What Is Multi-Cloud? Exploring Solutions, Examples, and Development

Taylor Karl
/ Categories: Resources, Cloud
What Is Multi-Cloud? Exploring Solutions, Examples, and Development 664 0

The use of multi-cloud might be the most significant advancement in cloud computing we've seen in some time. Rather than stick with a single vendor, many organizations have decided to run their applications using cloud computing services from at least two cloud providers. They can do this through a combination of public clouds, two or more private clouds, or some combination of both.

So far, those who have adopted this approach are happy with the results, with 9 out of 10 saying it helps them achieve their business goals. But multi-cloud isn't just about progress; it's also about mitigating risk to the business. Half of surveyed IT leaders believe that organizations that don't adopt a multi-cloud strategy may see their business hurt because of it.

Multi-cloud strategies help avoid vendor lock-in, enhance resilience, optimize performance, and potentially reduce costs by leveraging different cloud providers' strengths and avoiding reliance on a single provider. However, realizing these benefits is challenging, primarily due to the skills gap in the current workforce. To fully realize the potential of multicloud environments, organizations must find skilled workers and train their staff to handle these complex systems.

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Understanding Multi-Cloud Solutions

Multi-cloud uses several cloud computing services in a single architecture. This approach differs from hybrid cloud, which combines on-premises infrastructure and cloud services, and single-cloud deployments, which rely solely on one cloud provider. When you create a strategy that utilizes multiple vendors, you can choose the capabilities that best suit your business needs and minimize vendor lock-in.

What is Multi-Cloud

Multi-Cloud Advantages

The advantages of multi-cloud strategies in modern computing cannot be overstated. Diversifying your cloud portfolio provides more opportunities for optimizing costs and performance based on the strengths of each cloud service. In short, you get to match specific features and capabilities to optimize your workloads in the cloud based on factors like speed, performance, reliability, geographical location, and security and compliance requirements.

  • Security and regulatory compliance: Deploy and scale workloads while implementing security policies and compliance technologies consistently across all your workloads, regardless of service, vendor, or environment.
  • Business continuity: Multicloud is a risk mitigation technique because you don't have to worry about a single point of failure bringing down your entire system. When one cloud goes down or has a performance issue, you can move applications and services to your second or third option.
  • Scalability: Distribute workloads across clouds by leveraging the elastic capacity of different providers based on demand.
  • Operational resilience and flexibility: Utilizing multiple vendors allows you to select the applications from each cloud platform that best suits your business needs.
  • Innovation: Popular cloud providers like Google and Microsoft are some of the most innovative organizations in the world. They are continuously developing new products and services for their cloud platforms, which means a multicloud approach lets you use these new technologies as they hit the market.

Multi-Cloud Challenges

Creating a multi-cloud strategy introduces many opportunities for your business, but it is not as simple as "set it and forget it." Managing different platforms can be challenging, especially if your team needs to gain the relevant skills or knowledge. With so many organizations trying to get their multi-cloud investments off the ground, cloud-related jobs are expected to increase by nearly 20% in the next few years. But are there enough professionals out there who can handle these roles?

40% of organizations admit that skill shortages are the biggest hindrance to their multi-cloud operations. A third also says that lack of training is preventing them from fully realizing the potential of their multicloud strategy; it's clear that figuring out cloud education and upskilling has to be top of mind for these organizations.

  • Complexity: Sometimes, organizations use five or more cloud platforms. As you can imagine, the operational challenges stemming from these many deployments are extensive. Virtana research revealed that more than half of organizations leveraging multicloud rely on at least five separate tools for migration, cloud cost optimization, integrated performance monitoring, application performance management, and cloud infrastructure monitoring. Operating this many tools can drive up costs while causing performance problems.
  • Data Governance: Data governance ensures that the data is accessible, reliable, and secure while respecting privacy standards. Considering organizations need to collect, store, deploy, catalog, backup, and remove data across multiple cloud environments - while making sure all the cloud service providers guarantee regulatory compliance in each jurisdiction it operates - it's easy to see how data governance becomes more complex with each cloud application used.
  • Security: Multi-cloud is a dynamic environment and can’t be protected by just extending your data center or on-premise-security framework into the cloud. You can’t take the same security approach to every cloud platform; they all require different protections. And while each vendor issues best practices and guidelines for doing so, multi-cloud environments are complex and require expertise in cloud networking, security, and all the product offerings from each cloud provider.

