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The Mainstreaming of Multi-Cloud: Good or Bad?

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The business world is increasingly reaching out to the public cloud for stable data center operations at optimized cost but at scale. In the recent years, managed services and multi-cloud consultancy firms have cropped up to reduce the chances of multi-cloud implementation failures, but the general lack of deep understanding and skilled employees are still the two main shortcomings in the current business scenario.

Multi-cloud, if understood and implemented properly, can bring many benefits to global businesses, so it is wise to invest in initial research and risk/ benefit assessment before any organization selects multi-cloud.

The Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report reveals that 92% of enterprises have already implemented a multi-cloud strategy. In 2012, this figure was 68%, so the past nine years have witnessed an impressive growth of the multi-cloud. However, multi-cloud implementation comes with many risks, the most important of which are security gaps and absence of knowledgeable employees to tackle the complex multi-vendor issues.

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Within the cloud ecosystem, different cloud platforms have distinct features, capabilities, and functionalities. Multi-cloud’s biggest selling points are risk mitigation and highest ROI, but are those promises kept?

The Good News: The Multidimensional Benefits of Multi-Cloud

Here are some common benefits of multi-cloud, understood by every business person:

  • Wide geographical reach, bringing performance benefits close to end users
  • Geo coverage also ensures “data sovereignty” to meet regulatory compliances
  • Excellent uptime and low maintenance
  • Workload distribution reduces risk but enhances performance
  • Public-private cloud combination enhances data privacy but optimizes cost

Here are over than nine advantages of multi-cloud:

  • Access to premier cloud providers
  • Price competitiveness
  • Speed of execution
  • Modular application designs
  • Data backup and recovery services
  • Scalability and flexibility
  • Enhanced security measures
  • Network performance
  • Risk mitigation
  • Ability to avoid vendor lock-in
  • Increased governance
  • Better disaster recovery 

Why Did Multi-Cloud Go Mainstream?

Gartner predicted that in 2021, global spend on public cloud would grow 23% to $332.3 billion, which is more than $60 billion growth over 2020. The pandemic, too, probably had a solid role in pushing businesses of all shapes, sizes, and types to rush to the public cloud for basic business survival and cost-friendly business services.

The recent preference for multi-cloud environments within enterprises has, of course, been fueled by a strong need to optimize business processes to contain costs, reduce data privacy and security risks, and to improve operational performance.

A multi-cloud deployment usually involves infrastructure as a service (IaaS) environments, such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure, but managed from a single location. Multi-cloud implementation can be risky and complex, but for most business operators, the advantages far outweigh the problems.

When a multi-cloud environment has been properly set up with the help of skilled professionals, enterprises have favorable options for running workloads while extracting the geographic or functional benefits of each cloud.

According to Forbes, here are the pros and cons of multi-cloud:

Pros:

  • Storage per performance capacity, speed of execution, and data security at optimized cost
  • Data sovereignty requirements can be easily adhered to by selecting specific geographies.
  • Multi-cloud providers offer flexible data center locations.

Cons:

  • Vendor lock in can happen in specific cases


David Jasso at Forbes explains why multi-cloud can be complex. Normally in a multi-cloud setup, the individual employee may have work responsibilities spanning more than one public cloud, teams using more than one public cloud provider, and applications spanning multiple types of environments (public, on-premise, private, etc.).

Thus, there are some areas of business operations that require standardization. So, what are these areas? Jasso identified four areas for standardization: the cloud management tools, application development tools, application as a service (APaaS), and cloud application infrastructure.

Gartner offers reasons for enterprises to choose a multi-cloud strategy. The strongest advantage tipping in favor of multi-cloud for multi-national businesses is because no single cloud provider would be able to meet the needs of geographically diverse operations. In a recent Public Cloud User survey conducted by Gartner, 81% of respondents stated they were working multiple (two or more) cloud providers.

According to Michael Warrilow, VP analyst at Gartner, the presence of prominent vendors in the public cloud market is the main reason enterprise buyers opt for multi-cloud:

“Most organizations adopt a multi cloud strategy out of a desire to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions. We expect that most large organizations will continue to willfully pursue this approach.” 

Gartner has predicted that the 10 largest public cloud providers will dominate 50% of public cloud market till least 2023.

Multi-Cloud Services: What Do Enterprises Gain?

Generally, multi-cloud service providers offer different combinations of three basic types of services. Here are the benefits that every business client gains from a multi-cloud deployment:

  • Flexible Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The IaaS comprises all the building blocks of multi cloud – highly scalable and automated computing resources strengthened by “unlimited cloud storage and network capability.” IaaS offers a lot of flexibility of configurations.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS is the platform for application development, separated from the underlying server HW, network, and OS layers. PaaS offers a suite of services for supporting application development.
  • Software on Demand or Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS provides the interface to applications running on the server. These applications may be deployed and managed by other third-party vendors.

Now let’s go for a reality check — here’s an IEEE article throwing light on challenges related to multi-cloud deployments and probable solutions. Jay Chapel puts forth a very interesting discussion on whether the assumed benefits of multi-cloud actually outweigh the challenges of implementation.

As Chapel points out, CSP management requires far more skills and expertise than currently available within enterprises. He recommends using additional staff for configuring multi-cloud environments with confidence.

What to Avoid During Multi-Cloud Implementations?

As real-life multi-cloud implementations can be highly complex and yet are unavoidable, especially in large enterprises, it makes great business sense for enterprise operators to make realistic checklists comparisons between their current cloud state and multi-cloud wish list.

The managed service is an excellent idea if the right talent, skill, and experience is lacking within the organization. Multi-cloud’s scalability and flexibility are the biggest selling points for any business client that wishes to grow without making a serious dent in their cloud investments.

This post discusses some avoidable mistakes that can potentially destroy your project and offers methods for protecting the multi-cloud environment. The common problems in multi-cloud project management are the absence of holistic risk management, and security gaps, problems of transitioning legacy systems to complex multi-cloud infrastructure, and security risks of providing open access to cloud systems without proper “identity and access-management” checkpoints. In the future, companies may use managed services like the Hazelcast to deploy and execute multi-cloud operations.

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

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