As IT’s digital footprint grows, its cloud footprint is rising both in size and complexity. As a result, most organizations have matured into multi-cloud operators. A multi-cloud approach empowers different divisions with the autonomy to select the right computing environment for their needs. It also enables a lift-and-shift ability to port workloads across cloud service providers (CSPs) when needed. Adopting a multi-cloud model could bring performance benefits, cost savings or better scalability, all while encouraging a more vendor-neutral stance.
We’re in a multi-cloud world. A recent HashiCorp study found three out of every four organizations are already multi-cloud. This is a staggering increase from just a few years ago when mono-cloud was more accepted, and operators had zombie-like allegiance to AWS. The uptick in multi-cloud signals the maturity of offerings at other CSPs, like Azure and GCP. It also signals differentiation among clouds as each hones in their unique value propositions.
HashiCorp’s inaugural State of Cloud Strategy Survey offers some very clear results about the state of multi-cloud adoption. Below, I’ll review major takeaways from the report to better understand the state of multi-cloud adoption. To sum it up, large organizations tend to benefit most from multi-cloud adoption, as there are still significant roadblocks to truly reaping a sizable return from a multi-cloud status. Yet, more infrastructure automation may help companies of all sizes respond to multi-cloud complexities.
The Multi-Cloud Era
DevOps truly operates in a multi-cloud era. The report revealed 76% of organizations are already multi-cloud; that leaves only one in four companies leveraging a single cloud. And, that trend won’t stop—within two years, 86% predict they will be multi-cloud operators. The study also confirms that the larger a company is, the more likely it will adopt multi-cloud—94% of large enterprises with 5,000 or more employees are multi-cloud.
So, what’s driving this cloud fragmentation? Well, 34% of respondents cite digital transformation as a top driver for multi-cloud adoption. In the race to meet new digital innovation demands, multi-cloud has emerged as a strategic force. To enact this rapid change, many organizations are investing in a cloud center of excellence (CCoE) to guide cloud transformation efforts. A CCoE is most common within large companies with a cloud budget of $5 million or more.
Speaking of budgets, cloud spending is going through the roof. In 2020, only half of companies met their projected cloud spend, and 39% of companies overspent their allotted cloud budgets. As I’ve covered before, cloud-native costs are notoriously difficult to identify and trim. Without the proper guardrails to manage spending, surprise data egress fees or hidden server costs can strain the cloud checkbook. As it stands now, 40% of companies lie in the $100,000 to $2 million per year range, and 6% of enterprises are investing $50 million a year or more into multi-cloud. This spending will likely increase in the coming years as cloud reliance expands.
Enterprises Benefit Most
So, which clouds are companies using? If we compare cloud adoption, AWS is a clear market leader; 88% of companies use AWS, 74% use Azure and 61% use GCP. AWS’s hegemony is not expected to fade in the next two years. Yet, while AWS usage will remain the same, competing CSPs will experience modest increases. This is likely due to Azure and GCP making gains in geographical zones outside North America, such as Asia-Pacific and Africa.
In terms of technology used in cloud environments, open source software (OSS) is a popular choice. Cloud-native open source projects, such as Kubernetes, OpenStack and Terraform, have taken on a life of their own, with vibrant community support. However, not all shops build upon OSS and run it themselves. Somewhat ironically, we’re seeing more managed OSS emerge. One stand-out area is provisioning, where 42% of organizations build with open source and run it themselves.
On the whole, multi-cloud is working at most enterprises, with 53% of survey respondents saying multi-cloud has helped achieve their business goals. The top benefit of multi-cloud is digital transformation, at 34%. This is followed by avoiding lock-in (30%), reducing cost (28%) and scalability (25%). But multi-cloud does not treat all companies as equals; the likelihood of multi-cloud success increases as the company size increases. Less than half (42%) of small companies say they have multi-cloud success, which jumps to 64% for large enterprises. With fewer resources for support, multi-cloud may be less beneficial for startups and small to medium businesses. In fact, 41% of professionals say a lack of in-house skills inhibits their cloud success.
Challenges in a Hybrid Multi-Cloud World
An ongoing talent gap is just one potential challenge to cloud success. Just over half (51%) say cost concerns are a top inhibitor to their cloud program success. Hybrid cloud complexity is another prominent challenge, with 35% of organizations citing it as a major cloud obstacle. Many enterprises are still grappling with the remnants of legacy on-premises estates. But technical debt is not the only reason for hybrid modalities. Surprisingly, large platforms even have constructed their own data centers or used colocation as an intentional strategy.
Security is a top cloud inhibitor, according to 47% of IT professionals. The leading cloud security concerns include data protection (40%), data theft (33%) and regulatory compliance (31%). The myriad cybersecurity threats evolve each day, and cloud technologies are not immune; for example, web APIs are now a significant threat vector. A separate report found a 300% increase in malicious API traffic in the past six months. Other issues, such as exposed keys, insecure defaults and misconfigurations are known to hamper cloud-native infrastructure.
Contrary to popular belief, nearly half (46%) of companies reported that COVID-19 has not quickened their cloud adoption. This reality could indicate that cloud migration has been planned for years, and recent adoption is only part of an ongoing trend. The study found that the pandemic did, however, accelerate things like infrastructure-as-code (IaC), container orchestration, compliance and governance and other operational factors.
Infrastructure Automation Supports Multi-Cloud
Multi-cloud feels like an inevitable result of accelerating cloud adoption in a more diversified market. Rising multi-cloud use is also arguably in line with Conway’s Law. As organizations develop more and more digital experiences across new verticals, the platforms and backend processes to support these initiatives will inevitably grow more and more complex.
To mitigate some of the issues posed by multi-cloud, many organizations are turning toward increased infrastructure automation. In fact, 70% of those surveyed said infrastructure automation tools are extremely important to their organization. Of these tools, provisioning automation (75%) is the most popular kind in use. Automation for other areas, like networking (58%), security (50%) and app development (69%) follow.
Hashicorp’s State of Cloud Strategy Survey boldly announces, “Welcome to the Multi-Cloud Era,” and its findings back up that sentiment. For further insights, you can view the results freely on this website.