Organizations can mitigate these challenges by investing in cloud management and orchestration tools, implementing consistent security measures across all clouds, adopting standards and best practices for interoperability, and providing staff training to bridge skill gaps.

Exploring Multi-Cloud Environments

Multi-cloud environments contain two or more public clouds, two or more private clouds, or a mix. They also include distributed cloud assets, software, applications, etc., across several cloud-hosting environments. The primary goal of multicloud flexibility is to optimize cost, performance, and services for each workload.

Components and Architecture

A multi-cloud environment consists of a complex blend of services from multiple cloud providers, each offering different capabilities. Breaking down the components involved will illustrate how intricate multicloud is and demonstrate why organizations must have staff with the requisite knowledge to manage these services.

Category

Description

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs)

Entities that offer specialized services uniquely suited for specific tasks or organizational needs.

Cloud Management Platform (CMP)

Provides a unified interface for monitoring and managing workloads, optimizing costs, automating deployment, and ensuring compliance across various cloud platforms.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

A security component that monitors activity and enforces security policies between cloud users and applications.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Controls who can access specific resources in a multicloud environment by managing user identities, authenticating users, and enforcing access policies across all cloud services.

Data Integration Tools

Perform data synchronization, data transformation, and provide access and analyze data stored in various cloud services.

Network Connectivity

Allows securely moving data between different clouds and on-premises systems, involving virtual private networks (VPNs), direct cloud connections, and proper network security measures.

Containers and Kubernetes

Allow applications to be easily moved and managed across different cloud environments, with Kubernetes providing a platform for automating application container deployment, scaling, and operations across clusters of hosts.

API Gateway

Manages how APIs are exposed to apps and services across multiple clouds, handling requests and implementing functionalities like rate limiting, caching, authorization, and access control.

Disaster Recovery

Ensures that, in the event of a failure or disaster in one cloud, operations can continue using resources from another cloud.

Compliance and Governance Tools

Necessary for monitoring and ensuring compliance with various regulatory requirements across different jurisdictions.

Multi-Cloud Platforms and Services

As organizations increasingly adopt multi-cloud strategies, they are exploring various cloud platforms to leverage their unique strengths. Understanding the offerings of leading cloud providers is essential for businesses to make informed decisions, maximize the benefits of multi-cloud, and ensure seamless operations across diverse cloud environments. Below, we outline the key strengths of each cloud platforms and services, along with explanations of their value to help guide your multi-cloud strategy.

Microsoft Azure

Organizations like Azure for its ability to integrate seamlessly with other Microsoft software and services such as Windows Server, Active Directory, and SQL Server. Over a million organizations worldwide use Microsoft 365, making Azure one of the most popular cloud choices. Office 365 is sometimes counted as part of the cloud market share, which makes Azure the biggest market share leader. However, when Office 365 is excluded, AWS claims the title of #1 market leader. Azure also grants its customers strong support for hybrid cloud environments so organizations can smoothly combine on-premises infrastructure with cloud services.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS has dominated the market for a long time thanks to its robust, well-integrated, and extensively tested suite of services, including computing power, storage options, and networking capabilities, catering to nearly any workload. It also has one of the largest networks of data centers, providing customers with low latency and high performance across the globe. AWS also offers robust security tools, which the company continuously updates to handle emerging threats.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Google has recently made up ground on the other cloud providers thanks to its big data and analytics capabilities that leverage Google’s expertise in handling massive datasets and complex queries quickly. Cutting-edge AI and machine learning products like TensorFlow and AutoML are also increasingly appealing to customers, especially with GCP's competitive pricing and discounts. Coupled with its support for the live migration of virtual machines, a rare feature that minimizes downtime during maintenance, it's no surprise that more organizations are integrating GCP into their multi-cloud architecture.

