As the cloud industry matures, it’s no longer a question of if you’re in the cloud, but how many clouds you’re in. Most businesses now understand that there isn’t a “one cloud fits all” solution and have shifted towards a hybrid or multi-cloud model.
The move to a cloud-first infrastructure has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, changing long-term migration plans to almost overnight deployments and for some, a complete rethink going forward.
For 2022, over 90% of businesses surveyed by analyst IDC say they intend to pursue the cloud more aggressively, relying on a mix of private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms. The reasoning is to build business continuity in the wake of the pandemic, by adding greater resilience and financial liquidity into their operations.
Meanwhile, according to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, enterprises are broadly embracing a multi-cloud strategy, with an estimated 92% of companies adopting a multi-cloud approach. The research revealed that enterprises currently use an average of 2.6 public and 2.7 private clouds within their infrastructure, suggesting multi- and hybrid setups have become commonplace.
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One size doesn’t fit all
As cloud models reach maturity and widespread adoption, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no one-size-fits-all model capable of meeting the cost, security, data, and performance expectations of a heterogeneous set of workloads.
In many cases a multi-cloud environment has come about by accident rather than through strategy. An organisation, for example, may have selected AWS as its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) of choice but then might realise it has an Office 365 instance running on Microsoft Azure with staff doing some work in that environment. Factor in the on-prem infrastructure and your business may suddenly be supporting numerous different cloud environments.
Alternatively, there are those companies who deliberately chose multiple cloud providers to benefit from the specific strengths of each. In this way you can build a best-of-breed environment with a tailored architecture.
This model also gives organisations the freedom from the rigid architecture of a single cloud provider and makes the cloud a two-way street.
In terms of data portability, the growing popularity of multi-cloud has spawned significant interest in containers and APIs. According to IDC, open-source-based technologies such as containers, open APIs and open source databases are enablers of multi-cloud as they support movement of workloads and data across different cloud environments to ensure portability, compliance and security. As an example, IDC estimates that at least 50% of organisations prefer to run databases on a container platform.
But containerisation in general is seen as a crucial element of digital transformation as it enables the ability to build applications once and deploy them anywhere, regardless of environment. This gives companies the freedom to choose clouds for their specific strengths and not because a critical application was built for a certain environment.
As mentioned, some of these environments will be on-prem, but multi-cloud is not the same as hybrid cloud.
Hybrid cloud – a combination of public and private cloud instances – is more a subset of multi-cloud and while a hybrid cloud environment is typically also a multi-cloud environment, the same may not be true of the inverse. A company may have multiple public cloud instances and no private data centre for example.
Overcoming multi-cloud barriers
For many organisations, multi-cloud is inevitable. After all, it’s unlikely there is a single cloud out there that can support all your requirements.
Organisations typically use several, to dozens, to hundreds of SaaS products, as well as a handful of IaaS hosting services, and development PaaS. Some applications will work better on certain platforms – cloud native apps should be happy on AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, but traditional apps might prefer Oracle Cloud or IBM Cloud.
So, a multi-cloud approach enables you to create this best-of-breed environment. But there are also benefits to being able to run workloads across multiple hyperscale cloud environments – something that is being made easier through containerisation.
The caveat is that success for a multi-cloud environment lies in bringing all the pieces together in harmony. It’s ensuring the right workload is distributed to the most appropriate cloud and making sure all the cloud services can communicate with one another.
Organisations need to establish and understand the core connectivity between, and governance around, these disparate environments. In some cases, this will mean a modification or upgrade of your WAN as legacy WAN architectures are typically very cloud unfriendly and put considerable strain on the organisation to maintain.
Appropriate connectivity for SaaS, IaaS and PaaS is not easily achieved on traditional infrastructure, nor are appropriate SLAs, and a suboptimal WAN can degrade the performance of cloud-based applications and adversely affect the end-user experience.
If implemented wisely, using multiple clouds can help avoid vendor lock-in and reduce dependency on a single provider, even leveraging the competitive tension between the different cloud environments to reduce cost and boost service levels.
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A new era
In essence, adopting multi-cloud enables you to adapt and pivot your digital strategy regardless of the capabilities of any single cloud platform. However, due to the nature and volume of traffic moving between data centres or public clouds, a dedicated, low latency, high bandwidth connection is necessary between each asset.
For both a hybrid and a multi-cloud approach, a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) platform can provide real-time access to all clouds from enterprise locations around the world, as well as interconnect public cloud instances with your existing data centres and other private clouds. Based on private connectivity that bypasses the public internet, these platforms provide a better user experience and improves efficiency and performance, with direct access to a global ecosystem of SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS providers.
The first era of cloud adoption was to migrate and run some applications in the cloud, then came hybrid cloud, which connected private cloud with public cloud solutions.
We’re now in the third era: multi-cloud. This architectural approach enables organisations to pick and choose cloud services based on best-in-class technology, while giving them the freedom to avoid proprietary pathways, ensuring optimal innovation in the future.