Multi-cloud: the future of computing
Companies are choosing multiple cloud providers to support their various workloads and applications.
Cloud computing has revolutionised the way people work, consume applications, and the way they store their data. However, although it was born out of the need to simplify IT environments and make their business lives far easier, today, many companies are opting to have many cloud vendors, instead of just one.
Multi-cloud is the future of computing. A recent Dimensional Research survey found 77% of businesses are planning to implement multi-cloud architectures in the near future.
Many businesses want to have different options, and will choose to use multiple cloud providers to support their various workloads and applications. They can select a cloud that will best meet their individual requirements. It's a matter of not putting all their IT eggs in one basket.
The flexibility of multi-cloud is one of the main drivers behind its increased adoption. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy brings massive advantages to businesses in terms of being able to select price-points and geographic locations that best suit their needs and budgets.
Multi-cloud platforms offer a number of benefits over traditional single-vendor ones, and topping the list is the ability to leverage the most suitable unique cloud-services from a plethora of different providers whenever the business chooses to. This not only enables businesses to remain innovative and dynamic, but allows them to lower expenses, tailor each cloud to one that best meets the business' needs.
Not so easy
Setting up services in different environments, or building out storage or micro-services across different platforms, sounds deceptively simple. However, because multi-cloud environments are just that - multiple clouds - the architectures, SLAs, identity management systems and management consoles are all going to be different.
Managing these solutions across different cloud environments and different vendors is the single biggest challenge in multi-cloud environments. While a multi-cloud strategy offers cost savings on paper, the complexity of the different cloud environments can make it difficult to understand the pricing among all of the cloud providers and the various services they offer.
It's a matter of not putting all their IT eggs in one basket.
The businesses operating in a multi-cloud environment must contend with risk, governance and data residency issues; challenges around usage-tracking, pricing and billing; and the management of multiple reporting systems, financial statements and operating models. In addition, companies are discovering daily challenges in finding the right match in the pool of available cloud providers. The combination of multiple cloud services is proving to be too complex for companies to handle, and the general lack of standardisation and risk of vendor lock-in doesn't help either.
Multiple clouds naturally increase complexity, and bear in mind that many businesses and CIOs don't have a thorough understanding of the cloud. It also takes time and resources to manage cloud services, time that could be better spent on innovation or core business. A single management platform allows for the full benefits of multi-cloud adoption and removes the cost and management headaches.
A multi-cloud strategy prevents businesses from falling victim to issues that could leave them vulnerable, eg, cloud data centre outages or bandwidth issues. Remember, a cloud application that continually goes offline and is unavailable is not only annoying, it reflects badly on a company, and could lead to the loss of customers. Having a critical application that is dependent on a single cloud provider is just asking for trouble.
Data residency and sovereignty issues are also driving a rise in the adoption of multi-cloud strategies, as businesses are concerned about remaining compliant with current rules and regulations, and what will happen to them if they operate in regions where there are no rules governing cloud services. The consequences could be severe. Storing data locally, or in a region that is compliant with the particular regulations governing the business, solves these issues.
Being able to prioritise various business areas in line with the wider strategy is a benefit only multi-cloud solutions can offer. In a world that is changing so rapidly, and is so fast-paced, companies of all types will benefit from having the option to quickly adapt to changes in the landscape without reinventing the wheel, and having to adapt their entire cloud strategy.
By using several cloud services, a business no longer runs the risk of data loss and downtime that might happen should there be failure in any single component in hardware, software, storage, network or suchlike. However, the corollary to this is that multiple clouds lead to challenges in management and sometimes higher costs.
No two IT environments are the same, and the cloud is no different. Although cloud providers do their best to make it simple for their clients to move applications to their platforms, they don't want to make it too easy to leave either. This is why many businesses are opting to use a cloud brokerage provider to help them manage and navigate their multi-cloud solution.
A good, trusted partner can help to guide a company through the difficult process of setting up their multi-cloud solution, making sure they get the best technology the industry has to offer, at the lowest cost, and that it is used in the most beneficial way.
Richard Vester has been in the ICT industry since 1997, intimately involved in product development, operations and product marketing. He has worked for some of the top ICT companies in SA and joined EOH as the divisional director of Cloud Services in 2012. He has a detailed knowledge and understanding of cloud computing and has developed one of the leading cloud businesses in Africa.