First off, let’s define multi-cloud. Clearly, we’re talking about using one or more clouds, but clouds come in different flavors. For example, multi-cloud incorporates the idea of hybrid cloud—a mix of public and private clouds. But multi-cloud can also mean two or more public clouds or two or more private clouds.
So, why is this important? Over the past year or so, I’ve seen a major increase in the amount of companies who use multiple public clouds. In fact, more than 20 percent of ParkMyCloud’s customers use multiple public clouds. With this trend in mind, I think it is time to take a look at the positives of a multi-cloud strategy. But I also want to mention the negatives—because, of course, there’s no “easy button.”
According to the “RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report,” more than 80% percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy:
What are the Advantages of Multi-Cloud?
So, why are businesses heading in this direction with their infrastructure? Simple reasons include the following:
- Risk mitigation—create resilient architectures.
- Managing vendor lock-in—get price protection.
- Optimization—place your workloads to optimize for cost and performance.
- Cloud providers’ unique capabilities—take advantage of offerings in AI, IOT, machine learning and more.
When I asked our CTO what he sees as the advantages of a multi-cloud strategy, he highlighted risk management. Our own platform was born in the cloud, so we run on AWS. We also have a multi-region architecture with redundancy (let’s call this “multi-cloud light”) and if we went multi-cloud, we would leverage another public cloud for risk mitigation.
Specifically, he mentioned risk management from the perspective of one vendor having an infrastructure meltdown or attack. AWS had an issue about 15 months ago year when S3 was offline in US-East-1 region for more than five hours, affecting many companies large and small. Software from web apps to smartphones apps were affected (including ours). Certain AWS regions also have been the target of DDoS attacks that have affected service availability.
Having a backup to another cloud service provider (CSP) or private cloud in these cases could have ensured 100 percent uptime. In the case of Alibaba and other cloud vendors, they may have a much stronger presence in certain geographic regions due to a long-term presence. When any vendor gets a toe-hold in a region, its environment has minimal redundancy and safeguards in place that provide the desired high availability; in this case, another provider in the same region may be safer from an availability perspective.
What are the Disadvantages of Multi-Cloud?
Now let’s say you want to go multi-cloud: What does this mean to you? From our own experience integrating with AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, we’ve seen that each cloud has its own set of interfaces and own challenges. It is not a “write once, run everywhere” situation between the vendors, and any cloud or network management utility system must do the work to provide deep integration with each CSP.
Further, the nuances of configuring and managing each CSP require both broad and deep knowledge, and it is rare to find employees with the essential expertise for multiple clouds, so more staff is needed to manage multi-cloud with confidence that it is being done in a way that is both secure and highly available. With everyone trying to play catch-up with AWS—and with AWS itself evolving at a breakneck pace—it is very difficult for an individual or organization to best utilize one CSP, let alone multiple clouds.
A common container environment, for example, can help mitigate these issues somewhat by isolating engineers from the nuances of virtual machine management; however, the issues of network, infrastructure, cost optimization, security and availability remain very CSP-specific.
On paper, there are advantages of having a multi-cloud strategy. In practice—like many things—it’s not as easy as it may seem.