Just a couple of years ago, industry experts surmised whether multicloud was here to stay or if it was just a fleeting outlier restricted to bleeding edge technology adopters. However, reports such as the above have conclusively proved shown that government agencies, SMBs, and even startups have made a deliberate and strategic decision to implement a multicloud architecture. Even major users of Amazon, Google, and Azure public clouds have taken a +1 approach – as in Amazon +1 – where +1 could be another public cloud or even an on-premises datacenter.
While many organizations see the business benefits of moving to a multicloud infrastructure, thanks to the easy availability of value-added services, effective cloud management is paramount if they want to reduce risks, improve on-demand availability, and scale up quickly.
“Exploiting cloud successfully and safely requires multiple domains to coordinate and develop a business-driven decision framework and best-practice IT operational models,” explained David Cearley, Research Vice President and Fellow at Gartner. “This helps to standardize cloud strategy across an organization, while allowing for an approach that will meet the unique needs of different use cases and business units.”
That’s where a multicloud strategy comes in.
An effective multicloud strategy allows organizations to efficiently distribute their workloads across multiple cloud environments, while enabling seamless data flow to and from on-premises infrastructure or datacenters, so as to get the biggest bang for their buck while mitigating risks associated with the individual cloud components of this architecture. A business-centric cloud strategy pushes forward organizational change in the face of resistance to technological evolution and speeds up the digital transformation process.
Benefits of Strategic Multicloud Deployment
Cloud-native development is picking up pace as organizations transform to an agile, integrated hybrid IT infrastructure. This enables them to take advantage of DevOps and build portable application stacks that are far more versatile than those that run on a single cloud. There are several advantages of planned and effectively managed multicloud operations.
No vendor lock-in: Vendor lock-in is a paradox – and in some cases, a necessary evil – of cloud adoption. While cloud-native apps and services are portable to a fair extent at the moment, many providers attempt to make their platforms “sticky” by adding exclusive features to differentiate themselves from the competition.
No surprise, then, that companies are looking for a way around this. “Most organizations adopt a multicloud strategy out of a desire to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions. We expect that most large organizations will continue to willfully pursue this approach,” said Michael Warrilow, VP Analyst at Gartner.
Multicloud deployments make sure that businesses get the architecture that is most suited to their needs and achieve a fine balance between portability and functionality.
With vendor selection as part of a multicloud strategy, organizations get to pick the public or private clouds that benefit their customers or meet their compliance requirements without being constrained by the functionalities that a particular vendor offers. As cloud services evolve with the pace of innovation, the organization gets the freedom to make agile choices and do away with the need to commit to particular architecture or technology for good.
Reduced risk of service disruption: A single cloud environment leaves the organization vulnerable to the risk of outages or even a disaster due to security or infrastructure issues. A multicloud strategy mitigates this risk by diversifying essential services over different clouds. The organization can retain control over mission-critical apps and data with a private cloud or on-premises infrastructure that integrates with the multicloud implementation.
Further, data and workloads remain safe when disaster strikes. Even if one provider suffers an outage, data and apps can still be available on another, depending on the backup, replication, redundancy, and load balancing setup.
Cost savings: Every cloud – in the sky and in computing – is different. Pricing models take into account the functionality, amount of integration required with existing software systems and physical infrastructure, compliance needs, and so on. Rapid changes in the landscape and lack of standardization and transparency make it difficult for businesses to find the best deals or value for money, even though cloud providers are known to give unbeatable, by-the-minute pricing with little direct negotiation.
Multicloud, however, gives a company the choice to club together the right apps, platforms, and services that meet business needs and functions without the need to compromise on minimum requirements or standards. Organizations now have the option to move workloads that aren’t contributing significantly to revenue to another provider within a few hours.
The right cloud for the job: The wealth of features and customizations offered by every cloud provider for different workloads negates the disadvantages of commoditization. Obviously, some cloud environments are better suited to certain apps and business functions. Even within functions such as storage, an organization might choose to use multiple clouds for different levels of usage, performance needs, and security.
Considerations for Designing and Deploying a Multicloud Strategy
The benefits of a multicloud deployment are clear and it’s hard to imagine getting stuck because of the applications that are made possible by public, private, and hybrid cloud systems today. However, IT teams would do well to take into account the scope and potential challenges of designing a multicloud architecture that’s right for the organization as early as possible. Here are some things that need to be thought through before jumping in and adding more cloud environments to the existing architecture.
Versatile architecture: All applications, tools, and databases under in-house development or being used need to support “any” cloud as opposed to a “particular” cloud. When organizations skimp on building support or integration capabilities into an application, they sacrifice workload flexibility down the line, when perhaps the real need for scaling the application arises. Since the number of cloud providers and capabilities will only increase with time, it makes sense to keep applications in a constant state of flux and updated integrative capabilities, so that IT always has the leeway to pick the most suitable or cost-effective cloud environment for each of them.
The fundamental components of a multicloud architecture can be divided into three layers:
- Foundational resources – the underlying compute, storage, network, and security elements
- Workload management – constructs such as VMs and containers and workload lifecycle management frameworks such as Kubernetes or OpenStack
- Service consumption – applications that decouple IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS by abstracting the underlying workloads and physical and virtual resources