Opinion: Clearing up multi-cloud confusion

There’s no denying the enormous effect that cloud has had on how we purchase and consume technology. In business it has been a game-changer, delivering levels of flexibility and agility previously denied by on-premise IT.

Today in the UK, cloud infrastructure spend now surpasses spend on legacy IT, with the divide set to become even greater in the coming years.

While a hybrid strategy has generally proved a popular option with organisations that want to maintain a mix of cloud services and on-premise IT, an increasing number of businesses today are adopting multi-cloud strategies, with 75 percent of cloud users now deploying two or more cloud-based services.

But what is multi-cloud? While hybrid cloud usually refers to an IT strategy comprising the use of cloud and non-cloud technologies, multi-cloud goes one step further. Organisations deploying a multi-cloud strategy will leverage multiple cloud technologies from more than one vendor – whether private or public – in whichever way best suits their business needs.

One 2018 survey shows 86 percent of enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud strategy, and 60 percent are moving or have already moved their mission-critical apps to the cloud.

This shows how businesses are evolving their cloud strategies; after initially migrating certain applications to the cloud – and potentially being forced to shoe-horn their IT onto one cloud platform regardless of the suitability – they can now pick and choose which model is the best option for individual workloads.

So why multi-cloud? Aside from the obvious objectives of ramping up performance, seeing increased operational efficiency, and having the ability to scale up or down resources, there are some other advantages of adopting a multi-cloud strategy.

Some companies prefer to keep a check on the size of their ‘cloud footprint’ to reduce the risk of downtime and protect themselves from potential outages, bandwidth problems and risk of cyberattack (like DDoS attacks.) In a similar vein, cloud users may want to avoid single vendor lock-in. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and it is unlikely that a single cloud platform will meet all enterprise workload requirements. To truly benefit from the flexibility that the cloud can deliver, organisations shouldn’t feel restricted by their choice of platform.

Analysis from IT trade association CompTIA shows that 83 percent of companies have moved either infrastructure or applications to a second cloud provider. The most popular reason provided by respondents was better offerings or features, followed by security and concerns with their original provider. Other common reasons for migrating include high costs, more open standards and problems with outages.

In addition, a multi-cloud strategy helps enterprises maximise their IT budget, allowing them to negotiate and compare pricing to fully leverage the cost-savings associated with cloud hosting.

However, it is important to separate the reality from the hype that often surrounds any new approach to tech. For example, choosing the right cloud platform can be a confusing process – the monolithic structure of some core enterprise legacy applications means they may not even be compatible with a cloud environment

In addition, managing a multi-cloud environment in which workloads are distributed among several clouds, each with its own attributes and interfaces, can create a lot of work for IT teams. It may involve managing multiple clouds, service level agreements (SLAs), touch points and data flows across different platforms.

Also remember that in this age of GDPR and heightened data privacy regulations, organisations will need to ensure they have the proper data protection, back-up and disaster recovery processes in place, particularly for mission-critical applications and those containing sensitive data.

Despite all this, a considerable number of companies still lack the tools and processes for effective multi-cloud management. One study found that only 41 percent of companies operating in multi-cloud environments have a multi-cloud management strategy, and 38 percent have multi-cloud management procedures and tools in place.

To avoid any potential pitfalls associated with migrating to and managing a multi-cloud environment, more companies are opting for a managed solution approach. Organisations can really benefit from working with a tech-agnostic managed cloud provider that can provide them with the right advice on what cloud is best for them. Further, they can handle the migration and management of all workloads across a multi-cloud environment, ensuring the company remains compliant and helping them to maximise their investment in multi-cloud.

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