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Since the start of this decade, large-scale transformations in business strategy and technology have become standard features across industries and business models. Over the past two years, a significantly large (and rising) number of enterprises have begun adopting a Multi-Cloud strategy.
IBM’s 2021 global study on cloud transformation also confirms this rapid change. The study found that the use of single-cloud systems declined to a mere 2% in 2021, compared to 29% in 2019. Most companies are either already running Multi-Cloud architecture or will be moving there within the next few years. So it seems fairly obvious that in the years ahead, hybrid or Multi-Cloud will remain the most dominant type of IT infrastructure across industries and business models.
In this blog, I aim to discuss what keeps driving organizations to the Multi-Cloud strategy and what challenges they face during this transformation. But before we dive into further details there, let’s first examine what we mean by Multi-Cloud.
What is a Multi-Cloud Strategy?
At its most basic, I would say a Multi-Cloud strategy is simply utilizing two or more public or private clouds. For example, a company utilizing AWS or GCP, or Azure and AWS, can be said to be adopting a Multi-Cloud strategy.
Is this strategy applicable to any type of enterprise? Not exactly.
I would say a Multi-Cloud strategy is usually a better fit for larger enterprises. Particularly because of the significant costs and complexity involved in running and maintaining the architecture. For small to medium organizations, I would typically recommend Hybrid Cloud as a more appropriate solution option.
What Does Hybrid Cloud Mean?
Picture a business running a local data center. This business could also be extending some services or replicating its local data center services into a public cloud in parallel. This is precisely what you call a Hybrid cloud model. But there can be further segmentations in the terminology involved. For example, a hybrid strategy where there is a local data center as well as more than two or three public clouds. The combination of these is called Hybrid-Multi Cloud.
Why Are More Businesses Turning to Multi-Cloud?
Many businesses already have a dual cloud vendor strategy because they want to be more competitive while keeping the cost down. It may sound like a generic motivator, but that does not invalidate the fact that it keeps driving so many enterprises in that direction.
There are also several more specific drivers for organizations to adopt Multi-Cloud strategies. From my perspective, I really feel it’s the flexibility to pick services that different vendors offer compared to others that adds to the eagerness to shift.
Another key aspect, I would say, is from the security standpoint. Cyberattacks continue to be a huge concern for businesses anywhere, causing companies to lose billions in terms of data breaches, confidential information, and reputational damage. It is significantly difficult to bring down a Multi-Cloud environment using a denial-of-service attack or DDOS attack, in my experience. Therefore, the added security would most definitely prove a key motivator for businesses to shift in that direction.
The third aspect I’d say is data recovery or disaster recovery. Businesses need only to slip up once to become the victims of a significant data breach. So it makes a lot of sense to have contingencies that protect against that. A multi-cloud strategy lets you can create one of the most reliable architectures, which, in turn, can mitigate the fallout from a single-point failure in parallel.
In a nutshell: the ability to do best of breed, improved security, disaster recovery, and data availability all contribute to the rapid rise of Multi-Cloud adoption across industries.
The Top Challenges When Implementing a Multi-Cloud Strategy
With any new technology and its adoption, there are almost always some challenges. This is no different when it comes to Multi-Cloud. As a technology, it is safe to say that it’s still evolving, and organizations are already invested in it. The biggest hurdles they currently face include:
A Lack of Industry Standards
One of the key challenges that many companies face is that there is no industry standard that regulates architecture guidelines, principles, or best practices that need to be implemented.
A Lack of Holistic Tools
In addition, there aren’t many tools in the market that can help support or monitor a Multi-Cloud environment. Also, when it comes to provisioning, deploying, and testing the technology, you often don’t see too many tools either.
Problems with Identity Brokering
Let me use an example for this one. Say you are running an application in a local data center that has typically been authenticated by an active directory. This has to stay in contact with or receive some information from your AWS file system, for instance. AWS, on the other hand, uses an IM service or identity management that authenticates any request that is coming in before it is executed. Translating an AD token or AD authentication to authenticate automatically in AWS is called identity brokering.
From an application standpoint, identity brokering is a big challenge in the Multi-cloud environment because each service provider might end up using their application to identify the request and response.
Recommendations to Enterprises Implementing a Multi-Cloud Strategy
In my line of work, I can see in the industry there is a new adoption called “infrastructure as code” or IaC. This is one of the ways that you can address admin tasks, from provisioning to deploying, like:
- Testing the virtual machines,
- Creating containers,
- Deploying containers,
- Creating serviceless functions, etc.
All of that can be automated by IaC, and this code can then be run by virtually anybody. What this results in is an automated CI/CD pipeline spanned across a Multi-Cloud environment. So, to see more success when implementing Multi-Cloud, I would recommend every business leverages IaC.
Specialized Tools for Multi-Cloud Management
I’ve already talked about how there aren’t a lot of tools that assist in managing and monitoring Multi-Cloud. But I have come across a select few that can help with Multicloud monitoring.
The most useful ones are Flexera and Embotics. They are fairly closer than other comparable ones when it comes to managing Multi-Cloud environments. IBM Cloudpark is another fairly good choice, and it sees a lot of use for data insights.
For certain use cases, you can also combine tools. Terraform combined with Ensemble, for example, can act as a powerful IT automation tool. This can automate many IT tasks in the context of public and private cloud environments.
But, from experience, I would still say I have observed a significant demand from enterprises for a holistic platform that can be used to allocate workload strategy and manage business containers in a hybrid Multi-Cloud environment. Unfortunately, we have yet to see a comprehensive tool that can act as a unified management platform.
There is no question about the benefits a Multi-Cloud or Hybrid Multi-Cloud environment brings to a business. The real hurdle is the need for a unified infrastructure management tool. That’s what we really need to comprehensively and holistically manage these environments. While there isn’t a tool that can claim that title yet, I would say it is only a matter of time before we witness a major cloud provider getting around to releasing it. After all, why not, right?
I have come across many companies and vendors trying to get there. There are several third-party tools that are already in development. Azure and AWS have already implemented tools to aid with Hybrid Cloud management. In essence, nothing is really stopping them from making a Multi-Cloud management platform as well. Or to go a step further and create a unified infrastructure management platform. Once that happens, that tool could prove a significant game changer in overcoming challenges to implementing and managing Multi-Cloud architectures. Who knows, maybe that could be a watershed moment right around the corner!