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Multicloud is a cloud adoption model in which companies rely on more than one cloud vendor for provisioning and managing their infrastructures. Multicloud strategies are very prevalent (used by 92% of enterprises), primarily because there is no vendor lock-in; organizations are free to leverage the best features of different cloud platforms.
Multicloud can be simply defined as a combination of different public clouds. An organization using a multicloud approach spreads its infrastructure/resources/applications across multiple cloud platforms. This is in stark contrast to single-cloud infrastructures, where all of a company’s resources and services are hosted on the same cloud platform.
Let’s consider an example. Say you are about to start your digital transformation journey. You want to migrate most-if-not-all of your enterprise applications to the cloud. After doing some research, you discover that:
Platform A is known to have the most reliable data storage.
Platform B has a more feature-rich mail server.
Platform C offers the best prices for a cloud ERP solution.
Only Platform XYZ’s serverless computing service supports the programming language(s) you use.
To maximize performance, reduce costs, and leverage cutting-edge cloud technologies, you adopt a multicloud model, spreading your application suite across different cloud products.
Flexibility: Evaluate and choose different cloud vendors based on performance, security, reliability, geographic location, reputation, and pricing.
No vendor lock-ins: Organizations can make sure they always adopt state-of-the-art technologies from any vendor.
Avoid a single point of failure: If ever a cloud platform is breached, not all of your infrastructure will be affected.
Deliver better performance: If your customer-base is global, you may benefit from hosting your applications and services with various regional cloud providers.
Reduced costs: Cut back on cloud expenditure by choosing the most reasonably priced cloud offerings of different products.
Cater to the needs of different customers: Customer A may be partnered with AWS, whereas customer B and C may be huge fans of Microsoft Azure. Adopt a multicloud model and keep all of your customers happy.
Shadow IT can be defined as the provisioning of new systems, applications, or devices without explicit approval from the IT department, and/or higher management. Shadow IT can sometimes (indirectly) cause an organization to adopt multicloud. Let’s consider an example.
Suppose a group of developers create a testbed for their application on Amazon Web Services (AWS), without seeking approval from the infrastructure team. The rest of the company’s applications are hosted on Microsoft Azure.
A few months later, the infra team becomes aware of the AWS testbed. At this point, the testbed has already become an integral part of the application testing process. Instead of migrating it to Azure and incorporating extra costs, the infra team decides to keep the testbed on AWS, inadvertently adopting multicloud.
Both multicloud and hybrid cloud approaches allow organizations to use different cloud products to build their infrastructures. This is why the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. But there are some differences between the two.
Multicloud typically involves two or more clouds of the same type (mostly public but can be private). Hybrid cloud may include a combination of public and private clouds, along with any onsite architecture.
In multicloud, different components/applications/services work independently. In hybrid cloud, different components are typically integrated with each other.
If you use multiple cloud platforms, that increases your attack surface by default. However, with the right security policies in place, multicloud architectures are just as secure as single cloud architectures. It all boils down to just how secure and reliable your cloud vendors are. While choosing a cloud vendor, ask the following questions:
Are the vendors compliant with different security standards (e.g. GDPR, HIPPA, PCI DSS etc.)?
Are they known to use the latest encryption/hashing algorithms, communication protocols, and authentication policies?
What about automated patching and vulnerability scanning? It’s important to do your due diligence when choosing a cloud vendor, be it for multicloud or single cloud.
A big security advantage with multicloud is that you don’t have a single point of failure. Your assets are hosted on different cloud platforms. Even if one gets breached, the rest will stay safe.
Managing network resources across different cloud products can be cumbersome. It’s important to invest in tools related to cloud automation, security, visibility, and management. Modern tools can do all the heavy lifting and almost make it feel like you are using a single cloud.
For example, Ansible is an automation platform that can automate assets across different cloud platforms. IBM Multicloud manager is an all-in-one tool for visibility, management, and policy-driven compliance across different clouds.
A few years ago, multicloud was frowned upon. Infrastructure teams found it too hard to manage multicloud deployments. Today, with the help of state-of-the-art tools, multicloud has become more prevalent than ever before. We can only expect its adoption rates to go higher in the years to come.
Vendors are already working on finding innovative ways of governing multiple clouds seamlessly. The future may unveil tools that can unify data from seemingly disparate cloud platforms, making it much easier to process, analyze, and consume.
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