Multi-Cloud Storage for Seamless Data Management

Taylor Karl
/ Categories: Resources, Cloud
Multi-Cloud Storage for Seamless Data Management 721 0

Back in 2017, an AWS engineer accidentally mistyped a command while trying to debug a storage system in the cloud provider's Virginia data center. The result was four hours of chaos, with enterprise platforms like Slack, Quora, Mailchimp, and Expedia all going dark because of the outage. In the years since, cloud computing has continued to grow, including the recent ascent of multi-cloud architectures, as a vast majority of companies have left siloed data behind.

Enterprises understand they shouldn't rely on a single provider to remain operational, so they've turned to multi-cloud storage rather than using a central repository to store information. Multi-cloud storage allows companies to merge the services of different cloud vendors into one architecture to distribute their data and applications across several public, private, and hybrid cloud environments (or a mix of each).

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Multi-Cloud Storage Solutions

Traditional storage solutions involve storing data exclusively within a single cloud service provider's infrastructure. Multi-cloud storage, on the other hand, distributes data across multiple cloud platforms to leverage each service provider's unique features and pricing models. This approach also offers redundancy and fault tolerance if a single provider experiences an outage or service disruption.

Types of Multi-cloud Storage Systems:

Type

Description

Native Public Cloud Solutions

Cloud platforms like Google Cloud, Azure, and AWS.

Marketplace Storage Services

Third-party solutions offered by cloud providers and usually involve pre-built virtual machines or orchestration software that connect pre-configured multi-cloud storage solutions.

Supplier-Integrated Services

Pre-integrated with public clouds, offering extra features and performance improvements.

Use Cases of Multi-Cloud Storage:

A traditional public or hybrid cloud environment works fine, depending on your business needs. But there are several reasons companies commonly go for the  power and adaptability of multi-cloud systems: 

  • Data Backup and Recovery:  By storing data across cloud platforms and regions, organizations can ensure that, in the event of a significant outage or disaster in one cloud, the data is still accessible from another. This redundancy makes it well-suited for long-term storage and disaster recovery.
  • Regulatory Compliance Storage: Multi-cloud allows organizations to store data in specific regions to comply with data residency laws while taking advantage of cloud scalability and flexibility. And, if you have regulated systems and data processing capacities that call for specific compliance requirements, you can integrate a compliant cloud provider and compartmentalize some of your security obligations.
  • Performance-Focused Storage: By storing data closer to end-users, multi-cloud allows you to place data in strategic locations based on user concentration, reducing latency and speeding up data access, which is particularly important for high-performance applications and services.

Multi-Cloud Database Management

Multi-cloud solutions bring robustness and flexibility to database management by allowing organizations to utilize and integrate database services from multiple providers.

Multi-cloud Database Benefits:

  • Data Protection: Better fine-tuning security controls by selecting different vendors for different storage components. By spreading data and applications across services, you can limit how much data a breach impacts and better isolate attacks.
  • Cost Reduction: Each cloud provider offers different pricing models, and using more than one means you get to leverage the most cost-effective option for each type of workload and service you're using. Not only that, but they usually have lower prices in specific regions, so companies can distribute their workloads across regions to take advantage of the most competitive pricing.
  • Avoiding Vendor Lock-In: Multi-cloud storage means companies are not beholden to any single vendor's pricing structures and service limitations. They can choose the most cost-effective option for specific workloads, including switching vendors when facing potential price hikes.

Multi-cloud Database Challenges:

  • Compatibility: While a multi-cloud system allows you to work with multiple cloud platforms, it’s still necessary to work with storage solutions that can play well together–meaning that they support the same software, data structures, and storage types (file, block, etc.).
  • Complexity: Managing services and resources across cloud vendors is challenging, especially if attempting to integrate those services as a single platform.
  • Integration: You need to integrate all your cloud services with the applications you use through APIs to avoid a collection of cloud accounts that cannot communicate.
  • Data Consistency: Ensuring data consistency and synchronization across distributed databases can be challenging.
  • Interoperability: Integrating databases and applications across cloud environments may require additional development effort.
  • Compliance: Maintaining compliance with data regulations and standards across multiple clouds adds complexity to governance and risk management.

4 Best Practices for Creating a Multi-Cloud Database

#1: Enable Portability

Data portability remains a significant challenge in multi-cloud environments due to proprietary APIs and the complexity of managing data across clouds. Often, data ends up siloed within the cloud where it originated. To combat this, enterprises can adopt cross-cloud data-sharing technologies that enable seamless data connectivity and transfer between cloud platforms.

For application portability, containerization and Kubernetes have become standard practices, allowing applications to be deployed flexibly across various clouds. Cloud vendors also offer specific multi-cloud platform solutions like Google Cloud Anthos, Azure Arc, and Amazon EKS Anywhere, which facilitate the deployment of applications across cloud services.

