's take a closer look at what multi-cloud is, and what it takes to make the transition.
Should You Make the Move to a Multi-Cloud Architecture?
When cloud computing first became popular, the decision came down to choosing a public or private cloud vendor. The advent of new technologies like zero-trust security and server-less computing, combined with increased regulatory compliance needs have forced many organizations to re-evaluate their traditional cloud architectures. They are looking at how they can both increase security and ensure compliance of their applications in a globally interconnected environment.
While managing several, or even dozens, of separate clouds can be more complicated, it does bring a range of benefits with an optimized multi-cloud management strategy.
Avoid Vendor Lock-in
Relying on a single cloud provider for enterprise-wide needs could lead to vendor lock-in. If the vendor makes a change to its service, from pricing to functionality, you may not have many options if you're heavily invested in their proprietary tooling. With multi-cloud, if they’re not meeting your SLA, you’ll have the option to migrating your workload to a vendor that will meet your needs. Multi-cloud mitigates the risks of vendor lock-in by reducing your reliance on any one cloud service provider.
The chances that a single cloud provider can meet the needs of your entire organization - from IT to marketing - are slim. Multi-cloud gives you the opportunity to take a best-of-breed approach and select providers for specific business functions. On a higher level, for example, some vendors are better at offering scalability, while others can handle the unique compliance requirements for specific industries like healthcare or finance. A unified solution may have transparent cost benefits over best-of-breed, but the long-term advantages of specialized and highly tailored cloud solutions could result in long-term cost-savings and a better ROI for your organization.
Enhanced Performance and Reliability
A single cloud means a single point of failure (SPOF), so if a disaster happens, you'll risk downtime and your bottom line could take a hit. With the multi-cloud approach, if there's a widespread machine failure or even a distributed denial of service (DDoS) on the vendor’s end, you'll have redundancies in place and can quickly shift workload to other clouds.
Challenges of Multi-Cloud
The benefits may be clear, but what is a company up against when they look at using multi-cloud?
The added complexity of managing multiple clouds and vendor relationships takes up more time and resources. You need to know where apps are running, what the costs are, and more. Each cloud vendor likely has proprietary tools, services, and interfaces that your IT team will need to learn and use as well. If you don't have an experienced IT team, the challenge of managing all this is magnified. It’s also important to keep your data location in mind especially with the laws that are imposed such as GDPR - managing this can be more complex with a Multi-Cloud environment. Luckily, with platforms emerging such as Google’s Anthos which helps automate policy and security at scale across all of your deployments, that complexity can be eased.
Your existing applications may be deeply entrenched in a specific vendor’s APIs or other integration methods, so migrating to different service providers could be difficult or impossible. There are tools to assist with deploying software on a variety of cloud service providers. For most organizations, however, development teams may need to modify legacy code to get workloads running on different clouds.
A Full Infrastructure Transition
When it comes to making the transition, you want your CIO and CTO to gain an understanding of where you're at, what you'll need, and the costs (and cost-savings) involved.
1. Create a cloud map: figure out the cloud services you use, why you need them, and how they connect. Gaining an understanding of your overall cloud requirements at this stage will make it easier to optimize later on. Be sure to look at the SLAs you have in place as well.
2. Define a roadmap: once you know where you're at, you should create a roadmap based on by first defining your goals and KPIs. Your plan should include everything from the overall strategy to specifics for your application and infrastructure.
3. Choose vendors: determine the best vendors for each of your applications or services, and how each cloud will interact with each other. You can also take this opportunity to modernize your software and make them deployable in any cloud environment with a tool like Anthos. This platform lets you run your applications unmodified, on existing on-prem hardware, or in the public cloud.
4. Automate cloud management: once you’ve moved to multi-cloud, you need to focus on reducing the maintenance burden for IT or DevOps. For many organizations, this means automated deployments and orchestration with tools like Kubernetes.
Enterprises Need Multi-Cloud
In the end, moving to a multi-cloud ecosystem can be time-consuming, but it's worth the effort. If you're reliant on proprietary services of any cloud vendor, it can be time-consuming and costly to transition to a new provider. Multi-cloud can mitigate vendor lock-in and the negative impacts it could bring. Furthermore, a best-of-breed approach to cloud can lead to more efficient business processes at a lower cost.
With these benefits that a multi-cloud brings, there's likely a positive ROI for your organization in the long run. With the best-of-breed approach, you can choose the most cost-effective solutions for your workloads. You're also not subject to vendor lock-in, so you have more bargaining power if your cloud service provider wants to increase its fees.