It was not long back when organizations were asking – Why should we adopt cloud?

Cloud Computing has come a long way with significant leaps in terms of scope and adoption. But, on the other hand, the cloud computing needs of businesses are exponentially rising at an accelerated pace. The Cloud Ecosystem today one of the common buzzwords is Multi-cloud Strategy. We are finding a lot of enterprises wanting to diversify their processes by adopting the Multi-Cloud strategy. This path is one that requires a lot of planning.

When talking to the leadership in the organizations, I frequently come across variations of this statement –

“We realize the importance of the Cloud, but we need a trusted partner who can help us with our Journey to the Cloud and Journey in the Cloud.”

Most of the enterprises need someone who can bring in Talent, a proper framework and help them answer the following questions:

  • How to transform the current Infrastructure and App Portfolio to Multi-Cloud model securely in an optimized manner?
  • What to move to the cloud without doing long-drawn Assessments (Portfolio / Application / Infrastructure) that carry heavy expenses?
  • Which deployment model to use from IaaS/PaaS/CaaS/Serverless?
  • How to optimize Cloud usage?

What does Multi-cloud Strategy mean?

As the operational needs of the business started evolving, it was time to focus on both the public and the private clouds and how they can be used in conjunction. This led to the use of what is termed the Hybrid Cloud Strategy.

Hybrid Cloud Strategy is when the IT infrastructure connects a private cloud to an available public cloud through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Here, the Public Cloud is an extension of the private cloud – they use a single Identity Management (IdM) system with unified monitoring and integrated internal networks.

Many enterprises working with the cloud ecosystem realized that hybrid cloud was not living up to its expectations. Each cloud has a set of unique attributes and varies when it comes to cost, control and security perspective that makes a particular cloud platform right for a particular application or workload. Because workloads, infrastructure, and processes are unique to each enterprise, each hybrid strategy must be adapted to specific needs. The result is that the terms hybrid cloud and multi-cloud are sometimes used inconsistently.

According to Gartner, Multi-cloud Strategy is “the deliberate use of the same type of cloud services from multiple public cloud providers.”

In other words, Multi-cloud is the use of two or more clouds from different cloud providers and can be a combination of Infrastructure, Platform, or Software as a Service (IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS). Usually, organizations use Multi-cloud strategy as a part of their hybrid strategies. Here, each cloud continues to stay in its own silo while interacting with other services in a hybrid environment.

Multi-cloud can be defined in multiple ways depending on the scope of its adoption: an organization or an application.

  • Multi-Cloud at Application / Workload Level

An application or a workload using services from multiple clouds. For example, Application using Azure IaaS and PaaS capabilities for Presentation and Application Tier and leveraging Oracle Cloud for the Database tier.

  • Multi-Cloud at Organization level

An organization deploying a few workloads in one cloud and other workloads use a different cloud. For example, you may consume Messaging as a service from one vendor (SaaS), customer relationship management (CRM) from another, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from yet another Cloud provider.

My simple definition – Multi-Cloud is the deliberate use of the same type of cloud services from multiple public cloud providers in a coordinated way/single scope/context.

Why Multi-Cloud now? 

Multi-cloud strategy, today, is at a transition point, where organizations are moving from ‘WHY’ multi-cloud to ‘HOW’ and ‘WHAT’. Most of the enterprises see Multi-Cloud as a Digital Transformation Accelerator that brings about Agile Development & Deployment forming a sustainable Digital Ecosystem.

According to Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report conducted in the first quarter of 2020, it was observed that 93% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, out of which, 87% have a hybrid cloud strategy.

In another recent Gartner survey, more than 80% of respondents using cloud data management services were using more than one Cloud Service Provider.

By 2022, the top four Cloud Service Providers will host 80% of IaaS/PaaS deployments. On the other hand, by 2024, 90% of G1000 organizations will decrease vendor lock-in through multi and hybrid cloud technologies and tools. Over the next 5 years, enterprises will embrace integrated hybrid/multi-cloud tools and strategies to support different applications and use cases. Enterprises that lack an integrated strategy in place will face shortcomings in terms of suboptimal resource allocation, limited access to best-available technology innovations, longer problem identification and resolution times, and limited vendor leverage.

We saw a jump of over 120% in the number of organizations adopting a multi-cloud strategy in the last 12 months. Even hyperscaler (MAAG – Microsoft, AWS, AliCloud, Google) cloud service providers have recognized this trend of Multi-Cloud adoption. This has led to new market opportunities to expand their services and support multi-cloud capabilities.

Some notable examples include: 

What are your objectives for adopting a Multi-Cloud Strategy?

 While many customers are adopting Multi-Cloud strategy but most of them are not clear on the objective and business outcomes that they want to drive with multi-cloud adoption.

Before starting their cloud journey, it is important for the leadership to pause and define their business objectives. There can be different business objectives for multi-cloud adoption such as flexibility, avoiding vendor lock-in, resiliency, more options for regulatory compliance or data sovereignty etc.

Without clearly defined objectives, the journey to the cloud can end up being a failed investment in another technology buzzword.

