multi-cloud strategy is increasingly becoming a popular choice amongst organisations, and it seems to be more than just a passing fad. In fact, according to a 2019 State of the Cloud Survey by RightScale, 84% of users implement a multi-cloud strategy. According to another 2019 survey by Kentic, 58% of businesses are using a combination of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud to create a multi-cloud network. These statistics from different sources clearly indicate the rising popularity of the multi-cloud strategy. So what is the multi-cloud strategy and what must organisations consider before adopting it? Let us discuss.
What is Multi-Cloud?
The multi-cloud approach is a strategy wherein a company uses cloud services offered by multiple cloud service providers for their applications. Hence, for example, an organisation using multi-cloud strategy would use AWS for their database, Cognito for user management, and also use Google Compute Engine for other functions, all on the same application.
Factors Organisations Must Keep in Mind
There are several reasons why many organisations prefer the multi-cloud approach. However, it is important to realise that this approach, like all others, has its challenges in addition to the benefits which attract enterprises to it. Organisations must consider the following pros and cons before committing to the multi-cloud strategy.
Best of the services
The biggest factor in favour of the multi-cloud approach is that often, the cloud service provider uses does not offer all features. To maximize application performance, the best way to go is to use multiple cloud providers. Using multiple cloud services helps organisations capitalize on each of their best qualities.
Less vendor dependency
Being dependent on a single cloud vendor has its disadvantages. One can never be sure when the vendor would increase prices. A worst-case scenario could be that the cloud vendor being used may go out of business without warning. Preparing for such an eventuality may well be the difference between life and death of the enterprise. Several companies are gradually realising this and moving to a multi-cloud environment.
Better proximity to customers
Different cloud vendors have varying levels of geographic coverage, and the lower distance between the data and the customer, the better. Using multiple cloud providers can potentially help reach customers across regions with superior speed and user experience.
Better disaster recovery
No cloud service provider is perfect. Popular vendors like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have faced outages and performance issues in the past, and such issues can never all be magically fixed. Reducing dependency on a single service by going multi-cloud can thus make the application more resilient and help mitigate such disasters.
Potential negotiation power
Enterprises with high spending may be able to negotiate their prices with the cloud vendors they use. Or if they use multiple service providers, they gain leverage when bargaining for better rates.
One of the major benefits of a multi-cloud approach is the high level of scalability it offers. Frequent ups and downs in business and end-user traffic have made scalability and on-demand flexibility – two crucial requirements for any organisation.
Inadequate use of the potential of cloud services
A major advantage of cloud architecture is supposed to be its flexibility and ready adaptability to change. However, when using multiple cloud services, interoperability becomes key. Hence, businesses try to avoid using services that require their apps to be reconfigured to a large extent. To achieve this, it sometimes becomes impossible to use some of the better features offered by individual service providers.
Increased burden on developers
When developers are not restricted to a single cloud platform, it opens up a wide range of options to choose from for building the application. While a wider variety is usually a good thing, it increases the amount of development work and research required. Integration of the application across different APIs and standards is also a challenge. Sometimes, a need may even arise to rewrite components for different cloud infrastructures or create multiple versions of the app.
Hard to find talent
Cloud developers, DevOps engineers and security experts are already in high demand, and it is difficult to find engineers with expertise in a single cloud provider. Finding people who know how to manage and operate on multiple clouds is thus even harder. Optimizing an app using multiple clouds may be ideal for an enterprise, but it would be quite impossible without skilled developers.
Higher security risks
Securing the application becomes much more challenging when employing more than one cloud vendor. When the work is with a single vendor, one can leverage their tools to secure the app’s permissions and data and manage things like compliance requirements. However, using multiple clouds reduces the level of control and also increases complexity. Hence, the app has a larger attack surface, making it more vulnerable to security breaches.
Tough to estimate costs
When working with a single cloud provider, it is possible to estimate the amount of workload an application would use, and hence get a handle on the cost involved and choose an appropriate pricing structure. However, such estimation becomes very difficult while using multiple clouds. The workload split between providers needs to be carefully estimated, as well as the amount of data that would pass through the components of each cloud environment.
Makes innovation difficult
A major advantage of using the cloud is that teams can implement new ideas and innovations quickly, as they don’t need to spend much time deploying servers, managing infrastructure and setting up databases. However, innovation becomes more challenging when the teams have to deal with multiple service providers with different architectures.
The multi-cloud strategy has a large share in the cloud computing industry mainly by accident, and due to the practicality that single cloud providers may not offer all the services an organisation needs for its application to function, but the benefits of this strategy are causing more and more enterprises to deliberately make the shift in their approach. However, organisations must keep the pros and cons of the approach in mind before making the decision to go multi-cloud as it may not be the ideal strategy for every business to adopt.