This comprehensive guide covers the use of services from multiple cloud vendors, including the benefits businesses gain and the challenges IT teams face when using multi-cloud.
Cloud services from AWS, Microsoft, Google have increased in popularity over the last decade. As a result, organizations are utilizing cloud services from multiple vendors, leading to the aptly-names paradigm of multi-cloud. TechRepublic released a cheat sheet on how to navigate through the multi-cloud era and what it means for your business.
- What is multi-cloud? Multi-cloud is the practice of using cloud services from multiple heterogeneous cloud services, as well as specialized platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Multi-cloud also includes private clouds and hybrid clouds with multiple public cloud components.
- What advantages do multi-cloud deployments offer? Multi-cloud is about enabling choice – to be able to pick and choose components from multiple vendors – allowing organizations and application developers to use the best fit for their intended purpose.
- Should my business use a multi-cloud approach? Generally, a multi-cloud deployment will be useful for organizations that have specific needs or dependencies to satisfy.
- How popular is multi-cloud? This is happening on a case-by-case basis. As organizations outgrow the capabilities of their cloud service providers, services from additional vendors may be needed.
- How do I build a multi-cloud deployment? A multi-cloud deployment should be carefully planned to avoid interoperability issues. The use of cloud management platforms is recommended.
What is multi-cloud?
Multi-cloud refers to the practice of using services from multiple heterogeneous cloud service providers, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure, as well as specialized platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Multi-cloud also comprises the use of private cloud environments and hybrid cloud environments that leverage more than one public cloud platform.
As an architectural choice, multi-cloud can be used for a variety of reasons – the most obvious one is disaster recovery: While cloud vendors offer a variety of options and SLAs for redundancy to guarantee uptime and backups to ensure data integrity, both of these rely on the supposition that the vendor’s entire infrastructure does not fail at once.
While most workloads can be built to be vendor-neutral (this flexibility is a primary benefit of multi-cloud), some workloads may benefit from using specific cloud platforms. Roughly one-third of the IT professionals surveyed in the TechRepublic Premium’s Managing the multi-cloud survey indicated their organization uses a specialized application or solution provider, such as Google Drive, Cloudfare, etc. These are closer to services than they are cloud platforms – while there is feature duplication between these similar companies as with public cloud, these products do not support general compute workloads commonly associated with cloud computing.
What advantages do multi-cloud deployments offer?
Multi-cloud’s main advantage is that organizations and application developers can pick and choose components from multiple vendors and use the best fit for their intended purpose. To draw a comparison, multi-cloud is more á la carte than d’hôte.
For organizations with an outsized dependency on the Windows ecosystem, leveraging some Microsoft Azure services may be beneficial, while the same organization may use Google Cloud for machine learning and analytics and/or Amazon for public-facing web services.
Another benefit of multi-cloud deployments is cost savings. Competitive pricing is a strategy used by multiple vendors to entice customers to migrate from a traditional, on-premises data center to a hybrid or public cloud model. There is an important caveat to this approach: The time required to create integrations between clouds, with cost savings as a primary motivator, can be counterproductive, as developing those integrations can cost more than savings they would produce.
Should my business use a multi-cloud approach?
Generally, a multi-cloud deployment will be useful for organizations that have specific needs or dependencies to satisfy, such as integrations of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, or reliance on Windows software or specific third-party solutions. Multi-cloud offers a great deal of flexibility in how resources are managed, though the difficulty increases roughly exponentially with the number of integrations added. Cloud management platforms can be used to ease the deployment and integration of various cloud services.
Presently, cloud providers are not engaging in vendor lock-in – putting up barriers to interoperability, or hampering migration to a different provider – although customer retention is expected to become an increasing concern as cloud services are commoditized.
According to Carson Sweet, CTO of cloud security firm CloudPassage, “Retention in most of the major providers is achieved by crafting a value proposition that entices users to use more services on a broader scale. The idea now is to get customers to the point of being ‘all-in’ of the customer’s own volition….buyers have largely evolved well beyond getting ‘tricked’ into lock-in.”
How popular is multi-cloud?
Multi-cloud is continuing to gain popularity as competitors to AWS have appeared, and particularly as specialized cloud technology vendors and service vendors have gained traction.
As organizations grow, it may be the case that needs for individual teams or projects are not met by their existing cloud provider, likewise, for mergers and acquisitions, not all business operations can be easily migrated to the cloud infrastructure of the acquiring company. These are optimal cases for adding a secondary public cloud provider for a multi-cloud deployment.
How do I build a multi-cloud deployment?
Migrating to a multi-cloud deployment is not a decision that should be entered into lightly. While the proliferation of open-source software has greatly decreased issues with vendor lock-in, the potential for interoperability problems to occur still exists. Cloud management platforms can be used to avoid potential issues with common configurations, though some corner cases can hamper successful deployment. Particularly, as vendor-specific APIs are somewhat opaque and not necessarily static, the ability to launch a multi-cloud deployment can be complicated by mutual incompatibilities.
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