Updated: Jan 29
As the cloud computing landscape continues to expand, so to have the number of cloud service providers (CSPs). Business units and IT organizations have a plethora of options available when it comes to where to locate their compute resources. Although some organizations may have implemented a multi-cloud approach somewhat by accident, taking a more purposeful approach ensures your organization can benefit from having a multi-cloud strategy.
In the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report from Flexera, 786 technical professionals were surveyed across a broad cross-section of organizations. The survey found that:
Multi-cloud remains the preferred strategy.
Almost every organization is using cloud at some level, with both public and private cloud adoption growing.
On average, companies are using or experimenting with nearly five public and private clouds, with a majority of workloads now running in the cloud.
Source: Rightscale 2019 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera
Rightscale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report also found that “The percentage of enterprises that have a strategy to use multiple clouds is 84 percent (vs. 81 percent in 2018), while those planning a hybrid cloud strategy grew to 58 percent (from 51 percent in 2018).”
Implementing a multi-cloud strategy means leveraging multiple CSPs or put another way, multiple vendors. How this differs from hybrid may be somewhat semantics, but in a hybrid solution many organizations are maintaining their own private cloud and leveraging public cloud for potentially less risk-based needs or for burst. A hybrid cloud environment maintains an architecture that couples the environments together. Although a hybrid cloud environment may leverage multiple CSPs, a multi-cloud strategy is not about implementing an architecture per se. It is a strategy that allows business and IT services to exist where they are best suited. The difference may involve some hair-splitting since many organizations are living in both hybrid and multi-cloud environments in one form or another. What’s important is that your organization choose the path that works best for their business. Ending up in a multi-cloud environment without a clear line of site as to why or how you got there potentially creates a whole host of other issues that we won’t go into here in detail, but receive honorable mention – cost, security, cloud sprawl… you get the picture.
There are a number of reasons why organizations might employ a multi-cloud strategy.
Given the momentum in moving to the cloud, some organizations want to avoid potential vendor lock-in. Whether an organization is just beginning their journey into the cloud or expanding their use of cloud services, not having all their eggs in one basket can provide a sense of security and offer flexibility. If your CSP knows there are other CSPs in the mix, they may be willing to offer better pricing as an incentive for you to grow the business in their direction. Or if your current CSP is not meeting expectations, having an existing relationship with another CSP makes a transition much easier given there is already a level of expertise and knowledge. Finally, if you are a cloud newbie, a multi-cloud strategy will allow your organization to test the waters with different CSPs and determine best fit.
CSPs offer different features and capabilities. Whether you are looking for IaaS, PaaS, and/or SaaS options, the key is having the flexibility to select the best option based on the need and requirements. A multi-cloud strategy allows your organization to innovate and take advantage of best-in-breed tools since they are not locked into a single CSPs limitations on what they offer.
A multi-cloud strategy can provide greater resiliency and complement your disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) strategy. Rather than leverage an alternate location within your current CSP’s portfolio, you can leverage a secondary CSP to provide DR/BC in the event of a catastrophic failure within your primary CSP. Having the DR/BC capabilities with a secondary CSP, especially when hosting critical business services, ensures their catastrophic failure doesn’t become yours as well.
A multi-cloud strategy does have its challenges:
Increased complexity – This is an obvious and potential (if not implemented thoughtfully) outcome of leveraging multiple CSPs. The complexity comes in the management and oversight of multiple vendors, securing access points across different CSPs, lack of centralized visibility, and acquiring the skills and expertise to support multiple vendor stacks. This complexity can inevitably lead to the next challenge…
Increased cost – The increased complexity of managing multiple CSPs can inherently lead to a higher cost. However, this can be somewhat mitigated if the strategy is carefully managed and the proper tools and processes are implemented to oversee a multi-vendor environment. A multi-cloud strategy should provide guidance as to how and when to best leverage other possible CSPs. A multi-cloud environment with no clear line of site as to how you got there or why may result in under-utilized resources and cloud sprawl. (See our April blog – Managing the Cost of Cloud Computing - https://www.tsrce.com/blog/managing-cost-cloud-computing/)
In addition, not locking in with one vendor may mean you aren’t getting the best price or able to take advantage of discounts.
There is no doubt that implementing a multi-cloud environment creates a level of complexity but there are a number of sound business and technical reasons for taking that path. Developing a multi-cloud strategy coupled with the right management processes and tools will allow your organization to achieve the benefits of distributing your workloads with the best CSP to meet the need.
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