Over the past couple of years, with the rise of cloud computing and its nearly universal adoption worldwide, organizations are taking the next step and increasingly turning to multi-cloud strategies. According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report, in the past year, it’s recorded that 92 percent of organizations have a multi cloud strategy in place or underway — which is a large leap from the previous years.
With all the recent trends, we can conclude that the future is in multi cloud technologies, with some enterprises even going so far as to dedicate a cloud to run a single application. This year, the focus is less on the initial adoption of multicloud environments but rather on scalability, security, and cost management tools.
But what does multi-cloud mean, and why is it so important? To understand the concept of multi-cloud, in this article, we will introduce you to the terms and basics, the benefits of this strategy, as well as how to create your own multicloud strategy suitable for your needs.
What is multi-cloud?
Multi-cloud is a cloud computing strategy that allows organizations to use more than one cloud platform that delivers an application or service. This strategy encourages leading companies to employ different cloud solutions for a wide range of projects. It can include public and private clouds or a mixture of both to achieve the organization’s end goals.
At its core, it is just a dynamic strategy that allows enterprises to capture the benefits of each platform while minimizing the downsides, achieving the long-term business objectives faster and more efficiently.
This term can sometimes be confused with hybrid cloud, which is a subset of multi-cloud. Hybrid cloud allows operators to perform a single task leveraging two separate cloud resources, most often two private clouds, but sometimes two public clouds or a mix of both.
A common misconception is that hybrid and multicloud infrastructures are mutually exclusive — but that’s not true. A hybrid model can also be a multicloud model, but the inverse is not always true. That’s the difference between the two infrastructures — a multicloud environment can also exist without the need for the individual clouds to communicate with each other, and most often, those clouds are public.
Another question we need to answer is — Which cloud providers can be used used in multi-cloud? In RightScale’s reports, the most popular public cloud platforms are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Other leading public platforms include VMware Cloud, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud.
Among the private cloud providers, the leaders are VMware (vSphere and vCloud Director) and OpenStack. Microsoft also has a strong private cloud, with System Center and Azure Stack. The rest include CloudStack and AWS Outposts.
More and more companies are moving away from the monolithic model and towards a more agile architecture based on microservices. Multi-cloud helps with setting up platform services, serverless and composable applications on different cloud platforms that only run when required.
Multi-cloud environments allow the usage of many clouds with or without the exchange of communication between them. They’re flexible, agile, responsive, and drive faster time to market. Another benefit is their practically unlimited scalability, which can enable you to respond to business requests faster. Multi-cloud also has damage control benefits, with improved backups — if one service goes down, you can rely on other providers for valuable data. And, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, it allows you to utilize every unique strength of each different vendor and platform.
Another benefit of multicloud environments is avoiding vendor lock-in. If an organization is dependent on a vendor for all products and services, that can be potentially limiting both functionally and financially. Linking all the data and applications to one cloud’s infrastructure can increase the lock-in costs as the cloud activities rise. Multicloud strategies provide companies with negotiating power, whether it is about requesting new resources, better pricing, or scalability.
How to create a multi-cloud strategy
We can define a multi-cloud strategy as the intention and implementation of multi-cloud, with a deliberate approach to cloud transformation and migration. For many organizations, this change starts as a slow process — one small service or application at a time. But, most often, it’s not that simple — we need to look at the bigger picture and create a more concise strategy right away.
Practically, there are four steps to an effective multi-cloud strategy:
- Define business needs in terms of infrastructure. It’s all about considering what your business objectives are and what vendor aligns with those needs best. You can choose homogenous or heterogeneous clouds — which means clouds from the same vendor or different vendors. They’re both multicloud strategies, but one works better than the other in different use-cases.
- Create a multicloud roadmap. In this step, the important question is — How should a multicloud architecture look like? Start by taking a deep look into your current infrastructure, and identifying gaps with an infrastructure audit. Then create a roadmap that will help communicate how the organization will achieve its business objectives.
- Implement the plan. The implementation involves determining a multicloud management platform. The key to a successful implementation is having a centralized view of an enterprise’s distributed resources through each vendor. You can find a large variety of such platforms currently in the multicloud management market.
- Measure progress. The last step is to constantly evaluate the progress that you are making with the new methodologies. Multicloud can be costly if the strategy doesn’t align with the needs and goals of your organization. So, it’s crucial to keep measuring and asking relevant questions.
After these steps, your multi-cloud strategy should be clear. Once you understand your current environment and goals, you can start establishing other actions, such as defining security needs and multi-cloud deployment. Another vital element can be identifying individuals within your organization who can translate between business and IT needs, considering cloud migrations.
A great tip when creating a multi-cloud strategy is to be satisfied with a functional solution. It’s easy to get carried away with goals when it comes to better performance optimization. But sometimes, this can bring more harm than good, for example, by focusing on platform-specific changes or creating vendor lock-in. Having more modest criteria and knowing when a solution is good enough can lead both you and your business towards an easier road to success.
Many businesses are already running multi-cloud environments, along with deliberate strategies for managing them. To succeed in managing these complex systems, your organization will need a dynamic, evolving framework that links the infrastructure and all the layers with the business needs for cost reduction and performance optimization opportunities.
There are many predictions that there will be an exponential growth in the number and variety of cloud services in the future. Our recommendation is to stay up to date with all the recent trends so you can make your systems faster and better.
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