With the multi-cloud era well and truly upon us in 2020, business transformation needs to evolve past the pervading idea of ‘one cloud fits all’ - and fast.
Many CIOs and IT teams found some easy wins when the cloud first launched - lower costs, greater scalability, and workplace agility - by moving their business applications and workloads over. From this perspective, it’s easy to see how the ‘one size fits all’ reputation came about.
But with the cloud’s many benefits now much more well documented, it’s important to remember the digital landscape and our needs are rapidly changing and evolving. Many enterprises have matured and are now using other clouds to sustain growth and retain competitive advantage.
Why not take advantage of Azure’s data services, while on AWS for infrastructure, for example?
It’s increasingly clear using just one cloud provider is unnecessarily limiting given the current competitive market. To keep up, a multicloud strategy is the next vital step.
What is multicloud?
Multicloud is broadly defined as the use of multiple public cloud providers, whether for a similar purpose or otherwise.
Research firms such as Gartner, however, articulate that the multicloud is specifically “the use of cloud services from multiple cloud providers for the same purpose.”
Multicloud differs from similar concepts such as hybrid cloud because it refers to consumption of several cloud services rather than deployment modes (public, private, etc).
The key differentiation of a multicloud’s approach is simple: Instead of using just one cloud, businesses can take advantage of multiple provider’s unique services to meet their business requirements, using a personalised strategy to manage these many systems and environments.
With the multicloud, enterprises can reduce over reliance on the same vendor, gain access to greater cost saving opportunities, and leverage flexibility in your deployments not possible with just one cloud.
Why should I consider the multicloud?
Not one provider can have everything to meet every business need - multicloud addresses that fact.
Now for the numbers: If you thought the multicloud is still in its infancy, think again.
- 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud Transformation survey found over 69% of organisations planned to or now have a multi-cloud environment in 2019.
- RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Survey found respondents are already running app in a combination of 3.4 public and private clouds and experimenting with 1.5 more, for a total of 4.9 clouds. It also found 84% of enterprises already have a multicloud strategy.
- Gartner found 81% of public cloud users work with two or more providers. The remaining 29% of respondents expected their company to adopt public cloud by 2020.
Gartner believes with the current rate of adoption, over two-thirds of enterprises will be working with more than one public cloud provider by 2021, meaning the importance of multi-cloud will only become more prominent in the ever-evolving competitive digital transformation landscape.
Multicloud strategy: Top 3 business drivers
So, why exactly are businesses heading for the multicloud all of a sudden?
It all comes down to three major business drivers that are relevant to a large number of enterprises across multiple industries - finance, government, legal, retail and more.
- Sourcing: Organisations want to increase their agility, remain flexible in their digital transformation, and avoid vendor lock-in. By embracing multicloud, businesses can elevate data availability, leverage advanced integrated services (data analytics, AI) and take advantage of increased performance and multiple environments without over-reliance on one provider. These are in turn influenced and driven by many factors, such as legislative and regulatory requirements, or data sovereignty.
- Architecture: Multicloud allows companies to host and run their business-critical applications across multiple cloud providers and consume services from more than one. With increasing demand for updates and functionality in our modern applications, multicloud lets businesses design and run cloud-native apps in a more modular style. For example, an app can leverage IaaS and PaaS benefits from one cloud provider, while using exclusive specialist services from other cloud providers.
- Governance: Maintaining operational control necessitates the need for standardisation of monitoring, policies, optimisation and compliance of IT systems. These can all be unified across multiple cloud providers with the very best tools from each platform - so long as the proper time is invested to ensure a well integrated governance tool.
Despite most companies being clear on the above three drivers, or their own unique reasons for expanding to the multicloud, there is a number of enterprises that have made the move or are considering a multicloud migration without a plan in place to realise their desired benefits.
Why a multicloud strategy is necessary in 2020
Enterprises have access to more cloud capabilities and advanced services than ever before.
However, with all this choice with the multicloud comes the potential for greater complexity.
Without the right planning or strategy to underpin your multicloud adoption and transformation initiatives, it can be a potential nightmare to, for example, calculate the total cost of cloud consumption over multiple providers, or maintain total transparency over every environment.
The multicloud requires more than just using multiple cloud providers and their capabilities. Simply put, if you use two or three cloud vendors but still have to manage each other separately rather than as a unified process, you will have increased your complexity rather than reduced it.
Despite this reality, many businesses have embraced multicloud without a strategy to manage it.
Gartner expects less than 10% of multicloud deployments to take full advantage of the anticipated portability by 2021 - that’s only three years away.
Approaching a multicloud project without a plan or as an ad-hoc process can introduce several more problems beyond complexity that devalue its potential benefits - when you don’t need to.
4 Reasons to Adopt A Multicloud Strategy
1. Unified cost management
The number one pain-point for customers moving to any cloud environment is paying too much.
The promise of reduced costs has long been one of the major draw-cards of cloud computing. Companies have been lured by the cloud’s proven savings, but too many assume they’ll always save money compared to on-premise. Worse, there’s no plan to achieve those cost savings.
As a result, calculating the true cost of the cloud and then optimising and analysing expenditure, even while using just a single provider, is still a common challenge for many companies today.
Now imagine trying to calculate and optimise costs with multiple cloud providers without a plan.
Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are all very different beasts to tame. There’s a whole range of platform-specific service-level agreements (SLAs), wildly different licensing models, and varying commercial terms to keep track of. Not to mention the unique optimisation tools on each cloud that need to be examined and leveraged to avoid runaway bills.
We get it: The promise of pay-for-what-you use cloud computing, especially across multiple public cloud providers, is attractive.
Just remember that without the right oversight to keep costs transparent, surprise spend is inevitable.
A strategy to unify multicloud cost management into one process, rather than a separate system for each platform adopted, is 100% necessary to attain the level of cost optimisation you need.
2. Multi-environment visibility
Jumping into the multicloud isn’t as simple as now having two or more different cloud providers.
To fully leverage multi-cloud infrastructure requires an awareness of the increased complexity and management needed to ensure environments and resources are controlled and optimised.
To deliver a cohesive user experience, ensure applications and workloads are performing to standard across different clouds, and data and workflows are consistent, greater visibility over environments in AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure is necessary as a result.
Having total transparency over each and every environment is also essential for proper security.
With data residing in multiple locations across multiple clouds, your identity and security systems must be well integrated and backed by a robust multicloud architecture with the right backup, disaster recovery and site recovery procedures active and tested across each provider.
You won’t have any of this without an overarching plan to bring your clouds together.
Take the time to set up and integrate a monitoring platform that gives you oversight of all multi cloud environments. Be willing to pay for the full-featureset, and understand exactly what logs are pertinent to your business. Most importantly, have this documented as a proper strategy.
This way, next time there’s a performance or cost discrepancy in one or more clouds, you know where (and have the ability) to pinpoint exactly where the problem is, without being in the dark.
3. Multi-cloud governance
Cloud sprawl is a common but entirely avoidable problem - with the right governance.
Uncontrolled build-up of instances and servers typically happen when a business lacks control over its cloud computing resources. As a result, over-provisioning or forgotten environments are more common than many think.
Jumping into the multicloud without an existing cloud governance in place to reduce these problems only means the situation will be ten-times worse, more expensive and more complex.
Have basic governance in place before moving to a multicloud environment - rules and structure for how and which teams access accounts, consume resources, etc - to provide a unified management and orchestration layer to both provision and manage your workloads.
This documented process can be used to set policies to prevent excessive spinning up of instances in not just one cloud but all of them, to create alert notifications to prevent problems before they arise, and ultimately keep multicloud spend under a tighter leash to follow your baseline budget to the tee.
More importantly, it unifies your management of environments under one common team and system, as if separate tools and processes are required, cost and complexity unnecessarily can increase.
Too many businesses move to the multicloud and face cloud sprawl because they lack the governance. A strategy ensures it’s clear to all involved - IT and business leaders - what resources are in use, where they’re located, and why they need to be in use - or turned off.
4. Eliminate vendor lock-in the right way
Having all your business-critical applications and workloads with a single cloud provider can mean your IT team is unified across capabilities and processes, but it also can lead to risk.
A service change or an outage can have major widespread impact across your business structure. For example, Microsoft Azure experienced outages in 2012 and 2014 that impacted nearly all regions - and all businesses within them - worldwide.
While these unexpected disasters are extremely rare, it’s understandable many companies want to keep their options open and avoid vendor lock-in.
After all, it also allows you to create a software stack independent of underlying infrastructure, spread out where your core applications and data are stored, and remain flexible.
Finding out which cloud provider’s services are best suited to meet your varying business needs requires thorough analysis of each platform’s strengths and weaknesses.
Taking the time to build out a strategy to document these decisions is vital to providing justification for your overall multicloud business case - and keeping everyone aligned with the reasons for each move.
What about backup, disaster recovery and workload protection?
Cloud-to-cloud migrations and moving from a single-cloud deployment to a multicloud environment does mean businesses need to be more strategic in deciding which platform handles backup, DR, and data protection - not to mention monitoring, governance and optimisation.
There are many third-party, platform-agnostic tools to help enterprises automate and smooth out these complex considerations during their multicloud migration, and are often more flexible than the comparative tools that public cloud platforms provide. They not only make it simpler to migrate between cloud providers, but effectively consolidate backup, DR, security, governance and monitoring into one platform, meaning your business can take care of all of these processes during your migration.
Our top recommended third-party vendor to help manage DR, backup and security during your multicloud migration is the Zerto IT Resilience Platform. This service specifically consolidates these processes into one service, and allows you to protect and migrate workloads to, from and between clouds without production impact for over 350 cloud providers, including Azure, AWS and IBM Cloud. It allows businesses to simplify workload migration to the multicloud, backed by the right multicloud strategy.
Why you should adopt a Multicloud Strategy: Next Steps
With many different public cloud providers and services to choose from, it can be a journey to adopt the right multicloud that aligns best to your business strategy.
Specialist consultancies like Xello focus on helping companies develop a strategy backed by our expertise across AWS, Azure and Google Cloud to leverage cross-platform cloud, data analytics and AI services, drive desired outcomes with the right platform and avoid lock-in.