Navigating even just a single cloud environment can be complicated enough for any startup. Between understanding the range of features on offer, planning for expenditure and ensuring you have the right expertise to leverage the tool to its full potential, the thought of managing multiple clouds can seem daunting.
However, whether your company is just starting out or has been around for years, the rewards to be reaped from a multi-cloud approach make it a worthy investment. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy offers a whole host of benefits and can allow you to optimize costs when implemented correctly. In fact, a recent Gartner survey of public cloud users found that 81% of respondents are working with two or more providers. In addition, the amount of business applications, services and workloads is set to double over the next two years.
Here’s what companies of all sizes can gain from going multi-cloud, and how they can do so.
Why Opt for Multicloud?
For startups, adopting a multi-cloud strategy can be rewarding from day one. If you’re building your proof-of-concept or are in the design stage of building your infrastructure, leveraging multiple environments at once can help you develop faster and with more advanced tools.
With access to multiple clouds, you can play around with the strengths of each provider and combine them to get the “best of all worlds,” increasing agility and eliminating vendor lock-in. Having immediate access to more than one cloud also means being able to take advantage of these features as and when you need them, without having to fully migrate to another cloud, which can be a costly and lengthy process. In fact, Gartner analyst Michael Warrilow stated that “most organizations adopt a multi-cloud strategy out of a desire to avoid vendor lock-in or to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions.”
Opting for a multi-cloud environment also boosts security and disaster recovery and ensures easier migration for some data and applications. Cybersecurity is heightened as spreading applications across different providers means an attack is less likely to bring your entire infrastructure down at once. Furthermore, sticking with one provider inevitably runs the risk of losing control of a mission-critical application during an outage. All of this adds to the overall resiliency of your system’s infrastructure.
So, how exactly can you get started with your multi-cloud journey?
Making the Right Cloud Choices
While a multi-cloud approach can deliver serious value in terms of resiliency, flexibility and cost savings, making sure you’re choosing the right providers requires a comprehensive assessment.
Luckily, all main cloud vendors offer free trial services so you can establish which ones best fit your needs and see how they work with each other. It will pay to conduct proofs-of-concept using the free trials and run your data and code on each provider. You also need to make sure that you’re able to move your data and code around easily during the trials.
It’s also important to remember that each cloud provider has different strengths—one company’s best option is not necessarily the best choice for you. For example, if your startup is heavily reliant on running artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications, you might opt for Google Cloud’s AI open source platform.
Or perhaps you require an international network of data centers, minimal latency and data privacy compliance for certain geographies for your globally used app. Here’s where AWS could step in. On the other hand, you might need your cloud applications to seamlessly integrate with the various Microsoft tools that you already use. This would make the case for Microsoft Azure.
There are multiple factors at play that you have to carefully consider to ensure ROI of your multi-cloud investment. According to a 2019 Spiceworks study, AWS comes out top for maximum uptime, Azure wins on compatibility and Google Cloud proves to be the best for manageability.
However, it’s also crucial to remember that there are far more cloud providers than the “big three.” For example, Aliyun is Chinese conglomerate Alibaba’s cloud computing offering, while Oracle and IBM also have their own services. Many startups turn to more niche vendors that can better suit their individual needs, so it could pay to explore alternative options, too.
Ultimately, you need to understand not only what your current needs are but also how your business goals align with the capabilities of your cloud strategy. Consider what you might need in the future that your current cloud provider doesn’t provide.
Avoiding vendor lock-in—being able to dip into different features as and when you please—is one of the key benefits of multi-cloud adoption. However, it requires careful planning and assessment of your short- and long-term business goals and how these relate to your cloud infrastructure needs.
Managing Multiple Cloud Environments Requires Expertise
There’s no doubt that leveraging a single cloud environment requires team members with experience and know-how of that particular cloud vendor. So, moving to a multi-cloud approach means there’s an even higher demand with regards to the expertise you need at your disposal.
If your team only has engineers who are experienced with working with Azure, it wouldn’t be a wise move to immediately adopt AWS without recruiting more talent. This is especially true as AWS is the most complex and mature of all of the main cloud providers and requires the relevant knowledge to be able to take full advantage of the tools and applications available. Hence, you need to consult your team at every step of the way on what kind of cloud environment is within their capabilities when crafting your multi-cloud strategy.
Another vital aspect of multi-cloud adoption is managing the integration of the databases from each cloud provider. This means aligning your data management strategy across each cloud environment, otherwise you risk creating data silos and databases that don’t communicate with each other. Fortunately, many cloud providers include features that let you create clusters and manage and deploy databases. A team that understands the need for this is essential.
Finally, a DevOps culture is crucial for any successful multicloud strategy. The purpose of multicloud adoption is not only to build out your infrastructure, but also to power continuous delivery and integration when it comes to product development. To ensure you select the best features and determine the right capacity according to your needs and expertise, you need to get the input of your entire DevOps team, including cloud experts, software developers and QA engineers, too. In fact, going one step further, many companies are even building out Cloud Centers of Excellence (CCoE), aa team of cloud experts who drive cloud-based digital transformation across an organization.
The Balance of Controlling Multi-Cloud Costs
Controlling and managing your expenditure while adopting a multi-cloud environment is no easy task, especially as your personalized use of the tool, which scales up and down, will result in fluctuating costs. In fact, controlling these expenses can be so difficult that cloud cost management vendor ParkMyCloud predicted that companies spent more than $14 billion on unnecessary cloud infrastructure costs in 2019.
From a cost-saving perspective, Google Cloud is the best option as it offers more flexible contracts, lower starting costs and clearer visibility into expenditures compared to the other big providers. However, the decision should be taken against the potential ROI of the multicloud strategy you adopt, so calculating the financial optimization that will come from accessing multiple cloud environments can help guide you.
If possible, it’s a good idea to consult with an expert partner on the ways in which you can best manage costs and maximize ROI. If this isn’t an option, you can use different tools that allow you to create estimates around expenditures.
As the growing numbers around multi-cloud adoption suggest, it’s a trend that’s delivering value and is here to stay. With a multi-cloud environment, startups and enterprises alike can have flexibility around the features they need, optimize costs, increase security and protect themselves against outages. However, embarking on a multi-cloud strategy is no straightforward task: It requires research, planning and consultation with your technical team. By aligning your business goals with your cloud requirements and democratizing your decision process, you can ensure you get the most out of your multi-cloud investment.