Multi-cloud strategy: 5 key trends now

Let's examine the trends in multi-cloud strategy that should be on an IT leader's radar screen
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To call multi-cloud itself a “trend” might be akin to barking yesterday’s news. Multi-cloud strategies are already well underway. But how does your strategy stack up to your peers' plans and are you watching the right issues?

Consider this recent prediction from IDC: “By 2020, over 90% of enterprises will use multiple cloud services and platforms.” Or this one from 451 Research: “The future of IT is multi-cloud and hybrid with 69% of respondents planning to have some type of multi-cloud environment by 2019.”

This level of adoption might reflect this straightforward definition: “Multi-cloud is a cloud approach made up of more than one cloud service, from more than one cloud vendor – public or private.” 

[ Are you ready to discuss cloud security concerns? Get our concise guide and learn from the experts: Hybrid cloud security: 5 questions skeptics will ask. ]

When you include the full scope of cloud, including the nearly ubiquitous SaaS apps, the shift to a multi-cloud strategy has been happening for quite a while – we just haven’t always called it that. That definition also reflects nearly limitless room for multi-cloud growth. In this post, we unpack some of the dominant trends in multi-cloud strategy that should be on an IT leader's radar screen.

1. Multi-cloud spreads throughout the app portfolio

Rich Murr, CIO at Epicor, notes that multi-cloud adoption to this point has been driven largely by internal service delivery rather than customer-facing apps.

“For corporate IT leaders, it’s practically impossible to deliver best-in-class IT solutions across the enterprise without a multi-cloud strategy,” Murr explains. “However, this isn’t the case for customer-facing products, which quite often ride atop a single IaaS or PaaS provider.”

While multi-cloud strategies might first be driven by internal business goals, expect them to spread to customer-facing applications, especially as IT teams grow comfortable with the ongoing management and optimization of multiple cloud services and platforms.

“IT leaders responsible for developing and operating customer-facing products should strongly consider a multi-cloud approach, if for no other reason than to introduce a cost-competitive environment,” Murr advises.

2. Containers enable robust multi-cloud approaches

Many companies become “multi-cloud” simply by virtue of their SaaS adoption. Use email from one SaaS vendor and a CRM app from another and, voila, you’re multi-cloud. However, Amir Jerbi, CTO at Aqua Security, expects that growing container adoption will enable more complex multi-cloud strategies going forward.

“One major trend we’re seeing in 2018 is that the deployment of cloud-native applications is moving almost entirely from VMs running on cloud infrastructure to container technology,” Jerbi says. “These pre-built images can essentially run on any cloud provider, making true multi-cloud deployment achievable.” 

Container orchestration tools like Kubernetes pump up the appeal of containers to IT leaders from an operations and management standpoint.

Container orchestration tools like Kubernetes pump up the appeal of containers to IT leaders from an operations and management standpoint, Jerbi notes, and further intertwine the growth of containers with the growth of multi-cloud strategies.

“With the flexibility to choose amongst a range of cloud providers, customers gain the benefits of reduced dependency on a single provider, ongoing cost and performance optimization, and improved geographic coverage,” Jerbi says.

3. Vendors and communities embrace multi-cloud

Dave Dozer, business systems consultant at Algorithm, Inc., says that one of the biggest trends in multi-cloud is that software vendors and communities are increasingly embracing the concept. 

That was far from a given in the good old days of monolithic software development. These applications could sometimes be forced into a multi-cloud environment, but Dozer notes that this has commonly led to integration headaches, creating data silos and making true hybrid cloud architectures extremely challenging. The good news: More vendors and developers are seeing the light.

“Software manufacturers have realized that fast-paced, complex businesses need to be able to scale solutions quickly and will need to rapidly integrate these solutions,” Dozer says. “This is a very good thing for CIOs and IT leaders.”

Today, a growing number of applications and platforms are enabling multi-cloud strategies from the start. But Dozer offers a note of caution by way of underlining the importance of this particular trend and why CIOs should pay close attention to it.

“There are a number of solutions that don't truly support this deployment methodology but will say that they do during the sales process,” Dozer explains. “It's important to recognize this, ask the tough technical questions when evaluating solutions, and not hesitate to require specifics around understanding how the application will communicate with other distributed systems.”


Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.