Photo by Ryan Waring

by Clare Bourne

People are talking about multi-cloud...and this isn't another case of IT buzzword bingo, but a real thing, a strategy if you will - that's becoming more relevant as the days go by.

For those of you who haven't yet been enlightened by the term "multi-cloud", there are several different definitions floating around, some confused with hybrid cloud - however this is our understanding of what a multi-cloud really is:

- A multi cloud is a collection of different cloud services all working together under a single architecture; an integration of different cloud platforms that route data between each other.

- A multi-cloud is an interconnected platform with the ability to automate processes and policies (et al) between them - we would say synergistic (but we're not down with that kinda speak).

- These multiple cloud services could also vary in deployment models and may be a Heinz 57 of public, private, legacy and hybrid cloud services as well as third party services from disparate vendors and SaaS providers.

Further to this multi cloud concept is the idea that a "Cloud of Clouds" exists where all these services are centrally managed by a single cloud and as described by BT's Luis Alverez as "multiple clouds wrapped up into a single cloud that you can manage and maximise"

Why is it important right now?

There are a number of reasons why the multi-cloud is particularly relevant right now. It's conception is based around the advancing technology needs of many different enterprises, their business objectives, and the fact that there is mucho choice in the market right now.

IT professionals are now seeking to explore the unification of different cloud services as no single cloud vendor seems to be able to fully meet the requirements for every single enterprise, 100 percent of the time. By exploring the art of the possible outside a single vendor, you can now have your cloud IT cake and eat it. The multi-cloud can actually give enterprises the flexibility and services they really want, without having to compromise.

There are many enterprises experimenting with multi-cloud architectures and discovering how they can innovate to make it work. Adobe successfully adopted a multi-cloud by developing their networking into a virtual routing fabric utilising hub spoke topology (read the Tech Target story here)

Benefits and pitfalls of a multi-cloud strategy

As with any cloud adoption strategy, there are of course a number of benefits and disadvantages to be considered.

Let's break these down into two sections, business benefits and technology benefits.

Enterprises can now enjoy a real best of breed service; multi cloud offers the opportunity to obtain multiple services and have them working under a single infrastructure. This creates a practically bespoke IT solution that not only suits your individual business needs and organisational goals, but gives your end users the tools that work with potentially an improved experience. Your business is also not locked into a single vendor, again pushing power back to the enterprise if objectives, needs and wants change. Add that to the fact that you can have different workloads working in different services, and make the most of the cost effectiveness of doing this - you can really build your very own bespoke service that is highly cost conscious. As Yoda would say "The business case is strong with this one, Luke"

So, now for the technologists......

A multicloud strategy can make you uber popular with board - with the elasticity of the cloud and the ability to turn services "on and off", you can manage that IT spend to within an inch of it's life. Not only will that make you popular but the business continuity aspect is also appealing - the multicloud offers resilience, allowing data to be stored in different places around your ecosystem on several platforms meaning that businesses can operate continuously, scaling to meet any demand.

 

There is also an argument that a multicloud environment can reduce the latency in your infrastructure. Positioning the workloads closer to the end user means those precious datagrams don't have so far to travel. Further to this you can opt to run your most sensitive applications in the private cloud piece while operating other areas in the public cloud or making the most of other third party cloud services, different execution venues, or edge services as latency dictates or takes your fancy.

What's the bad news?

With regards to the business case there really is little bad news (other than the multi vendor paperwork nightmares, service level alignment challenges, data sovereignty governance issues) however if you are the IT professional in charge of stitching this cloud monster together then some of the following issues may present themselves:

 

Management - several clouds on the go? AWS, on prem and private cloud plates all spinning at the same time? How big is this management spend gonna have to be? Will the management piece have all the functionality I need to operationally make this work? I know abstraction is the way to do it - But which provider? Just...so...many...questions....

 

Data portability and interoperability - all the "ilities" moving the workloads, VMs, databases and data seems like bread and butter, but the practical reality of it is very different. Dan Sullivan addresses this in Three hurdles of data portability and highlights that it's actually far from straightforward. It appears that significant planning, testing and sheer trial and error may be the only way to get to the nitty gritty of how your clouds are going to come together.

 

How do you pick the correct cloud services to use? -There are several schools of thought that try and determine how you should strategically pick cloud services. At the top level, you should consider the features, speed, reliability and service levels of the provider.  It's also important to drill down into what applications may run on a particular cloud service and how they will run, will they run on a single cloud service, will they run between two? Development will have to test and maintain on differing cloud providers and support teams have to learn how to support the same application on two different environments - these are all factors (and by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities) that require consideration when choosing cloud vendors in your multi cloud strategy.

 

It's not just about clouds either, it's a lot to do with networking - You really need a good quality communications network for starters. Multicloud architecture and networking options are still not well understood. The current networking choices on offer are broad, perhaps VPLS into your private cloud, with a dedicated private connection in to your public cloud services, with public internet services supporting secured networks from your mobile workforce, blended across the various sites and services? Connections can be made via encrypted VPN's, Private Global WANs or networked privately "intra datacentre" through interconnection services such as Equinix Cloud Exchange. Improvements in the ability to order private connectivity services and have them up and running quickly will sway more people into opting for this.You also need to ensure that the security of the network between your cloud services is refined and security extended to the edges and endpoint devices on a cloud of clouds network.

Retooling and re-engineering your clouds -  So, we have established that no two cloud services are alike, right? Right. So how do you approach the tools that you need to monitor and manage this thing? It is important to note that there could be a number of significant and very different approaches by the cloud vendors when it comes to security, governance, configurations, provisioning and API's etc. Again, the requirement for a single pane of glass, standardised API "cloud of clouds" solution is coming to the fore and is still a requirement that no one has really yet nailed. We look forward to updating you when it has......

Redcello can help you win in multi cloud cuckoo land and we welcome a conversation around your multicloud strategy. Get in touch below.

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