How to explain multi-cloud in plain English

How to explain multi-cloud in plain English

What is multi-cloud? How does it differ from hybrid cloud? What are the use cases and security concerns? Here's how to discuss multi-cloud strategy in plain terms with anyone

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Why use multi-cloud? 4 factors that matter

While defining multi-cloud is relatively easy, explaining multi-cloud, especially if that task comes with the subtext of justifying it, requires a bit more depth. In this scenario, it helps to explain the “why” of multi-cloud once you’ve defined the “what.” We asked several experts to share their perspectives on “why multi-cloud” to arm you with some additional material for evangelizing the approach in your organization.

1. More granular feature selection based on actual needs

“A key benefit of the cloud is taking advantage of specific features and services that enable increased functionality, utility, or scalability for an organization. Each cloud provider, as well as the growing number of SaaS providers, have embraced growing through rapid development and release of new features. This allows the end-user to make a technology selection based on meeting their business requirements.” –Tim Malfara, Anexinet

2. Matching the right workloads to the right clouds

“CIOs can pick a specific cloud provider per application or per business unit.”

“Multi-cloud came about as part of an effort to meet organizational demand for elasticity and flexibility. As digital transformation initiatives accelerate, CIOs anxious to take advantage of flexible and highly agile infrastructure are in the habit of moving workloads to any and every cloud available. They pick a specific cloud provider per application or per business unit. For example, an application with heavy database requirements might run on AWS leveraging Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), while an application built on containers may run in GCP leveraging [Kubernetes], and an application written in .NET will be placed in Microsoft Azure.” –Mor Cohen, Turbonomic

3. The upside of not putting all eggs in one basket

“Multi-cloud strategy originates from enterprises’ urge to de-risk their investments. The strategy of ‘never putting all of your eggs in one basket’ holds true in choosing cloud providers as well. Also, with [each of] the cloud service providers offering a certain unique value, and with the availability of high-speed network connectivity between their infrastructure, enterprises can reliably apply this portfolio distribution strategy across multiple cloud service providers.”

Organizations can decentralize operations and let the local teams decide the best option for the workloads.

“One of the other key factors that drives multi-cloud is the desire of organizations to decentralize their operations and let the local teams decide and utilize the best option for the workloads. This could be a subject of cost, feature availability (the availability of some advanced features varies with choice of region), level of support available, etc. For the scientific community, [for example,] particularly those who run large-scale simulations, multi-cloud is a way of utilizing the maximum resources available across multiple service providers. Putting it simply, the drivers for multi-cloud include (but are not limited to): cost, feature availability, utilizing best and maximum resources, risk management, and decentralized operations.” –Raghu Kishore Vempati, principal systems engineer, innovation at Altran

4. Overall potential benefits and overlap with cloud-native development

“Many enterprises have already realized the benefits of using public cloud infrastructure: agility, cost-effectiveness, elasticity, and scalability. However, cloud services are constantly evolving  and have advantages over each other that change over time, so optimizing usage across them creates additional benefits.”

A single provider may lack adequate geographical coverage. Think quality of service, data privacy, and residency laws.

“For global businesses, a single provider may lack adequate geographical coverage, increasingly a concern not just for quality of service, but also because of data privacy and residency laws. Organizations might also be wary of becoming overly dependent on a single provider, either technologically or financially.

“Finally, there are specific types of workloads or data for which on-prem or private cloud infrastructure remains optimal, making hybrid cloud (a special case of multi-cloud) a necessity. All of this is driving the trend of ‘cloud-native,’ which is multi-cloud by design. It uses technologies such as containers that are completely decoupled from the underlying infrastructure and can run anywhere, making multi-cloud easier to accomplish.” –Rani Osnat, Aqua Security

Indeed, multi-cloud strategies aren’t developing in a vacuum, but overlap other significant shifts in application development and infrastructure, including hybrid cloud. Expect to hear more of it, and perhaps even some variations that reflect that overlap, Juengst from Red Hat recently wrote.

Is multi-cloud as secure as hybrid cloud?

People in your organization may think more cloud providers automatically equals less security. Not so. Moving to a multi-cloud deployment strategy is not inherently more or less secure than a single-cloud strategy; there are benefits and disadvantages to each, Red Hat’s Bursell points out.

You will need to prioritize certain aspects of your security strategy more in a multi-cloud environment: These include authentication, workload freshness, application hardening, monitoring, storage, and control plane, Bursell notes. For detailed advice on each of these, read his related article: Multi-cloud security: 7 issues to watch.

[ How do containers help manage risk as part of your cloud strategy? Get the related Red Hat whitepaper: Ten Layers of Container Security. ]

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