A multi-cloud strategy is slowly becoming a buzzword in the Cloud industry over the last couple of years, with 2019 research from RightScale (now Flexera) indicating that 84% of enterprises are investigating or actively pursuing a multi-cloud strategy.
What is a multi-cloud strategy?
In simple terms, it means that instead of using only one single Infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) cloud provider that best meets the needs of your business, you can use a Multi-cloud strategy by adopting a mixture of IaaS services from two or more cloud providers and share workloads between each. In other words, choosing services that provide the most considerable flexibility, reliability, most features, or are offered at a much better price point.
In simple terms, multi-cloud is a strategy where an organization uses two or more clouds from different cloud providers. This can be a combination of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models.
Is Hybrid cloud another name for Multicloud? Understanding the difference between them
Many times people assume that Multi-cloud is just another way of saying a Hybrid cloud? Is this another IT rendition of: “You say tomato, I say toe-mah-toe?” Not quite.
So to put across, a Hybrid cloud setup is a combination of a public cloud with a private cloud or on-premises infrastructure. On-premises infrastructure can be an internal data center or any other IT infrastructure that runs within a corporate network. Businesses may choose to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy to keep some processes and data in a more controlled environment (e.g., a private cloud or on-premises data center), while taking advantage of the more considerable resources and low overhead of public cloud computing.
Whereas a “Multicloud” refers to the combination and integration of multiple public clouds. A business may use one public cloud as a database, one as PaaS, another one for user authentication, and so on.
Advantages of having a Multi-cloud setup
No Vendor lock-in: moving to a public cloud platform is never an easy task– nor is moving out of it. Also, if you have all your workloads on a single cloud vendor, there is always a fear of being Vendor-locked. It can be challenging and costly for enterprises to move out of an arrangement they’re locked into with a single cloud provider, mainly when they’re already using their APIs and other proprietary services.
Adopting a Multi-cloud approach helps enterprises avoid such scenarios!
Higher Reliability: another critical benefit of the Multicloud strategy is increased reliability. All public cloud providers have multiple geographic regions and multiple data-centers within each region where you can host your applications and infrastructure.
Nowadays, enterprises use multiple clouds as part of their disaster recovery/business continuity (DR/BC) planning, and in such cases, it makes sense to use at least two different clouds. Hence A multi-cloud approach can help you mitigate major IT disasters by not putting all of your eggs into one basket and offering better reliability.
Lower Latency: as mentioned with a Multicloud approach, you can opt for a cloud provider and select cloud regions and zones that are in close proximity to your customers to minimize latency hence and improve user experience. Using a combination of multiple cloud providers to achieve faster speed may be worth it to improve your applications’ user experience.
Better Cost Optimisation: each public cloud vendor offers different compute and storage options at different prices. Hence by doing a performance analysis of the workloads on each cloud, you can project both your performance and TCO for compute and storage options in each cloud and choose the vendor that will meet your performance requirements at the cheapest cost. Eg. You can run your production workloads on one public cloud and your non-production workloads on another to optimize the cost across different environments.
Better Workload Optimization: another great benefit of the Multicloud setup is that it allows companies to select the cloud service that is the best fit for each of their workloads. Organizations can choose to combine cloud platforms because various vendors have different strengths and weaknesses. Eg. One cloud vendor’s service might be less expensive than similar services from other cloud vendors, or a cloud vendor might have some specific services that you need that others might not have.
Potential negotiating power: due to prevalent competition between major cloud service providers, if you happen to be a high-volume customer (with annual billing of a million dollars or more), you may be in a position to negotiate lower prices. Distributing your business between providers can give you some leverage in your price negotiations.
Cons of a Multi-cloud setup
Talent Management: one big challenge with the Multicloud setup is finding the right set of talent for each of the public cloud vendors. As an organization, it will be challenging to find the right people to develop on multiple cloud platforms, multiple secure infrastructures, and manage and operate across multiple clouds.
Security Risks: a multi-cloud strategy comes with additional security concerns and adds new attack vectors for applications. Traditional security tools can’t manage all potential risks. You have to spend more time and effort on security if multiple cloud platforms are being used.
Operational Overhead: implementing and managing a Multicloud environment can be a significant challenge. Managing services from multiple cloud providers is not an easy task, and if left unmanaged, it could significantly impact the agility and add additional costs.
Monitoring a Multicloud setup: monitoring a Multicloud environment with different cloud vendors is a challenging and complicated task. Also if you use cloud services that include containers, that adds a layer of complexity for monitoring.
Migration challenges: enterprises that are considering moving to a multi-cloud approach should also take into account that this process needs time and specific skills that aren’t always available in-house.