#2: Aggregate Data in the Cloud

With the explosion of data generation, modern enterprises face the challenge of data dispersed across several clouds, which can obscure valuable insights. Centralizing data in a unified storage solution, such as a data lake or cloud data platform, is crucial as it allows for better analysis and data-driven decision-making.

#3: Standardize Security Practices

Expanding cloud services across multiple providers increases the potential attack surface and risk of breaches. While spreading assets across clouds can mitigate some risks, a breach in one cloud can affect others. Organizations should standardize security practices and policies applicable across all clouds to secure multi-cloud environments effectively.

#4: Implement Multi-cloud Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery is essential for business continuity, especially for organizations running mission-critical applications in the cloud. Traditional single-cloud disaster recovery strategies often rely on cross-region redundancy, which may not suffice during widespread outages. A multi-cloud disaster recovery strategy allows for recovery across different public clouds, significantly reducing the risk of data loss and service disruption during significant incidents.

Multi-Cloud Data Platform Overview

Multi-cloud data platforms are comprehensive systems that manage data across multiple cloud environments. These platforms facilitate storing, processing, and analyzing data housed in different cloud services using a unified interface for cost monitoring, application management, and more.

Features and Functionalities:

Feature

Description

Data Integration and Orchestration

Integrate data from various sources and cloud providers, enabling smooth data flow and synchronization across platforms, essential for maintaining data consistency and supporting complex workflows.

Centralized Management Interface

Provide a single pane of glass for managing all cloud data resources, simplifying the complexity of handling multiple disparate systems.

Automated Data Governance

Include tools for data governance, compliance, and security, automating tasks like data classification, policy enforcement, and access control.

Scalability and Flexibility

Scale seamlessly with organizational needs, accommodating spikes in data volume or processing demand without significant reconfiguration.

Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning Support

Built-in analytics and machine learning capabilities, allowing users to derive insights directly from their multi-cloud environments without transferring data between systems.

Disaster Recovery and High Availability

Enhance data resilience and availability by leveraging the geographic distribution of cloud services, facilitating robust disaster recovery strategies, and maintaining business continuity.

Multi-Cloud Data Platforms Use Cases:

  • Global Data Compliance: For organizations operating across multiple regions, multi-cloud data platforms can help manage data sovereignty issues by storing and processing data in specific geographic locations according to local laws and regulations.
  • Real-Time Analytics: Companies in finance, retail, and telecommunications can utilize multi-cloud data platforms to aggregate and analyze data from various sources in real-time.
  • Healthcare Data Management for organizations that must securely manage patient data across multiple clouds to ensure HIPAA and other regulatory compliance while supporting collaborative research and healthcare delivery.
  • Disaster Recovery: Businesses can enhance their disaster recovery strategies by distributing backups. Multi-cloud data platforms facilitate this by automating data backup and recovery processes across cloud services.
  • Flexible Application Deployment: Software developers can use multi-cloud data platforms to deploy applications in environments that best meet their performance and cost criteria. This flexibility is valuable for applications that experience variable demand.

What Is Multi-Cloud Storage?

Multi-cloud storage combines several cloud vendors' storage services into a unified architecture. Users can leverage various cloud storage services to secure their data. To manage data distributed across multiple clouds, organizations can choose a private, public, or hybrid approach.

Multi-Cloud Storage Diagram

Multi-cloud vs Traditional Storage Solutions

Multi-cloud storage represents a significant evolution from traditional storage solutions, adapting to modern businesses' more connected and data-intensive requirements in various ways.

Aspect

Multi-Cloud Storage

Traditional Storage

Storage Location and Accessibility

Spreads data across multiple public or private cloud services.

Relies on on-premises hardware or single-location data centers.

Scalability

Offers unmatched scalability with elastic services provided by cloud providers, avoiding physical hardware adjustments.

Requires physical hardware adjustments, which are often costly and time-consuming.

Cost Efficiency

Pay-as-you-go model reduces costs by eliminating the need for significant upfront capital investments in hardware and ongoing maintenance expenses.

Demands substantial initial investments and continuous expenses for upkeep, cooling, and space.

Data Redundancy and Disaster Recovery

Ensures data protection even if one provider suffers an outage, providing redundancy that is expensive and complex to achieve with traditional storage.

Involves manually setting up duplicate data centers or backup locations to achieve redundancy, which is expensive and complex.

Management Complexity

Provides greater flexibility but can be challenging to manage multiple interfaces, sync data, and deal with varied performance standards across providers.

More straightforward to manage due to its centralized nature but lacks the flexibility and scalability of cloud solutions.

