Quiss: Considerations for multi-cloud solutions
Boardroom discussions about the cloud have typically moved on from the questions of whether and why a business should use it, to the issue of exactly how they should use it, along with considerations of utilising multi-cloud solutions.
It’s relatively easy to find figures that back this up, with around 90% of companies now making use of the cloud, with 60% of workloads running on the cloud in 2019, a jump from just 45% in 2018.
The concept of ‘multi-cloud’ is often confused with ‘hybrid-cloud’, for understandable reasons, but the two ideas are markedly different.
Hybrid cloud has traditionally referred to the practice of blending private cloud infrastructure, typically based on premises, with public cloud infrastructure, where the public cloud is often reserved for sporadic periods of high demand in either computing power or storage.
Multi-cloud, describes a much more strategic approach in which a business picks and chooses individual cloud providers and aspects of their services as and when needed, building an infrastructure which is flexible, responsive and secure.
Multi-cloud on the rise
As with the wider adoption of cloud, the growth of multi-cloud as a preferred option is reflected in survey after survey:
- IT trade association CompTIA found that 83% of companies have already shifted infrastructure or applications to a second cloud provider.
- Gartner stated that, by the end of 2019, 70% of businesses would be pursuing multi-cloud as a strategy.
- A 2018 Forrester survey reported that 86% of respondents described their cloud strategy as being ‘multi-cloud’, which was characterised as 'Using multiple public and private clouds for different application workloads'.
- This use of multi-cloud was broken down further in the Forrester survey, with 32% of respondents saying they used multiple cloud technologies simultaneously, 23% that they used public cloud systems in parallel with standard non-cloud systems, and 14% using multiple public clouds simultaneously to handle different workloads.
- Another report, the RightScale State of the Cloud report, found that just 10% of businesses were making use of a single public or single private cloud, and had ‘no plans’ to switch to multi-cloud.
The market leaders in public cloud provision – and the names which crop up time and time again in all of these reports – are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, while Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud are also popular.
The advantages of a multi-cloud approach will vary from business to business. It is this versatility which has cemented the dominant role which the cloud now plays, but to take a generalised view the advantages of adopting a multi-cloud approach are as follows:
The adoption of multi-cloud solutions enables a business to tailor the tools or applications they utilise at any given time.
This means the solution changes to meet the workload rather than, as might be the case when using a single cloud solution, the workload being adapted to fit with the constraints of the available cloud option.
At the same time, CIOs are able to invest in smaller, short term solutions from a range of providers, tweaking and shifting as the benefits or otherwise become apparent, rather than having to invest in larger scale, long term and more expensive single-source solutions.
One of the established downsides of working with a single cloud provider, is that a business risks becoming overly reliant on that particular vendor and their solution.
This presents a range of hazards and makes it more difficult to seek the best value in the market, but for some industries, such as healthcare and banking, there’s a strong chance that regulatory steps will be taken by the relevant authorities to ensure vital services are not overly reliant on single cloud providers.
Another issue which businesses may face is that separate geographical locations may have their own data governance requirements regarding cloud usage – GDPR as set out by the EU is a prime example - and these local compliance issues will make it necessary to be able to switch rapidly between multiple cloud options in different locations.
The best tools
The adoption of a multi-cloud approach will enable any business to pick the best tool for a particular task. The chances of a single cloud provider offering the ideal solution for everything a modern business has to do are slim, and adopting a multi-cloud approach guards against the risk of having to continue working with a cloud provider delivering less than optimal results.