Two hands touch a cloud with the index finger.

The Multi-Cloud Is Here – Whether Wanted or Not

The idea of the multi-cloud is becoming a strategic maxim at some companies

May 20 2020Martin Holzinger

The use of multi-cloud is widespread

The multi-cloud is a reality. Rightscale has been addressing the phenomenon of multi-clouds and hybrid clouds for years in its ‘State of the Cloud’ report. The report states that the marker for the multi-cloud ‘reality’ – 84 percent – has been reached in 2019. Gartner estimates the percentage as being marginally lower at 81 percent. 

Welcome to the multi-cloud world

Three men in suits with a cloud around their heads.

This means four out of five companies are multi-cloud users. Not all of the ones I talk to are ‘proud on multi-cloud‘. Without having conducted a quantitative study, I would estimate the amount of those ecstatic about the ‘multi-cloud’ to be 10 percent. Forty percent are cool or fatalistic about it. Fifty percent grimace like they have eaten something unpleasant.

The multi-cloud (or its ‘little sister’ the hybrid cloud) is not dangerous or difficult to consume per se. But in the past, the multi-cloud situation appeared to be rather unwanted. Specialist areas and IT departments were only too keen to accept the blessings of the cloud: easy availability, needs-based payment, flexibility and scalability instead of long in-house discussions and even longer projects for buying and providing services. The result is increasing complexity within the company, a further lack of proficiency in IT, and data that is generated and processed in the various services. Say goodbye to compliance and security.

Multi-cloud reveals the cloud’s strengths

These days, the idea of the multi-cloud is being reassessed, and is consequently becoming a strategic maxim at some companies. And rightly so. From a strategic perspective, the multi-cloud is an effective tool for finding user companies an optimum mix of flexibility/agility, productivity, cost and compliance. Multi-clouds herald a future in which the old, traditional cloud dream could become a reality – namely moving workloads freely and independently from specific infrastructures or platforms. 

It is of course an appealing thought to rely on a single-vendor strategy when migrating to the cloud. There is one obvious key advantage: staff only need the skills to develop and manage the handling of one (public) cloud. But there is actually no such thing as the ‘best cloud’. That starts with sourcing (private or public), continues with the availability of specific services (IaaS vs SaaS) and technical performance parameters, and ends with satisfying compliance-related questions. Or the general question of: how intensely do I want to engage with a provider? Do I willingly enter a vendor lock-in – and thus also run the risk of affecting my business continuity? Because public clouds also malfunction. Rarely, but it does happen.

Typical applications of the multi-cloud

A man in a suit points to the graphic representation of clouds connected by lines and points.

Disaster recovery or high-availability scenarios are thus top candidates for multi-cloud use. This fits the redundant, tried-and-tested ‘mirror’ approach companies have been using for decades to guarantee the availability of their core systems. But hybrid approaches in which internal users rely on a service back end in the private cloud, while customers use a front end in the public cloud, are other typical scenarios in which a multi-cloud strategy can display its added value.

Multi-cloud is the Best of Breed

Every cloud has its particular strengths. And that is good. In the cloud supermarket, user companies can take their pick as to which cloud they want to use for a specific environment or (sub-)process. Perhaps large volumes of data need to be stored long-term at low cost. Perhaps a process needs to be able to read lots of small data quantities quickly. Or perhaps pure maximum computing capacity is what counts for fast, comprehensive analyses or scientific high-performance computing. Perhaps certain data sets have special security or compliance requirements. Or perhaps the key advantage is a set of management features that simplifies cloud usage for developers.

It’s worth familiarizing yourself with each individual cloud’s strengths, so that they can also be applied appropriately as part of a multi-cloud strategy. Anyone wanting to actively control their multi-cloud world should provide in-house resources for this ‘cloud setup’. But that is just the beginning of actively controlling a multi-cloud world. To ensure management expenses don’t end in ‘grimaces’, there needs to be a plan in place for efficient multi-cloud management/governance so that the dream of freely moveable workloads can become a reality.

About the author

Martin Holzinger

Head of Business Development & International Consulting, T-Systems International GmbH

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