In this final post of our three part “Your Guide to Navigating the Cloud” blog series, we evaluate the benefits of incorporating a multi-cloud strategy. If you missed the first two blogs check out, Part 1: Azure vs. AWS and Part 2: Benefits of a Hybrid Cloud Strategy.
Although the cloud has been an application and delivery option for a number of years, many enterprises are still figuring out their cloud strategy. Amazon Web Services was out of the gate first and currently holds the greatest market share, although Microsoft’s Azure is closing in. Partially because some are hesitant about making the move to the cloud, but also because the number of options continue to increase, many enterprises are opting to use offerings from different cloud vendors in a multi-cloud approach.
In the report, “IDC Innovators: Multicloud Management, 2017,” IDC claims that more than “90% of enterprise-scale organizations plan to make use of multiple clouds in the next several years. As cloud environments become more complex, traditional tools and processes used to manage relatively static, tightly coupled IT infrastructure struggle to keep up with scaling, pooling, migrations, and rapid pace of change that are the hallmark of cloud IT operations.” Thankfully, the highly connective environment the cloud fosters means that organizations can adapt using different platforms to address their unique needs.
The reasons for a multi-cloud approach are varied. Some enterprises have grown in a way that eliminates the need to centralize all their IT functions. Others may find that different providers are optimized for different functions and they want to leverage the best option for their separate needs. For whatever reason, a strategy of using different cloud environment has many benefits, which we’ll outline here.
Benefits of Multi-Cloud
As the cloud has evolved, it has developed with different flavors, from basic infrastructure and physical asset outsourcing, to transaction capabilities that provide all the process and business intelligence usually reserved for on-premise ERP apps. In “Cloud Computing Primer, 2017“, Gartner provides an excellent snapshot of the different types of needs that enterprises generally offload to their cloud environment, from infrastructure modernization to complex application development. As Gartner points out, “…in successful cloud deployments, there are multiple paths to success and multiple cloud strategies that must be identified.”
The reality is that today’s enterprise is far more sophisticated than organizations of even five years ago. Technology is increasingly aligned with business objectives, and companies look for solutions that will help achieve those goals, rather than just fit into an existing IT architecture.
Orchestration of web services, APIs, and other types of connectors can be used as a way to automate scaling of performance or workload demands across multiple clouds. Applications can be built or customized that have continuous automation baked into them, which ensures that workloads meet with the cloud processing power that’s appropriate for them.
Innovative organizations are looking for smart ways to map workload optimization to the right cloud platform. A multi cloud approach helps avoid the “wait and see” delay of cloud adoption, and make the most of existing technology investments.
Multi-Cloud is a Distributed Cloud
Previously, applications were dedicated to specific functions while performance and availability were considered a single metric across all of IT. With different clouds being used for a single organization, data can be delivered and users can be served through different cloud channels. For some users and types of data, latency with network and server responsiveness is not critical, and geographically dispersed cloud regions may be more cost effective. In other cases, data privacy or compliance may dictate the need to use a unique cloud region like Microsoft Azure Government.
Among the considerations is how workload is managed, and the reality is that not all workloads need to be treated equally. The multi cloud approach allows enterprises to configure workloads to distribute data needs to different platforms or regions, depending on necessity and cost. This is a safeguard measure that gives the customer the benefits of redundancy which results in delivering data with better performance and less latency. Critical customer needs can be met with higher performance cloud regions, while non-essential processes can be distributed to other clouds. Overall, this is also a more cost effective way to handle data and the hardware and infrastructure on which it sits.
Security and Risk in Multi Cloud Environments
The news has been filled with stories of misconfigured AWS S3 buckets and API keys inadvertently left on GitHub, all of which could lead to major security breaches. When an organization relies on a single cloud instance for all of their computing, they have to consider the implications for vulnerabilities.
A single cloud has one surface, whereas multi cloud has a much broader surface area. It would seem that with more coverage, there’s more vulnerability. Yet, hackers seek the path of least resistance, and a multi cloud approach allows an enterprise to create different types of security protocols for the different layers of their cloud environments. Multiply the different layers by the different clouds, and eventually it becomes a mathematical problem hackers don’t want to embark upon.
The report, “Making the Multi-Cloud Model Work for You”, points out that a multi cloud strategy also forces an organization to develop their own security best practices. This is required in the cloud anyway, as providers use the shared responsibility model; ultimately you’re responsible for the security of your data, irrespective of which cloud it’s operating in. There are a variety of third-party tools that enable an enterprise to rapidly apply specific security controls to specific cloud operations, and these can be reused across the different cloud instances.
Some organizations are young or just starting out. A multi-cloud strategy is something they can plan for and evolve with. More mature enterprises should recognize they have the flexibility to build and adapt their current environment to future needs without onerous disruption. The key for any innovative organization is to apply their business objectives to smart technology, and with a multi-cloud plan, they can be assured they will be able to maintain that paradigm as they grow and evolve. With the right internal mindset, enterprises can use a hybrid architecture to get the advantages of public clouds with the additional control of private infrastructures so they can deliver to stakeholders their best version of their digital enterprise.