Performance and Latency

Optimizes performance by strategically locating data closer to usage points and utilizing edge locations to reduce latency. Performance can vary based on internet connectivity and the specific cloud services used.

Typically offers consistent performance within local networks but can experience higher latency when accessed remotely.

Security and Compliance

Benefits from robust security features maintained by cloud providers, complying with various global standards.

Gives organizations complete control over their security and compliance measures, but also places the burden of maintaining these systems on them.

 

Future Multi-Ccloud Trends:

  • Increased Automation: As multi-cloud environments grow in complexity, we are already seeing a shift towards automating data migration, backups, and security updates.
  • AI and Machine Learning: The integration of AI and machine learning technologies is becoming more prevalent to improve data analytics, manage resources more efficiently, and enhance security measures.
  • Enhanced Security Measures: As data breaches become more sophisticated, there is a push towards developing more robust security protocols across multi-cloud platforms, including advanced encryption techniques and more intelligent threat detection systems.
  • Sustainability in Cloud Storage: With increasing awareness of environmental impacts, future developments will likely include greener data management solutions that focus on reducing the carbon footprint of cloud storage services.
  • Edge Computing Integration: The rise of edge computing, where data is processed near its source, is already facilitating faster processing times and reducing latency, which is ideal for IoT and real-time applications.

Multi-Cloud Data Storage Management

Managing storage across cloud environments effectively requires using specific tools and techniques, implementing robust data lifecycle management strategies, and ensuring compliance and security across all platforms.

Tools and Techniques

Description

Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs)

Offer tools to manage cloud resources across different providers from a single interface. CMPs help automate resource allocation, cost tracking, and performance monitoring tasks.

Cloud Storage Gateways

Serve as a bridge between on-premises or different cloud environments, facilitating data movement and management across clouds. They also can provide additional features like compression, encryption, and deduplication.

APIs

Play a crucial role in multi-cloud environments, allowing cloud services to communicate.

Kubernetes

Allows applications and their dependencies to be bundled into containers, which are easily managed and moved across cloud environments.

Automation and orchestration tools

Help with data management tasks (like backups, scaling, and recovery).

Optimizing Multi-Cloud Storage Solutions

As organizations increasingly adopt multi-cloud storage strategies, optimizing these solutions for performance, cost, scalability, and flexibility becomes crucial. Here’s how enterprises can enhance their multi-cloud storage operations:

Performance Optimization:

  • Carefully select which data resides on which cloud based on performance requirements. Frequently accessed data might be best placed on high-performance, low-latency storage options, while less sensitive data can be stored on cheaper, higher-latency storage.
  • Use load balancers to distribute data requests evenly across your cloud environments.
  • Implement caching strategies to improve data retrieval times. Storing frequently accessed data in a cache on faster storage tiers or closer to the end user can significantly enhance performance.
  • Compression and deduplication can reduce data volume, decreasing the time and bandwidth required for data to be transferred and processed across cloud environments.
  • Optimize network settings and choose cloud providers with the best connectivity options to minimize latency and maximize throughput.

Cost Management Strategies:

  • Utilize different storage tiers cloud providers offer and move lesser-accessed data to lower-cost storage solutions to reduce expenses.
  • Continuously monitor how you use resources to identify inefficiencies or idle resources and avoid overprovisioning.
  • Implement budgeting controls and generate regular reports to track and manage costs across multiple clouds. 
  • Automated tools can dynamically move data between different storage classes and regions based on cost optimization policies without manual intervention.
  • Leverage your multi-cloud posture to negotiate better terms with cloud providers, including discounts in exchange for your commitment to certain usage levels or longer contract terms.

Future-proofing Storage Solutions:

  • Design your storage architecture to scale seamlessly with demand by implementing modular and distributed designs that can expand without significant reconfiguration.
  • Automate as many storage management tasks as possible, such as backups, scaling, and recovery.
  • Ensure your storage solution can scale up and down when necessary to match fluctuating demand patterns.
  • Build interoperability into your systems using APIs that facilitate integration and data movement between clouds and services. This way, you can support a broader range of applications and use cases.
  • Regularly review and update your storage strategies to adapt to new technologies and changes in business requirements. 

Conclusion

Multi-cloud storage requires sophisticated strategies, advanced skills, and tools to integrate and streamline operations effectively. Despite the complexities, the benefits of a multi-cloud approach often outweigh the challenges, which is why it has become a strategic imperative for modern enterprises.

By leveraging multiple cloud services, companies can ensure greater resilience against outages, tailor their infrastructure to specific needs, and maintain a competitive edge in the digital age. As multi-cloud strategies evolve, they will undoubtedly become a standard component of enterprise IT architectures, driving innovation and efficiency in data management practices.

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