Multi-cloud strategies are used to achieve the following objectives –

  • Risk Reduction/Avoiding Vendor Lock-in

When an organization chooses a public cloud provider, the risk of being dependent on a single provider (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and the like) is associated with it. When the organization adopts a multi-cloud strategy, it minimizes the perceived risk and provides a separate complete environment with each cloud provider. This makes it easy, in theory, to reduce the risk of halted operations in case of an outage at one provider.

  • Portability

Applications/Workloads that need to be deployed in multiple cloud platforms without changing code and configuration. Typically, Portability is achieved using:

  1. Use of cloud-agnostic technologies/frameworks – This includes choosing minimum viable options or Cloud agnostic technologies, like Kubernetes.
  2. An abstraction of the underlying platform – Applications are designed to use more than one cloud by abstracting the underlying platform; to enable developers to consume cloud platform services without worrying about which cloud platform their application will be deployed into. Such an abstraction layer is generally defined using Factory pattern-based indirection or API layer.
  • Innovation with Best-of-Breed capability usage

This objective uses the guiding principle to reap the full benefits of the cloud by taking advantage of the best service and feature innovations. The Best-of-Breed multi-cloud architecture comes with the mindset that duplicating all features in all the cloud environments will prove expensive to the enterprise. Instead, the enterprise should look for stability gained by deploying cloud providers with interchangeable feature sets.

  • Resilience and Availability

Applications are deployed to more than one cloud to get higher availability, redundancy, or resiliency.

  • Regulatory Compliance/Data Sovereignty

While all hyperscalers are increasing the global footprint, the collective presence of different cloud providers allows customers to address broader set diverse regulatory and data sovereignty requirements.

NOTE – In an upcoming blog, I will cover details on challenges and solutions associated with Multi-Cloud Technology stack.

What is the impact of the Pandemic on the Multi-Cloud Ecosystem?

As governments around the world emphasized social distancing and work from home, the cloud services that support these scenarios such as virtual desktop infrastructure, audio/video conferencing services have seen unprecedented growth. This has accelerated the adoption of cloud services during the Pandemic.

As an update on the Cloud Services continuity, Microsoft announced that it saw a 75% increase in Teams’ calling and meeting monthly users. This unprecedented demand has put Cloud providers under immense pressure to deliver, and most of them are focusing their attention at optimizing their internal process and architecture for increased resilience and more sporadic peak usages.

Research by Forrester indicates that Global CSP leaders are stress-testing their infrastructure and activating pandemic-specific resilience testing procedures. Increased demand during the Pandemic has redefined the perception of businesses when it comes to On-Demand, Elasticity and unlimited capacity principles. Organizations are heavily relying on the public cloud, and this has increased the risk of disruption in business operations due to the non-availability of a cloud service.

Now customers are looking at Multi-Cloud strategy to mitigate this new risk of public cloud providers running out of capacity or unplanned outages due to pandemic scenarios. For example, to manage the surge in demand, Microsoft implemented temporary restrictions and placed limits on the free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers. It seems that MAAG providers are rethinking their capacity planning now.

The COVID-19 situation is unpredictable, and businesses need to predict the curveballs to mitigate risks. This can be done by –

  • Diversifying applications and solutions by employing a multi-cloud strategy
  • Building true-resilient architecture

Employing these steps would fast-track multi-cloud adoption for your business.

Does your organization need a Distributed Cloud strategy instead of a Multi-Cloud Strategy?

What is a Distributed Cloud?

In a distributed cloud strategy, an enterprise deploys public cloud services to different physical locations while commanding the operation, governance, updates, and evolution of the services. The distributed cloud lets enterprises use the best tool for each job.

Distributed Cloud is an emerging cloud architecture, where mini and micro data centers are starting to be deployed closer to the users to reduce latency, lower bandwidth costs, and increase autonomy and privacy.

According to Gartner, “Distributed cloud is the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, while the operation, governance, updates and evolution of the services are the responsibility of the originating public cloud provider.”

Distributed cloud computing style is the first in its area where the location of the cloud services is a critical component of the model. Distributed cloud is ideal — not only for edge computing, but also with hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, or both.

When to use a distributed cloud strategy?

  • When compliance with regulatory requirements for data to be in specific locations is essential.
  • When your organization is looking to reduce network failure risk to allow cloud services to operate untethered.
  • When low latency compute is required for complex/critical decisions.
  • When there is a need to increase the number and availability of Compute Zones with the best of bread feature use.

To know how Multi-Cloud strategy differs from Hybrid Cloud and Distributed Cloud strategies, take a quick look at my infographic post here.

Summary – Is Multi-Cloud the answer to all your current cloud computing needs?

  • Multi-Cloud is the deliberate use of the same type of cloud services from multiple public cloud providers in a coordinated way/single scope/context.
  • Multi-cloud is reputed as a Digital Transformation accelerator as it forms a sustainable Digital ecosystem by enabling Agile development and deployment.
  • For a successful cloud journey, the leadership of an enterprise should define clear business objectives that the enterprise intends to achieve through the multi-cloud strategy.
  • If your organization is looking for a public cloud deployment for low latency compute and to increase the availability of computing zones, you should consider adopting a Distributed Cloud strategy.