Multicloud: Your Primer on the Latest Technology Trend
Companies from every sector and industry are leveraging the benefits derived from having workloads and applications transferred to a cloud environment. Without being tied to legacy systems, these organizations can free up resources to become more agile and innovative with their business models.
We’ve compiled this primer to show you the advantages of adopting a multicloud solution and how to manage these cloud environments once implemented.
What is Multicloud?
Multicloud (also known as multi-cloud) refers to business operations being spread across multiple clouds and different service providers. Depending on the ultimate goals of an organization, a multicloud strategy (or multi cloud strategy) requires the adoption of one or more Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, respectively) platforms.
By opting for a multicloud approach (sometimes written as multi cloud), businesses can select the best provider for each specific workload. A company may find that one solution provider offers a superior email suite while another is more suited for handling workloads with compliance or performance requirements.
The Multicloud Difference
There are several advantages of adopting multiple cloud storage and service providers into a business’s operational workflow. Here are a few of the benefits of adopting a multicloud strategy.
Removes Vendor Lock-In
One of the most critical aspects of a multicloud system is that a company doesn’t become beholden to a single cloud provider's services, infrastructure, and pricing model.
While the early days of cloud computing used terms such as open APIs and digital marketplaces to tout the flexibility of subscribing to a particular service provider, many of these systems wanted to lock in their user base.
Providers will often create artificial barriers on a few fronts. One being its loyal customer pricing model, in which customers who willingly lock themselves into the environment can receive discounted prices. Another is one where the provider would place excessive fees and charges on clients who tried to transfer data to a multicloud storage environment.
By choosing the multicloud, companies have a greater range of choices to build an optimal business solution that leverages the best-of-breed services..
Many companies are choosing multiple cloud environments, combining workloads between public and private cloud providers.
While public cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform have a place for many businesses, the fact that they need to cater to a vast number of businesses can hinder their ability to deliver specialized products.
These public cloud providers will offer dozens of different solution suites, covering everything from machine learning to blockchain applications. However, each has pros and cons for users. Many customers choose AWS over Azure if they need a diverse set of tools that work as an Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS ) rather than Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). In addition, AWS has better government cloud offerings, a friendly open source model, and flexible pricing model.
Many times, the limitations of cloud providers have led to companies adopting multi-vendor implementation, opening up the option to choose “best-in-breed.” Businesses have greater flexibility to integrate the latest technological advancements by opting for a multicloud strategy through specialized individual providers.
As data privacy regulations continue to ramp up, the need for companies to maintain strict levels of compliance is increasing. Geographic locations need to be accounted for in order to satisfy regulations such as the EU’s GDPR. Aside from a company integrating its own proprietary on-premise data centers, a multicloud strategy is typically the most efficient and cost-effective approach.
Resilience ensures that a business is able to retrieve information at any given time, regardless of any planned or unplanned issues that may arise. Even the most geographically dispersed cloud providers will suffer from a random outage at some point. (For example, AWS experienced an outage in the U.S. East Region in December 2020.) By being tied to a single cloud provider, organizations run the risk of having their operations come to a halt if a business-critical application becomes inaccessible.
While multicloud management has its particular set of challenges, the benefits of resilience in regards to security and recovery far outweigh them. Additionally, businesses will find multicloud provides them the leverage rather than the provider. This capability allows organizations to avoid vendor lock-ins. Reliability is also improved when multicloud management is used as you can transfer processes as needed when an outage occurs.
Multicloud vs. Hybrid Cloud
The primary difference lies in the fact that a multicloud strategy involves the incorporation of multiple public cloud services, typically from separate cloud providers. An example would be a company that uses AWS for its web front-end apps while turning to Google Cloud for its open-source containers.
Hybrid cloud computing differs from this arrangement in one critical aspect, the inclusion of a private cloud infrastructure working in concert with a public cloud provider. This additional private cloud infrastructure can be in the form of a private cloud provider or an enterprise’s own data center.
A multicloud system requires oversight over multiple providers, while a simple hybrid system can be managed as a single entity. Keep in mind that a multicloud strategy can also become a hybrid by the inclusion of a private cloud service.
A multicloud strategy (or multi cloud strategy) comes with the benefits detailed above, but at the expense of added complexity and maintenance. This additional complexity is deepened if migration to a multicloud setup wasn’t planned thoroughly.
Unfortunately, an ad hoc approach has become the norm for many companies. Businesses are increasing their reliance on one particular cloud service provider to manage their migration, deployment, and cloud management, further locking them into that provider’s environment.
Switching to a multicloud solution should be planned from the bottom up. Since applications and data will be spread across different platforms, proper configuration and multi cloud management are critical components to running a seamless operation.
IT staff and security officers need to be kept up-to-date with each platform’s capabilities and limitations, as well as how they interact with each other.
Running multiple cloud environments has become standard practice. The three most common methods for effectively deploying and operating a multicloud system are:
Standardization goes a long way to ease the burden of multi cloud management. By using industry-standard formats, businesses can avoid incompatibilities between systems which can require significant reworking to become operable. Common areas that can be standardized include:
- Multicloud storage being compatible with Amazon S3
- Virtual machines being in Open Virtualization Format (OVF)
- Containers using Kubernetes
Through standardization, business-critical operations and workload migration can be used across multiple cloud environments.
One of the easiest methods to help with multi cloud management is through management consolidation. Integrating a tool that provides a single-point dashboard for multiple platforms can streamline the operations between various cloud applications. Examples of multicloud management tools include:
- BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management
- Embotics Commander
- Flexera (RightScale) Cloud Management Platform
- Micro Focus Hybrid Cloud Management
Consolidating the management using a single interface means that an IT department can eliminate the need to learn a variety of systems.
Tools have also been developed to increase the productivity of multicloud monitoring. While each cloud provider will offer a tool that allows a company to oversee and track the infrastructure of its specific cloud, this means that a supervisor would need to be on top of each cloud independently.
However, to reduce the latency and need to maintain several dashboards, companies can integrate a single monitoring tool to provide insight into each of its cloud environments for an all-inclusive overview. Examples of cloud monitoring tools include:
- Amazon Cloudwatch
- Microsoft Cloud Monitoring
- BMC TrueSight Pulse
- DX Infrastructure Manager
Multicloud security is often cited as to why many companies are hesitant to migrate over to the cloud. There is a fear that with multiple cloud services, there are more open windows to exploit, giving access to enterprise and customer data, assets, and mission-critical applications. However, these perceived threats are often overestimated as on-site infrastructures will usually have more easily exploitable loopholes.
Another approach is to institute a hybrid cloud environment in which business-critical applications are maintained on a private cloud with other apps hosted on an inexpensive public cloud environment.
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