There’s no secret that over the past five years especially, the major (“tier 1”) cloud infrastructure players—Amazon, Microsoft and Google—have been snatching up smaller specialty providers, particularly cloud migration and security services.
While this acquisition strategy immediately aims to strengthen and expand the provider’s direct and tangential cloud infrastructure offerings, the long-term goal is customer attraction and retention.
In consolidating cloud infrastructure and related services, cloud vendors are targeting a basic human desire that often bleeds over into business decisions: convenience.
- “Finding a cloud provider seems hard.”
- “Switching to the cloud seems hard.”
- “Managing more than one cloud seems hard.”
- “Keeping up with more than one vendor seems hard.”
The play is transparent; the marketing is already in your psyche. People don’t like doing more than they have to, whenever possible. So, why not apply that tick to the cloud infrastructure experience? Why not use a provider where everything is already in one place?
Truthfully, the move toward cloud consolidation is a step in the opposite direction from where we should be going. The future lies in a multi-cloud approach, not a consolidated one.
Multi-cloud approaches offer both businesses and their customers several advantages over consolidated infrastructure.
- When a business’ cloud infrastructure exists solely with one provider, every cloud-related business activity—and every customer interaction with those activities—is beholden to the provider. A provider outage is a business-wide outage, and a business-wide outage is unacceptable.
- Multi-cloud approaches allow businesses to take advantage of best-of-breed cloud infrastructure. A business can implement databases, containers and other virtual infrastructure in a more highly optimized way.
- Data held in disparate systems can be better partitioned and more secure than data stored with a single provider. Also, these disparate systems can bolster adherence to existing (and likely coming) data privacy laws and compliance regulations both nationally and internationally.
- Utilizing cloud infrastructure housed physically closer to a business or its key users can drastically influence business activities in industries where parts of seconds count (e.g., finance).
Aside from the standard reasoning, I’d argue that there’s additional economic health in taking a multi-cloud approach. Competition naturally drives innovation, stabilizes costs and encourages improvement. Where one provider may falter, three others might specialize. If the majority of businesses consolidate their cloud resources with a single provider, though, the likelihood increases of services gradually worsening with no alternatives toward which to turn.
Multi-cloud takes planning and coordination to properly implement, and careful monitoring to maintain. An additional tool or two, such as a cloud management platform or cloud integration solution (which, truthfully, many businesses are likely already utilizing), may be needed.
But, the benefits far exceed the challenges. After all—to call upon Ken Jenkins’ iconic chief of medicine, Bob Kelso—nothing worth having comes easy.