Remember the one-size-fits-all approach to cloud computing? That was five years ago. Today, multi-cloud architectures that use two, three, or more providers, across a mix of public and private platforms, are quickly becoming the preferred strategy at most companies.
Despite the momentum, pockets of hesitation remain. Some sceptics are under the impression that deploying cloud platforms and services from multiple vendors can be a complex process. Others worry about security, regulatory, and performance issues.
To get a snapshot of current thinking about multi-cloud, we asked six industry experts the following question: In your opinion, why should organisations adopt a multi-cloud approach, and what will happen if they don’t?
First, here are our thoughts. There are extremely compelling reasons that multi-cloud is proving itself to be the correct end game. Multi-cloud provides huge agility and cost efficiency with its flexibility to separate different workloads into different environments depending on their specific requirements. This includes a compelling and economically comparable on-premise strategy for cloud and opens up new opportunities for innovation and accelerated roll out of new services to customers. Multi-cloud also means companies can avoid vendor lock-in and dependence on a single provider. While lingering concerns about multi-cloud are understandable, a host of newer technologies like Kubernetes and increasing consolidation of container runtimes are making life easier for companies that need to make multi-cloud their de facto strategy.
“Is the Earth flat? Is the Earth the center of the solar system? Reality is of course that the universe is a big place, and Earth is just a small part of it. Similarly, no one cloud should be the center of any enterprises data strategy on its own. The thinking that there is “only one true cloud” is a type of zealotry that could have non-trivial consequences. It creates a single point of failure, dependencies and lock-in that an organization might not want.
Multi-cloud is about choice, it’s about the ability to deploy workloads on any number of different combinations of on-premises and public cloud providers. With multi-cloud comes the promise of agility and freedom and at the end of the day who doesn’t want their data to be free?”
Multi-cloud empowers developers to pick and choose the best components for their use cases—imagine a situation where you want to use AWS Lambda for client-facing event handling, but want to take those event logs and analyze them in Google Cloud Platform’s data analytics services. These types of multi-cloud deployments allow developers to leverage the strengths in different cloud platforms, as well as the larger ecosystem of third-party integrations for AWS Lambda that have not yet made it to GCP Cloud Functions. By taking an active view of what is available—not just what features one public cloud platform offers—you retain more ownership of your platform.
“Enterprises should use a multi-cloud strategy because this approach offers a range of options for efficiently leveraging the benefits of different platforms. For instance, a legacy application trapped in a traditional LAMP stack is a wasted opportunity if the outcome could be achieved more efficiently in a public cloud. Likewise, private clouds offer their own set of advantages (dedicated resources, customization), combined with flexibility and agility of Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Mixing and matching different platforms and services is readily achievable thanks to APIs and widespread virtualization, and will only get more so. Multi-cloud is also a rapidly normalizing part of IT. Today, about two-thirds of enterprises have more than one IaaS provider or platform, and the same number consider that a unified hybrid IT strategy is the best path forward for both legacy and cloud-native workloads. Enterprises that fail to modernize their IT within a multi-cloud/hybrid framework will get left behind, plain and simple.”
“Use of multiple cloud platforms and services is a fact of life for most mainstream businesses, but accumulating clouds in an ad-hoc manner leads to costly and risky fragmentation. It becomes harder and harder to control overheads, manage security and more generally meet business and operational requirements. This is why a more coordinated multi-cloud approach is so important. With the right combination of strategy, process, discipline and supporting technology, you can deal with many of the challenges and at the same time enjoy the kind of choice and flexibility needed in today’s ever-changing digital environment.”
“Use of multi-clouds are critical for organizations who want to avoid cloud service provider (CSP) lock-in. A multi-cloud strategy enables companies to use best of breed cloud services from the plethora of service providers in the market e.g. compute from AWS, containers services from Google cloud, and SaaS from SAP.
Multi-cloud use is a fast growing trend we highlighted in our recently conducted survey – Cloud Service Strategies & Leadership North American Enterprise Survey – 2018, where respondents reported that they were using 10 different CSPs for SaaS (growing to 14 by 2020) and 10 for infrastructure (growing to 13 by 2020). CSPs are helping to ease the use of multi-clouds by releasing multi-cloud management tools for organizations to use for viewing and managing several clouds from one dashboard tool.
Not using a multi-cloud approach makes enterprises totally dependent on one CSP for all their cloud related services, some of which they may not offer the best value or service. Also, organizations not using cloud services from more than one provider are limited in the advancement of their services, as new technologies and trends occur within the market, companies may be delayed in their use of new tools if the CSP they use are slow adopters.”
“There are many paths to multi-cloud – not just one bold move to forge a new multi-cloud strategy. Most large enterprises have on-premises computer infrastructure that is the result of many waves of investments and deployments over decades of spending. The journey to multi-cloud is evolving, as enterprises are adopting a range of cloud services to meet specific business challenges, while reducing their IT costs for on-premises data centers. In large enterprises, some business units may have chosen to re-host large numbers of systems on Amazon’s AWS or Microsoft Azure. Others may have chosen Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for its expertise in AI/ML via TensorFlow-based analytics. By adopting a multi-cloud approach, enterprise customers gain choice, operational flexibility — and the freedom to pick CSP services for the optimal mix of business, security and cost considerations.”
Based on what we heard from these experts, multi-cloud is here to stay, and deservedly so. From both a business agility and cost-efficiency standpoint, multi-cloud’s advantages are undeniable. The key is how to properly implement multi-cloud. Enterprises must leverage modern technologies to avoid risky, expensive silos. If they get that right, companies can make sure they’re part of the future, and increasingly the present, of cloud computing.
Stephan Fabel is part of Canonical's Product Strategy team and responsible for cloud products, including OpenStack, Kubernetes and MAAS. His main interests lie in creating attractive and reliant infrastructure solutions enabling higher productivity for developers and business alike.