Multi-cloud is a model of cloud computing where an organization utilizes a combination of clouds, which can be two or more public clouds, two or more private clouds, or a combination of both public and private clouds.
Multi-Cloud is the superset of multiple public cloud, hybrid, on-premises, and edge. A multi-cloud deployment model relies on the use of more than one public cloud service provider for compute or storage resources, independent of the use of other private cloud or on-premises infrastructure. A multi-cloud deployment that includes private cloud or on-premises infrastructure is considered a hybrid multi-cloud.
A multi-cloud strategy not only provides more flexibility for which cloud services an enterprise chooses to use, it also reduces dependence on a single cloud hosting provider.
There are several reasons to adopt a multi-cloud platform, including:
Provider-specific services: Organizations can choose from different cloud providers to best fit specific application and infrastructure requirements to their own unique business needs.
Enhanced scalability: An enterprise can quickly scale to multiple cloud providers as demand increases
Containers and microservices: Organizations that utilize microservices when developing containerized applications with Kubernetes may find that some services are only available from a specific cloud provider. Multi-cloud Kubernetes deployments are increasingly popular as new services come onto the market, hosted by a variety of cloud providers.
Reduced latency: Dispersed organizations can reduce latency by choosing local public cloud vendors based on each facility location. This also facilitates multi-cloud networking, since all major cloud providers are connected to each other with fast, low-latency connectivity.
Regulatory and governance mandates: Some organizations may need to use multiple cloud storage providers to adhere to government regulations and data sovereignty laws that require certain types of data to reside within specific geographies.
Reduced footprint and lower costs: Most organizations that employ multi-cloud capabilities use the public cloud for infrastructure, avoiding the need to build and maintain their own datacenter and in effect building a virtual data center in the cloud without needing a physical piece of hardware. This saves money and physical space, because the company does not have to invest in or store their own hardware. It also saves time, because the public cloud service provider manages, maintains and updates the data center.
Bargaining power: Opting for multiple cloud services provides benefits beyond spreading the risk of failure across several vendors. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, businesses can pick and choose the provider offering the best price for a given service, thus helping ensure that all providers continue to competitively price their offerings.
Multi-cloud management is the set of tools and procedures that enables an organization to monitor, optimize, and secure applications and workloads across the data center, edge, and any cloud environment.. Ideally, a multi-cloud management solution allows cross-functional teams to manage multiple clouds from a single interface, including different cloud providers (e.g. AWS, Azure, and GCP), and supports multi-cloud deployment and container orchestration tools, such as Kubernetes.
Benefits of a multi-cloud management platform include:
Reduced strain on IT teams: By offering simplified, centralized management, a multi-cloud management solution allows IT teams to manage applications and workloads more effectively across multiple clouds.
Visibility: Without multi-cloud management, it is difficult to monitor workloads and know what is running where in a complex environment that spans multiple cloud providers. A good multi-cloud management solution offers visibility across the entire multi-cloud environment in order to enable businesses to reap the benefits of multi-cloud.
Multi-cloud security: It is challenging to keep security policies consistent across cloud providers, and the complexity of multi-cloud can contribute to security holes and an increased attack surface. A managed approach allows IT teams to deal with potential security issues proactively, rather than reactively. In addition, the best multi-cloud management platforms offer features such as security monitoring and automation, plus the ability to enforce security policies across platforms, which significantly reduces the difficulty of keeping your environment secure.
Cost management: While many businesses adopt a multi-cloud strategy to take advantage of discounts and cost savings offered by different cloud providers, it’s easy to lose track of costs in the increased complexity of a multi-cloud environment. Multi-cloud management helps your business keep track of costs and usage, and some platforms even use intelligent data analysis to optimize cost management.
Increased availability: Availability is just one of the many advantages that businesses seek when they pursue a multi-cloud strategy. But to fully realize the benefits of multi-cloud, IT teams need to be able to duplicate and seamlessly migrate workloads when one environment fails. Effective multi-cloud management allows that to happen.
A multi-cloud strategy is increasingly common, with a typical organization utilizing over two public clouds as well as private clouds. Our latest research shows that 80% of organizations have a distributed model for cloud apps across public, private, and edge environments, and expect to support this combination in three years’ time. Since 53% of all applications are expected to be modernized by 2024, the growth of multi-cloud is expected to grow in concert.
Although many organizations are utilizing traditional broadband pipes into their cloud providers, many enterprises are utilizing network function virtualization (NFV) providers from third-party edge network providers such as Megaport and Equinix, utilizing a single pipe from the organization that leverages the interconnection between major cloud providers offered by these companies.
Ideally, organizations should keep multi-cloud in mind when designing their cloud architecture by engaging all of the cloud service providers at once and planning for a multi-cloud management platform from the outset.
Since this is not always practical, there are many tools available for managing multi-cloud environments, and Gartner regularly explores the best of these multi-cloud solutions in their Magic Quadrant reports.
Although there are many multi-cloud management strategies and solutions, the best ones share a number of common features. Perhaps the most powerful is compatibility with containers, which enable workloads to be seamlessly moved across multiple cloud providers. Thus, support for containers and Kubernetes is key to a robust multi-cloud management platform.
Automation is another feature of effective multi-cloud management solutions. Automation allows IT teams to deploy, monitor and secure applications quickly and reliably, and to scale their operations without becoming overwhelmed. In this way, automation helps businesses manage the complexity of multi-cloud environments.
It is easy to confuse hybrid cloud with multi-cloud, but there are two key differences.
Unlike hybrid cloud, multi-cloud does not require use of a private cloud – an organization could be multi-cloud if they’re using more than one public cloud.
Unlike hybrid cloud, multi-cloud does not require unified or coordinated operations to work between the different cloud environments. With that said, seamless visibility and operations between environments is an ideal scenario in order to achieve the most value from your multi-cloud strategy.
With these differences in mind, it’s possible (and common) therefore, to have a multi-cloud environment that is also hybrid cloud by having at least one private cloud, at least one public cloud, and some level of interoperability between the private and public cloud environments. Put another way, hybrid cloud is always considered multi-cloud, but multi-cloud is not always hybrid cloud.
Enterprises might choose to use a hybrid cloud to get consistent operations across environments, and because a private cloud is less expensive than using a public cloud but does not scale as easily. If a business needs the ability to handle spikes in demand, it might use a private cloud to run most of the workloads, accessing the public cloud only when necessary. Or, if a business offers services that collect customer data, they can host the services on a public cloud or clouds while keeping sensitive information on a private cloud.
Some organizations take advantage of multi-cloud capabilities to manage very large amounts of storage that is frequently accessed by a broad variety of users. For example, streaming media behemoth Netflix leverages both AWS and Google Cloud to reduce its dependency on a single provider, to take advantage of disaster recovery and business continuity services between providers, and to leverage those capabilities unique to each cloud.
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