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What is Multi-Cloud Infrastructure?

Multi-Cloud Infrastructure utilizes multiple public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platforms. In this multi-cloud model, the differences between cloud providers are abstracted from the applications and operational procedures that work consistently across all environments.

This enables organizations to gain the benefits of each cloud provider’s strengths while mitigating the risks normally associated with relying on a single cloud provider. As organizations increasingly modernize applications and seamlessly manage and control deployment and scale across environments, multi-cloud management of underlying infrastructure becomes more important.

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Architecting Your Multi-Cloud Environment

Why is Multi-Cloud Infrastructure important?

As organizations transform their application stacks by building new software or modernizing existing applications, different applications may be optimized with cloud services that are unique to each provider (Artificial Intelligence best fit on Google Cloud). There may be enterprise applications that are optimized for a specific cloud (Oracle Cloud).

There may be predominance of applications on a specific Operating System (OS) such as Microsoft Windows, that are a best fit for a particular cloud (Microsoft Azure) And there may be business reasons, such as data gravity or management tools available in limited languages, or regional team preference – that make one cloud infrastructure platform a better fit than another.  

Each cloud provider offers unique services and advantages, with nuances in their innovation capabilities. Indeed, no two public cloud providers are the same when it comes to their:

  • Portfolios of cloud services
  • Suite of tools to support DevOps
  • Pricing models
  • Geographic locations and availability zones

Multi-Cloud Infrastructure requires a consistent infrastructure and management stack that can be layered on top of any type of physical infrastructure in any location from any cloud provider, and can run all types of applications—traditional and modern— in addition to a broad set of PaaS services . In other words, multi-cloud infrastructure is more than just using multiple cloud providers.  It is an operating model, that delivers flexibility and consistency to any place and run workloads on any cloud that a business requires.

Multi-Cloud infrastructure can help increase operational efficiency across different environments. This includes having the flexibility to:

  • Move apps between more regions or countries than a single provider can support.
  • Use differentiated services from more than one cloud provider.
  • Relocate workloads from one provider to another when the business strategy dictates the need for such a change.

What are the benefits of Multi-Cloud Infrastructure?

Multi-Cloud infrastructure platforms enable consistent operations across a multi-cloud landscape, including both hybrid cloud and public cloud-native architectures. Organizations can architect the multi-cloud environment that best matches their applications, with the flexibility to build, deploy, and manage from the data center to the cloud to the edge, realizing these benefits:

  • Capabilities to build, run, and manage modern apps on any cloud through a platform as a service (PaaS) layer, Kubernetes runtime, with a multi-cloud control plane.
  • Capabilities to build, run, and manage modern apps on any cloud through a platform as a service (PaaS) layer, Kubernetes runtime, with a multi-cloud control plane.
  • Real-time visibility into security and compliance posture achieved by continuous monitoring of cloud resource configuration and benchmarks to ensure alignment with different industry standards, custom security, and compliance requirements.
  • Cost optimization of multi-cloud environments by enabling allocation of costs for chargeback, monitoring of increases in spending, and support for better decision-making around the use of reservations and savings plans.
  • Improved multi-cloud operations by streamlining cloud operations and automating governance policies without impacting DevOps functions and teams.
  • Increased Choice and Flexibility, since organizations can deploy apps on the clouds that best match their requirements, and easily move them when needed knowing they are still secure and compliant.
  • Accelerated Time to Value by avoiding steep learning curves due to tools set or cloud differences. 

How does Multi-Cloud Infrastructure work?

Since multi-cloud is increasingly the norm, organizations need to simplify the complexities introduced by utilizing multiple hyper-scale cloud providers as well as on-premises infrastructure. Each cloud provider has its own architecture, rules, and requirements. Multi-cloud infrastructure solutions must:

  • Manage applications consistently regardless of where they are deployed.
  • Enable building, moving, and execution of applications anywhere, including moving applications between public clouds without refactoring.
  • Keep applications secure, no matter where they run.
  • Enable developer and IT support, so teams can collaborate easily.
  • Provide a path for seamless migration to new cloud environments, so adapting does not mean refactoring.

VMware has defined these five guiding principles for multi-cloud architecture development to help increase agility while minimizing costs and risk. These best practices in multi-site cloud infrastructure are as follows:

  1. Build in flexibility. Architect an environment that increases business agility by allowing each application to be deployed to the cloud that best meets its unique requirements.
  2. Evolve without penalty. Architect an environment that lowers costs by supporting the ability to move applications between environments without refactoring.
  3. Seek operational simplicity. Architect an environment that reduces complexity and improves security through the use of a unified operating model.
  4. Fully optimize resources. Architect an environment that minimizes learning curves by providing high levels of skill leverage for both developers and IT operators.
  5. Maximize automation investments. Architect an environment that supports the ability to scale up automation across the full scope of operations.

What are the Drawbacks of Multi-Cloud Infrastructure?

There are several drawbacks of a multi-cloud strategy, that utilized multi-cloud infrastructure from different cloud providers. However, a modern multi-cloud platform helps address these challenges.

What are the Challenges of Multi-Cloud Infrastructure?

When embarking on a multi-cloud strategy, reliable connectivity is critical to achieving high bandwidth, low latency connectivity between on-premises workloads and users, and cloud workloads and services. Each of the major public cloud providers have a direct connectivity option to support this high-quality connectivity requirement. For example, Direct Connect for AWS, Cloud Interconnect for Google and ExpressRoute for Azure. Before operation or migrations can begin, there are a number of connectivity tasks to be completed to:

  • Establish dedicated multi-cloud connectivity using your selected multi-cloud networking partner or partners starting with your on-premises data center.
  • Configure the dedicated connection from the partner multi-cloud provider to all the respective cloud environments targeted for use. Refer to the partner and cloud provider documentation for the requirements and procedure details.
  • Deploy VMware software-defined data centers (SDDCs) within the respective cloud providers, with non over lapping IP address space for SDDC Management and application workload networks.
  • Open the required HCX firewall ports in the on-premises firewall and the cloud side firewalls
  • Download and deploy HCX Connector Appliance on-premises, then activate and pair the Connector with the on-premises vCenter.
  • Login to the on-premises vCenter, navigate to the HCX plugin, configure site pairings from on-premises to each cloud HCX Manager, then configure the Compute and Network Profiles for the respective resources on-prem.
  • Deploy the required HCX Service Mesh(s) to connect to the respective VMware SDDCs located within each cloud provider. This will deploy the respective service mesh appliances on the cloud SDDCs.

One of the biggest obstacles to adopting multi-cloud architecture is a lack of developer and operator skills. The addition of multiple clouds creates new operational complexities. If each cloud is run as a separate, isolated silo, with its own unique development and operating model, taxonomy, and set of APIs, there are new skills to learn in order to leverage the innovation capabilities of each cloud environment. As a result, as organizations begin their path multi-cloud, many experience an uptick in people costs and a downturn in organizational efficiency.

At the same time, operational risk increases. Differences between cloud environments make it harder for app dev teams to quickly troubleshoot application performance issues when they arise. And the differences make it hard to consistently apply policies carefully designed to make sure apps are always secure and compliant wherever they are deployed.


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