By Swaathi Kakarla (@imswaathik)
Public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platforms as a Service (PaaS) are so prevalent that the cloud is now becoming a standard infrastructure model for products and services. Most organizations have adopted a "cloud first" mindset where every application they build or use lives on the cloud.
The cloud is not just a more efficient way of purchasing computing power; it is a way of facilitating new, and more efficient business models. Often the first move to the cloud is to create a "hybrid cloud" approach. Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that has a mix of on-premise and cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms. It allows for organizations to have greater flexibility and more deployment options.
However for a hybrid cloud model to scale, organizations need to invest in hardware within the data center, including servers, storage, a local area network (LAN) and load balancers. These costs often overrun those of maintaining everything in a public cloud.
Multicloud is the use of multiple cloud-computing and storage services to form a single heterogeneous architecture.
With a multicloud strategy, businesses are less prone to getting locked in with a single vendor. This enables organizations to take advantage of the best features as well as pricing from each cloud provider. And from a technical perspective, there is less chance of a single point of failure as well as providing companies with the ability to harness additional compute resources.
Benefits of multicloud for the enterprise
Multicloud is a great strategy for enterprises that are constantly evolving and innovating. It allows your applications to scale through your infrastructure’s flexibility. Here's a list of the most notable benefits:
- Access to new features: For your business to be constantly adapting to new technology, the last thing you want is to be inhibited by your own architecture. With a multicloud mindset, you don’t have to wait for a provider to support a feature you need. Instead you get to pick and choose providers for individual components, not only are you able to use the best of what is out there now, but you are able to quickly swap tools out as better ones become available.
- Disaster recovery: Yes, even clouds fail. Fortunately, backups are much more reliable. With a multicloud strategy in place, disaster recovery is simpler; where you can replicate your resources to a second cloud provider in another geographic region.
- Multitude of server configurations: Applications that are computationally expensive such as tools that use AI/ML, require bespoke server configurations. In a multicloud architecture, you have the flexibility to choose different environments and server configurations and span cloud providers for your algorithms to take advantage of more computing resources.
- No vendor lock-in: With any infrastructure provider, the strategy is that the customer adopts one service or product but in order to scale, they would need to repurchase from the same vendor. Overtime, the architecture becomes rigid and heavily dependent on that vendor. However by being multicloud, organizations being resilient against changes in vendor strategy, SLAs or pricing model.
- Custom pricing: There is so much competition in the cloud-computing space. As a consumer, you have the freedom to choose and even demand custom pricing that benefits your business. Since you don't need to choose just one provider to manage your entire stack, you have even more legroom to negotiate.
- Access to different geographies: Access to more geographies could become a key differentiator against your competition. For example, gaming companies are always looking to decrease latency and increase responsiveness. The most effective way to solve this is to serve your users from a location geographically closer to them. With a multicloud infrastructure, this is as easy as choosing a vendor that provides support in that area and using them! Each geographical location also has its own laws on data privacy and security. This often acts as an inhibitor for banking and fintech companies where the data is required by the law to reside inside a geographical area. Without a multicloud offering, your solution may not even be allowed to serve in those areas.
The above benefits have far-reaching effects on the organization. As businesses scale, flexibility will become a prime factor in their cloud strategy.
Multicloud vs. hybrid cloud
Multicloud and hybrid cloud-computing are similar, but have different IT infrastructure models.
A multicloud architecture refers to a mix of public infrastructures as a service (IaaS) environment, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. A multicloud strategy offers the ability to select different cloud services or features from different providers. This is helpful, since some cloud environments are better suited than others for a particular task.
In a hybrid architecture, there is a mix of both public and private (or on-premise) architecture. A multicloud architecture can include on-premise services, whereas a hybrid cloud typically includes it. It solves issues where isolation and coordination are central to the solution.
Though the long-term cost of a hybrid cloud is much lower than a full fledged multicloud, the cost of maintaining a team to maintain it could overthrow it. In a hybrid architecture your team needs to take extreme precautions when it comes to network security and breaches. This gets even harder than securing a traditional on-premise solution, as a hybrid cloud needs to constantly access the public cloud.
In the case of outages, a multicloud architecture can easily switch to backup services with a robust Disaster Recovery in place. However with a hybrid cloud, if an outage occurs on-premise, it is a very heavy manual effort to diagnose and recover services.
Key requirements to supporting multicloud
Moving toward this goal requires a solid implementation strategy and a centralized cloud team that takes care of implementing cloud policies and cost management. There is a need for your organization to become an infrastructure steward.
Your application team also needs to be equipped with the modern architecture technology. With the help of Kubernetes and containers, developers are able to create code that is platform agnostic – that can be executed anywhere. Further, the entire process of operating and managing production ready Kubernetes can be automated with tools like the Weaveworks' Kubernetes Platform that enable organizations to apply GitOps for Kubernetes management.
Moving your organization towards a multicloud environment requires a mammoth effort but fortunately the benefits of doing so are worth it in the end.