The top five reasons for a multi-cloud infrastructure
Having been focused in the cloud sector for more than 12 years now, I have experienced much fast paced change and continued assumptions, misunderstanding and over-promising of cloud as the saviour of all ills.
Cloud is used as a generic term and yet covers a wide plethora of sub form factors (SaaS – software as a service, PaaS – platform as a service and IaaS – infrastructure as a service) and delivery mechanisms (private, public and hybrid clouds). Within these you then have a growing breadth of vendors with offerings, either born in the cloud or developed from former traditional on network server led models; each being architected differently from physical infrastructure components through to functionality, hosting locations, pricing and security models.
For the dispersed needs of a business, there is not one cloud vendor that can or does provide a total end-to-end solution fit for all and nor should there be, with cloud being a highly innovative and agile market sector that is driving change and disruption. The right fit for each project needs to be assimilated from the business needs, the technical mix, the security requirements the businesses skill set and future predicted needs and the commonality sought by the business (meaning a possible focus on reducing the breadth of vendors, perhaps choosing one PaaS platform as the standard to be used whenever PaaS is applicable).
There are five key focal reasons for driving your business to a multi-cloud infrastructure:
Best of breed
Cloud has driven aggressive innovation and disruption; with new providers replacing both old and newer approaches, commoditisation reducing the cost of compute and varying cloud providers offering a range of different capabilities and functions.
Multi-cloud allows you to select the best of each on offer for your needs at that window of time, some being medium to long time commitments – such as an ERP or CRM re-platforming – and some being short term tactical options such as spinning up IaaS or PaaS for testing or project-based DevOps work. Multi-cloud allows you to pick and choose from a growing range of services on offer to create a customised portfolio that fits the needs of your organisation.
Ability to mix delivery mechanisms from SaaS, PaaS and IaaS
No one of these delivery mechanisms is best for all customers in every instance. For example, you may have a customer CRM application that has specific value to your business through a lot of prior investment done to align to your specific business processes. You have the choice to switch to a robust, industry common SaaS based CRM and invest in re-building the processes and specific aligned customisations (a quick switch on of the generic and longer investment in the configuration) or to re-platform your proprietary setup to a cloud based platform to increase the robustness of the underlying infrastructure, add flexibility and reduce ongoing costs. A multi-cloud strategy allows you the what if capability to weigh up a wider option base for each new and existing application and do the right thing for you and your business in each individual case.
Risk mitigation and reduction
There has always been a panacea target of 100% uptime and availability (excluding scheduled maintenance) and no matter what the guarantee offered by any cloud vendor and regardless how mission critical they are, there will always be risk for failure as has been demonstrated by some very global performance and outage issues from brand name vendors. The comparative however should be with traditional methods of delivery and the efficiency scaling of costs delivered through cloud.
We pay far less now per compute/storage for far greater resilience than we have had previously. In choosing packaged cloud applications the level of redundancy delivered by the cloud provider will outweigh that you could afford or choose to provide yourself. When spinning up your own apps into the cloud, you can now build greater hot standby resiliency at a price lower than older cold redundancies would have been. By spreading your workloads across multiple cloud providers, the possibility of simultaneous downtime reduces exponentially.
Historically vendor selection led to lock-in, which led to costlier, prolonged and risk averse proof of concepts, delayed decisions and in the case of a mistaken decision a situation where good was often thrown after bad as the cost to change was too extreme. With cloud, whilst the full panacea of switch on and switch off has not been achieved across all form factors and vendors, it is invariably easier to switch onto a cloud service and switch onto another if required than it has ever been with network server installed products.
With IaaS / PaaS workloads, if platformed more generically (not utilising vendor-specific APIs) then the workloads can be shifted quiet easily from one vendor offering to another, leaving the customer with the ability to run the app regardless of the chosen underlying infrastructure provider. As we progress the ability to move cloud vendor will become easier giving increased autonomy to the client for performance, security and cost reasons. This will lead to the advantage of reducing dependency further on any single cloud vendor and allow the negotiation of more favourable pricing and agreements.
Cloud platforms, regardless of form factor or delivery method, are not all interoperable with each other or with legacy systems. There is often an assumption that all will play and talk nicely together and push and pull data easily; this is not the case. Therefore, the ability to mix and choose between offerings in a multi-cloud environment is key in today’s world where data is king. For example, if a key business requirement is to link a legacy on network system to a new cloud offering and bi-directional data flow is a key aspect, then having the flexibility to choose a cloud solution that is strongest for that need and not be forced down a particular avenue is key.
One cloud may be better suited than another for a specific task; for example utilising a public cloud for services extendable to your ecosystem of workers and partners and a private cloud to host a more focused internally critical system. High security workloads may be determined to run in private clouds whilst regular generic business applications and data can leverage cost effective public cloud offerings. With a multi-cloud option on offer you can spin up resources and options more easily than in the old world where selecting a vendor led you into far longer tie ins and more costly and complex deployments. With mixed clouds, you can elect to choose a richer set of options to solve a wider set of business functional needs.
Today’s cloud services are resilient, secure and delivered using multiple regions and data centres to form a single cloud network. Multi-cloud takes cloud to the next level and allows businesses to build sophisticated inter cloud services encompassing an ecosystem of large and small, niche and broad, PaaS, SaaS and IaaS providers.
With increasing focus on security and data regulations evolving quickly, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the ability to choose a provider where needed, that has the most stringent alignment with your data security needs is also key.
Multi-cloud capabilities and options make the case for cloud stronger and the ability to adapt to changing business needs easier.
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