What Is Multicloud? And Why Do I Need To Have a Multicloud Strategy?

Written by: Michael Greenberg

BCP - Business continuity - Replix
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Everyone who matters is already in the cloud. What’s next? Welcome to the multi-cloud era.

The word “cloud” is often used in singular as if it was a uniform piece of technology. However, in practice, the term “clouds” would be much more accurate.

As the organizations migrating to the cloud quickly come to appreciate, not all clouds are created equal.  There are essential differences between the offers of various cloud services, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Azure. Clouds differ in pricing structures, feature sets, deployment models, performance trade-offs, and even the underlying storage technologies.

 

What is a multi-cloud strategy? 

If not all clouds are created equal, that means that not all workloads can be handled equally well by a single cloud provider alone. To ensure that each workload is processed on the best-suited cloud platform for that specific workload, companies are adopting a multicloud approach. 

Apart from the efficiency gains, a multicloud approach also enables these companies to avoid vendor lock-in to optimize costs. But the multicloud approach has some severe drawbacks as well. For one, multicloud means a much greater management complexity, especially when it comes to governance. 

Still, multicloud is the next logical step in the evolution of cloud-enabled IT architecture. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 75 percent of organizations will advance their multi-cloud strategy and deploy a multicloud or hybrid cloud model to meet their IT needs. The one thing is clear: enterprises will increasingly gravitate towards utilizing multiple cloud providers as the benefits are just too tempting to pass up. 

 

What are the benefits of multicloud?

Multicloud is already becoming the new normal. IT architectures are evolving to utilize multiple public cloud providers and on-prem private cloud resources concurrently to achieve business objectives and meet KPIs that are difficult to accomplish with private-only or hybrid cloud designs.

To adapt to the new milticloud reality, cloud providers will need to step up their game and will increasingly specialize based on their strengths in order to create the best of breed cloud services to attract and retain customers.

Prevent vendor lock-in

Vendor lock-in is probably the most pressing issue that the multicloud architectures solve. 

While cloud-native applications based on containers and microservices are theoretically portable between clouds even today, providers opt to make their platforms “sticky” with exclusive functionality and services to differentiate themselves from competitors. 

What that means in practice, is that a portable container-based application may become stuck with a particular provider, despite not being best suited for a specific cloud architecture. As a result, businesses have to deal with the trade-off between portability and full functionality, as well as the potential lock-in risk for particular workloads. The best way to counteract this is with a multicloud strategy.

That is why avoiding being locked into a particular cloud provider’s ecosystem, add-on services, and pricing models is one of the most pressing drivers behind the accelerated multicloud adoption.  

Choose cloud providers according to cloud strengths and not vendor restraints
With multicloud, organizations can choose cloud providers according to cloud strengths and not vendor restraints. 

The freedom of choice to pick and choose multiple vendors across public cloud providers empowers the customers to fulfill business requirements better. As the pace of innovation picks up, IT teams find it challenging to commit to a particular architecture for years to come. The freedom to make agile choices and pick the best provider on a per-application basis is becoming a necessity. Now the organization can harness the best-of-breed features from each cloud and pair applications with clouds based on best fit and move applications across clouds as requirements change.

Optimize cost structures
Cost optimization is the consequence of data mobility that comes with the ability to pick and choose the most appropriate cloud pricing scheme for each application without any concern for vendor-lock in or data gravity. In a nutshell, multi-cloud architectures put the customer in charge with adequate leverage and control, fueling the growing momentum multicloud is gaining. In a nutshell, a multicloud world brings with it data mobility without any concern of vendor lock-in.

Multicloud data resiliency 

In the case of a region or cloud provider level disaster, the organization can seamlessly shift workloads to a different cloud, avoiding downtime and data loss. 


Read more about data resiliency in the public cloud

Improved availability and performance

Another advantage is the enhanced data availability and durability as data sets are spread across multiple clouds. 

Distributing workloads across more than one cloud provider, organizations achieve availability hardening and vendor autonomy. All the parameters that are necessary to optimize fault tolerance, improve availability, and optimize performance, such as the hardware, software, and infrastructure redundancy, are maximized with multicloud architectures.

First of all, since performance is generally inversely correlated with the number of network hops between servers, organizations can minimize latency, as well as other performance metrics, such as jitter and packet loss, by choosing a cloud provider with data centers that are geographically close to their customers. 

 

Compliance 

Data governance requirements, such as the much spoken about EU’s GDPR, often require customer data to be stored in particular locations. Unless organizations are willing to create and maintain their databases on-premise, this will usually require a multicloud approach, depending on an enterprise’s geographical distribution and workload mix.

Why don’t all companies move to multicloud?

