A multi-cloud strategy is not only growing in popularity, but it’s also fast becoming the standard for modern enterprise architecture. Just as organizations realize they need both the private cloud and the public cloud for different types of data and workloads, they also realize that access to multiple public cloud platforms is a considerable business advantage. Adopting a multi-cloud framework and working with multiple providers requires breaking out of the specialization that can settle in when focusing on one provider or another.
According to the Flexara Cloud Computing Trends 2019 survey, 84 percent of enterprises surveyed have a multi-cloud strategy. And the amount of enterprises that combine public and private clouds in a hybrid strategy grew to 58 percent in 2019—up from 51 percent in 2018.
“You have to resist the temptation of too much vendor lock-in, because you could get stuck if something sours in relationship with that vendor,” says Myles Brown, Senior Cloud and DevOps Advisor for ExitCertified. “It comes down to walking that tightrope of when to take advantage of the vendor-specific managed services versus when to keep things more open. Tools like Red Hat OpenShift help you to be more cloud neutral or cloud agnostic.”
Architecting an enterprise multi-cloud platform is a matter of considerable importance. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy and integrating multiple cloud services from multiple vendors can greatly improve flexibility, capacity, and overall functionality. But it can also lead to operational and security challenges. Determine the standard services your organization requires to deliver a consistent user experience across the multiple cloud platforms, and how to best maintain availability and performance for mission-critical applications.
Enterprises should fully evaluate the “big three” cloud providers—Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud—as well as smaller specialized providers. “Map out the best cloud providers, take a good look at what you already have, and look for a nice migration path,” says Brown. And those big three all have their own strengths. “A company may prefer Google’s analytics options over AWS, so they’re using both. It puts you in a position to use the right tool for the right job. That’s what it really comes down to with the multi-cloud. That’s the big benefit.”
Besides the inherent security concerns, adopting multiple cloud platforms by its very nature involves moving from a single platform to a more diverse environment. This expansion could result in potential data transfer of communication glitches or delays, leading to network performance and latency concerns. But the multi-cloud world is here to stay and will clearly continue to gain prominence. Industry researcher Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of organizations will have shut down their traditional on-premises data center, as opposed to 10 percent today. “Many organizations are moving to public cloud to either get rid of data centers or use cloud as excess capacity, what some call cloud bursting,” says Brown.
With these potential challenges in mind, as organizations are first exploring multi-cloud, they must ensure their IT staff has the skills to manage multiple cloud platforms and ensure operational continuity. In this environment, it behooves cloud architects to maintain expertise across at least two of the big three platforms to ensure they have the requisite proficiencies. Some of the more relevant areas of expertise include: