2019 Ushers in a Multi-Cloud World: Are You Ready?
Public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, and now multi-cloud? Just when you thought you had your cloud acumen figured out, enter multi-cloud, a new cloud computing strategy.
Cloud computing is now more and more complex. The initial concept was to place workloads on a single cloud platform in a datacenter. But, public cloud and hybrid cloud platforms became attractive options because they gave enterprises more choice. Now, multi-cloud has entered the playing field.
What is Multi-Cloud and Is it a Good Strategy for Your Business?
One might think “multi-cloud” and “hybrid cloud” mean the same thing, but they are in fact, quite different approaches to cloud computing. Some use them interchangeably, but they do have distinct meanings.
A hybrid cloud is the pairing of a private cloud (an on-premise datacenter built on cloud technologies) and a public cloud.
Multi-cloud is a cloud approach comprised of more than one cloud service, from more than one cloud vendor— whether public or private.
In my view, multi-cloud is the evolution of hybrid cloud. It is the realization and acceptance that most organizations will use multiple cloud providers for some time to come. This includes a combination of public cloud (Azure, AWS, GCP, OCI), SaaS platforms (Office 365, Workday, Oracle, etc.), and Private Clouds (VMware, Hyper-V, KVM).
Traditionally, hybrid cloud was simply the idea of moving workload between public and private clouds, but both today and in the future, the line between public and private cloud will continue to blur Microsoft® released Azure Stack, which allows enterprises and providers to run Azure Services in a private datacenter. Amazon Web Services® (AWS) has recently announced a similar offering with AWS Outposts. It is not only the public cloud that is coming to the private datacenter. VMware® has an offering to run on AWS. So, AWS and Azure can be private cloud and VMware can be public cloud? So, what is the multi-cloud forecast? It’s cloudy at best.
Multi-Cloud vs. Public or Private Cloud
Multi-cloud takes a different approach than traditional public/private cloud. A good multi-cloud strategy allows enterprises to move certain workloads to AWS. If CIOs/CTOs are not happy with the service or price, they can migrate to Azure. They can then determine that specific applications should reside in a private datacenter. This does not imply one would change providers on a whim, but have the capability to move without massive application or business implications.
As technology and competition progress between cloud providers, each attempts to define themselves with unique features. While these unique features many times can add value, they also can create “vendor lock-in” where migration to another vendor is often difficult. A multi-cloud strategy should include awareness of when to accept vendor lock-in, how much to accept, and when not to accept it. This strategy and direction require careful evaluation of the opportunity and business risk.
The effort involved in keeping up with today’s rapidly changing technology and security landscapes can be overwhelming. A proven way to make the implementation and operation of a multi-cloud strategy successful is choosing the right strategic partner — one who can guide your organization through the ever-changing landscape and provide management, security, compliance, and governance across a variety of public and private cloud environments. If your business has core ERP applications running in a private cloud, and also has a custom developed, container-based, application running in a public cloud with dynamic scaling this should not be an issue. The provider must be able to provide everything from management, patching, disaster recovery, backup, to full security, audit support, governance and process for both types of environment.
- Avoid Vendor Lock-in. A strong Multi-Cloud strategy can prevent vendor lock in. This allows your business to be in control. This flexibility allows one to pick the right tool for the right job, a mechanism to leverage technology innovation from different providers. Technology and cloud are changing so rapidly, and [they are changing] a lot. Companies that are less “locked down”, have flexibility and agility to grow with new cloud technologies.
- Managed Cloud Services Provider Expertise. Companies that engage a managed cloud service provider can increase productivity and enhance functionality provided to clients without hiring additional staff or spending time managing the cloud environment. Managed services providers do the heavy lifting in managing/supporting, securing and ensuring the environment operates at optimal performance.
- Flexibility and Scalability. Businesses grow. Demands change. Technology innovations rapidly occur. No business looks the same today as it did a year ago. When a business grows, cloud environments must scale along with it. By engaging more than one cloud-hosting company, enterprises can match needs to the solutions that fit the best and alter them to fit business and technology requirements.
- Cost Governance. There was an assumption that public cloud costs less. As organizations began to utilize a public cloud strategy, they quickly realized this was not always the case. In some cases, public cloud actually costs more.
- Disparate Processes. When a company uses a single cloud provider, it is simple to manage services through a single point of contact or portal. However, once additional providers are added to the mix, companies now have different processes and portals to manage for respective servers. This may not be as difficult when there is a handful of providers; but it gets even more complex if, for example a large global enterprise has several providers.
- Compliance. Compliance with a single provider can be tricky and with several providers, it can be a potential nightmare. Whether its HIPAA, ITAR or any other government/industry-mandated standard, achieving compliance with different providers becomes complex. Some providers may be able to meet certain compliance requirements and others may not.
- Security. Maintaining application and workload security in a multi-cloud environment is complex at best. The pressure is on CISOs to remain accountable and to protect them in disparate cloud security implementations.
- Data Management. It is all about the data. Moving data between one cloud provider to another can be costly. While deploying production in one public cloud, and disaster recovery in a second public cloud may sound appealing (and does have some use cases), it can also drive significant costs.
Managed Cloud Service Providers
When considering adopting a multi-cloud environment, Managed Cloud Services Providers (MSPs) have everything enterprises need. Secure-24 can help enterprises through every phase – from planning, migration, securing to optimizing.
While multi-cloud management strategies give businesses more agility, flexibility and choice, there are best practices that CIOs must be mindful of to reap these benefits. When considering a multi-cloud strategy, I cannot stress enough the importance of precision in vendor selection. CIOs and CTOs must understand the entire scope of differing variables: pricing, security and compliance, SLAs, and platforms. Remember, not all cloud providers are created equal and the MSP of choice must have the ability to meet pricing, implementation, uptime, security and compliance requirements.
Sean Donaldson is the CTO at Secure-24.