Our economy is an increasingly digital one, which not only means more pressure on infrastructure, but also higher user demands when it comes to things like uptime and response latency.
Enterprise organizations, for their part, are looking to run their workloads within the most appropriate environments, both to take advantage of cost savings and to leverage the capabilities of distinct platforms. Every cloud provider has relative strengths and drawbacks, and smart cloud teams are learning how to use these in combination—sometimes using multiple providers to complete a single user transaction. Microservices-based architecture are making this even more common. If that multi-cloud architecture is well managed, every transaction (or part of a transaction) can be shifted as needed.
Over the past year, we’ve discussed the benefits of multi-cloud, including best practices for realizing those benefits and the need for a multi-cloud strategy. We won’t rehash those here; interested readers are directed to the linked posts to read our case.
But there’s another important question enterprise organizations need to answer: When is a multi-cloud strategy needed? Or, put slightly differently, when is it worthwhile making the pivot from a single-cloud strategy to a full multi-cloud strategy?
There’s a great Chinese proverb that sheds light on the answer :
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time to plant a tree is right now.”
Here’s why we feel that a multi-cloud strategy is appropriate for most enterprise organizations going forward.
Review: What is a Multi-Cloud Strategy?
Multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple cloud computing services, in a single heterogeneous architecture, at the same time. These can be public clouds (like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google GCP), or a mix of public and private clouds.
Simply using different clouds in different departments falls well short of an actual strategy for using multiple clouds, however. So is simply deploying workloads across different cloud environments. Although having different public clouds in different departments might be what started organizations on their “multi-cloud journey,” many are now pivoting to an approach that bakes multi-cloud into their infrastructure and software plans right from the start, using modern multi-cloud management tools.
Being intentional and proactive about using multiple clouds, and finding the right tools to manage them, is the core of a true multi-cloud strategy.
Single Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud Strategy
When cloud computing first came on the scene, it really did seem that one cloud solution could meet all of an organization’s needs. They started simply by moving applications to public cloud infrastructure, maybe with some refactoring involved. Once the concept proved solid for less mission-critical applications, organizations started moving more and more to—or simply building in—the cloud they had chosen.
Multi-cloud environments arose for many different reasons:
- Different departments or branches within the same organization procured cloud services independently of each other.
- IT departments, wanting to ensure better disaster recovery (DR) and avoid vendor lock-in, began mirroring their public cloud deployments on another platform.
- A merger or acquisition lead to a single company now using multiple clouds.
- Some companies actively pursued a multi-cloud strategy, typically to realize better cost optimization.
(Though the reasons vary widely, the effect has been the same. According to Gartner, 75% of organizations will have deployed a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud model by the year 2020. Most of these models will include multiple infrastructure providers.)
In other words, the move to multi-cloud often exists on a spectrum from purely incidental to fully intentional. A good multi-cloud strategy starts with where the organization is, whether it’s with a single cloud provider or multiple cloud providers.
Multi-Cloud is Growing but is Not the Same for Everyone
A July 2018 survey of over 600 decision-makers, conducted by Forrester, found that 86% of respondents had a cloud strategy they considered “multi-cloud.” But as we saw above, different organizations have adopted multi-cloud for different reasons. This means that the term “multi-cloud strategy” means different things to different companies.
That said, over 32% of those surveyed agreed that their multi-cloud strategy would best be described as “Using multiple public and private clouds for different applications workloads.” Only 10% referred to managing access from a single management portal, and a meager 4% described it as developing applications with components deployed across different cloud platforms.
When is Multi-Cloud a Good Option for the Enterprise?
So let’s get down to brass tacks: Assuming that you want to be more intentional about your multi-cloud use, using a developed multi-cloud strategy, when (and where) is the best time to make the transition? When is a modern multi-cloud approach appropriate?
A multi-cloud strategy is particularly appropriate for enterprises dealing with these kinds of challenges:
- Users are distributed over a large area geographically, perhaps even internationally.
- Users are located such that they often are not near an office or data center.
- Regulations or security concerns provide reasons for keeping some data and infrastructure in private clouds (or even on-premise), even as the cloud is used for other things.
- The organization is likely to be the target of DDoS attacks that could stress infrastructure.
- DevOps teams see a need for separate development and/or testing environments.
- Demands for service are distributed geographically, making the distribution of workloads across different data centers a way to optimize performance.
- Multiple cloud contracts already exist, and so access and management need to be centralized.
- Multiple cloud contracts already exist, and costs are beginning to spin out of control.
- The writing is on the wall, and you want to prepare your organization for a multi-cloud competitive environment.
Staying with a single cloud provider might be a strategy for smaller companies with very limited needs when it comes to cloud computing. But for most enterprise organizations, and especially those with heavy technology needs, a solid multi-cloud strategy will beat single cloud adaptation almost every time.
For more on multi-cloud strategy and the industry move to multi-cloud, see our article “How to Plan for a Multi-Cloud World.”
For more on pursuing a multi-cloud strategy along with a DevOps strategy, see our “DevOps and Multi-Cloud Environments: The Trick to Getting the Most Out of Both.”
If you are interested in a modern multi-cloud management tool, check out the TRiA Cloud Management Platform. You can also sign up for a free 14-day trial or request a demo.