Ad-hoc multicloud strategies fail to live up to enterprise standards. The complexity of multicloud often means that enterprises fail to take full advantage of multicloud strategy. Some of the drawbacks include:

 

  1. Inability to reliably replicate data between the different providers, with acceptable Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

  2. Requires expertise with managing multiple providers and running applications on multiple clouds 

  3. Incompatibility between similar offerings of various providers (S3/Azure Blob)

  4. Increased complexity in the management of multiple infrastructures

  5. Already vendor locked-in, can’t justify the high cost of adapting their applications and operations

  6. They don’t have this business requirement – their SLAs are lax 

 

Beware of Shadow IT

Without their knowledge, many enterprises have already adopted a multicloud strategy, but in the worst possible way. Employees would often sneak in applications and technology under the IT noses. This includes cloud deployments. 

When employees deploy their own clouds, they often do not ensure that the deployment is secure, let alone are capable of maintaining patch management and vulnerability updates to keep the environment secure.

Furthermore, cloud instances are frequently forgotten and left to fester in limbo. These forgotten instances provide an easy way for threat actors and present a severe data leakage or an intrusion risk, as the IT department is not aware that the instance even exists.

When planning a move to the multi-cloud, enterprises must recognize and prepare for potential pitfalls – shadow IT included.

Today, enterprises that dive headfirst into multicloud environments do so on an ad-hoc basis. Still, to be successful over the long term and not to be weighed down by the complexity they will need to develop organizational strategies to counteract the drawbacks.

Public cloud providers don’t play well with each other to ensure a multicloud strategy is working, so organizations must first assure all the pieces of the puzzle can fit together. The complexity of such a hodge-podge strategy often becomes too severe to manage. To benefit from the multicloud approach, organizations must implement the multicloud strategies that are sustainable in the long term.

The multi-cloud checklist

There are solutions designed to help companies develop a unified, comprehensive view of their data infrastructure across multicloud deployments, enabling them to apply their governance strategy consistently across these complex setups. When evaluating a multicloud vendor, we recommend checking the list below, assuring your organization can maximize the benefits of a multicloud deployment.

  1. Unified data access: Across providers, the control, and security must be maintained with a standardized object and file interface.
  2. Transparent data access:
    To ensure that the data can be accessed wherever it resides and can be freely moved around as required, keep it in a cloud-native format.
  3. Flexibility and mobility:
    Maintain a transparent data brokering capability to allow for data mobility according to predefined business policies.
  4. Dynamic indexing and searching capabilities:
    To ensure that the data can be found and acted upon, ensure robust indexing and search capability across cloud
    architectures.
  5. A single pane of glass:  Control, management, and policies can be controlled from a single portal, allowing orchestration, monitoring and provisioning of cloud resources across multiple clouds. 
  6. Cloud expertise:
    Another aspect organization need to consider; achieving multi-cloud requires cloud expertise and the right human resources, a key aspect when planning resources and goals.
  7. Multicloud-ready application: Ensure your application is not overly dependent on a single vendor’s proprietary offering. Utilize cloud-agnostic tools such as Kubernetes to standardize the application infrastructure across the different clouds, so that workloads can be moved between them seamlessly

Replix – future-proofing your multicloud strategy 

Multicloud is becoming the norm for cloud designs, enjoying mainstream adoption. That being said, there needs to be a fundamental change in data management, mobility and flexibility to ensure that organizations can experience the full power and flexibility of the public cloud. To achieve that, Replix have created a multicloud framework that bridges between clouds. We tackled the issues at a few levels:

Infrastructure level – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): 
Replix operates a global mesh of relays spread between cloud providers to reduce latency and allow
zero RPO replication regardless of distance.  This infrastructure as a service (IaaS) will enable companies to leverage a global data fabric and save the costs associated with creating and maintaining replication infrastructures. 

Data layer – Unified data access:
Replix operates as a non-obstruction layer that does not modify data and is entirely data agnostic enabling transparent data access; keeping it available and consistent across cloud providers, allowing flexibility and mobility.

 

Deployment and usability – Software as a Service (SaaS):
Replix does not require any installation, agents, or anything to maintain. The platform can be accessed through a single pane of glass or an API call. 

The difference between using multiple clouds and utilizing a multicloud strategy is a vital one to grasp.

Using multiple clouds means that your organization has access to multiple clouds. But that is it – the resources are not shared between clouds. As a result, the multiloud disaster recovery and business continuity cannot be obtained. In the end, an organization maintains two separate ecosystems that do not communicate with each other. 

On the other hand, a multicloud strategy means that your organization is able to fully utilize the resources of multiple cloud providers. Your public clouds communicate and support each other, enabling disaster recovery to the cloud vendor level, meaning if an AZ falls your data is safe, and if a region falls, your data is still secure. Even in a case of a cloud vendor failure, you are in the clear. 

Putting disaster recovery aside, The Replix Framework aims to provide true data mobility and flexibility enabling enterprises to run apps  on multiple clouds and distribute workloads across clouds according to operational needs.

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