Oracle Cloud

Oracle offers one of the most extensive sets of cloud applications for business operations, including ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and HCM (Human Capital Management). These applications are integrated with Oracle’s cloud platform and infrastructure, providing a seamless experience for users. Another of its main benefits is advanced database services, which include Oracle Autonomous Database, a self-managing and self-securing database that automates routine database maintenance tasks.

IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud offers a wide range of solutions, including IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service) in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. It’s designed to provide organizations with the tools necessary to handle complex data and AI challenges and to facilitate high levels of customization and integration with existing systems. Organizations like IBM Cloud for its high reliability, scalability, and support levels. It's one of the preferred choices for organizations that require rigorous service level agreements (SLAs).

Additionally, IBM Cloud supports a robust hybrid cloud strategy so customers can seamlessly integrate their on-premises infrastructure with the cloud. This flexibility is particularly appealing for organizations with complex IT environments that require a blend of public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT resources.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud is primarily used for graphic design, video editing, web development, photography, and other creative tasks. It provides users desktop applications, mobile apps, and services for various creative projects. Adobe Creative Cloud's most well-known applications include Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, After Effects, InDesign, and Lightroom. The applications work seamlessly with each other, making it easier for users to transition between different phases of a project, such as moving from image editing in Photoshop to layout design in InDesign.

OpenStack

OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing platform that provides infrastructure as a service (IaaS) for public and private clouds. Its purpose is to manage large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a data center, all managed through APIs or a dashboard. Because it is open-source, it is freely available to anyone. It can be modified to suit specific needs so organizations can avoid vendor lock-in and achieve high customization.

The wide use of OpenStack cloud deployments is due to its flexibility in managing diverse and complex infrastructure setups. It supports a variety of virtualization technologies, as well as bare metal and container-based deployments.

Multi-Cloud Computing in Practice

Organizations like Netflix, Spotify, and Airbnb are well-known examples of successful multicloud implementations. They leverage multiple cloud providers to ensure high availability and scalability and to optimize costs by utilizing specific services from different providers based on their needs.

The benefits they have realized include improved resilience against outages, increased flexibility to choose the best services from different providers, and reduced dependency on a single cloud vendor.

Development Approaches for Multi-Cloud

When designing applications for multi-cloud deployment, there are several things developers should consider, such as:

Prioritize Portability

Can the application run seamlessly across different cloud environments without introducing significant modifications? They should utilize cloud-agnostic services and APIs whenever possible, implement robust error handling and fault tolerance mechanisms, and design for scalability and resilience by leveraging auto-scaling and distributed architectures.

Approach Cloud-Native Services with Caution

Cloud-native services (such as AWS Lambda or Azure Functions) can offer significant benefits in terms of scalability and maintenance, but they can also lead to vendor lock-in. Designers should utilize cloud-agnostic services and APIs whenever possible to maintain flexibility.

Centralize Identity Management

Using a unified identity and access management (IAM) system across all cloud platforms for permissions management and access controls simplifies security management and ensures consistent enforcement of security policies.

Plan for Resilience

Multicloud architectures need to support resilience and disaster recovery. They must be able to failover to another cloud in case of an outage and use geo-redundancy to protect against data loss.

Protect the Budget

Multicloud environments can lead to unexpected costs if not monitored closely. Use cost management tools to better visualize spending across platforms and optimize resource usage through auto-scaling, right-sizing, and selecting the right mix of reserved and on-demand instances.

Conclusion

The shift towards multi-cloud environments is picking up speed as organizations realize the newfound flexibility and resilience they offer. This approach allows you to tap into the best-of-breed services from various providers and mitigate risks associated with single-vendor dependencies. That said, the complexity of managing multiple platforms can’t be taken lightly, as it requires a sophisticated understanding of each platform, which many cloud professionals don't have.

Skill shortages and the need for comprehensive training and development programs are critical hurdles organizations must overcome to harness the full potential of multi-cloud environments. As more organizations embrace a multi-cloud approach, there will be a massive need for organizations to close the skills gap. At New Horizons, we partner with the leading cloud vendors to design training solutions for modern IT needs—get in touch to start future-proofing your business.

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