Why Is A Multi-Cloud Approach Gaining Such Popularity?

In today’s business landscape, the concept of “the cloud” is evolving rapidly, rendering the term somewhat outdated for many enterprises. Recent research from 451 Research reveals that a significant 70 percent of organizations are actively leveraging a variety of cloud services. Moreover, a notable 37 percent of these enterprises have embraced hybrid cloud technology, facilitating seamless interaction between different cloud platforms.

The surge in popularity of a multi-cloud approach stems from several factors rooted in recent technological developments. To understand this trend, let’s take a brief look back at recent tech history.

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Born from necessity, now embraced by IT

The genesis of the cloud wasn’t rooted in IT’s demands but rather in the pressing needs of businesses. With various lines of business (LOBs) requiring specialized support beyond the capabilities of IT, due in part to budget constraints focused on day-to-day operations, a shift was inevitable.

During this initial phase, support needs spanned across sales force automation, CRM, human resources, marketing automation, and supply chain management services. To maintain competitiveness amidst evolving landscapes, LOBs sought to enhance or establish automation within these functions. Many took matters into their own hands, leveraging their budgets to procure assistance from software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Additionally, integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) providers were enlisted to bridge SaaS solutions with on-premises data sources. This grassroots approach to outsourcing gained momentum, often unbeknownst to enterprise IT, ultimately propelling businesses towards a multi-cloud environment driven by LOBs’ initiatives.

In the realm of IT, the rise of multi-cloud infrastructure has been largely shaped by the actions of organizations themselves. Initially, they turned to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers and delved into platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings from early public cloud services. Their aim? To hasten the pace of software development and testing. Fast forward to today, and these strategies remain prevalent. Why? Because setting up services online proved far simpler and quicker than establishing a development environment within the confines of the corporate data center. This wasn’t part of some meticulously crafted cloud strategy; rather, it emerged as a practical response to pressing needs and fundamental economic considerations.

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Breaking out of old thinking

Around two to three years ago, IT managers began to take notice of a concerning trend within their organizations: the unchecked expansion of cloud services. With the proliferation of cloud offerings reaching a tipping point, IT departments recognized the urgent need to address this issue, especially in light of alarming reports about the risks associated with data loss through third-party providers. Consequently, this spurred the inception of policy-driven cloud strategies, aimed at regaining control and mitigating potential risks.

To regain control over their IT environments, organizations implemented policies dictating the deployment of various workloads—such as applications, databases, and repositories—across different execution venues, including on-premises, private cloud, and public clouds. These policies typically revolved around assessing the value and risk associated with each workload. High-value or high-risk workloads often mandated deployment in secure environments like the data center or private cloud, whereas less critical processes could be hosted on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or public cloud platforms. IT teams meticulously evaluated the price-to-performance ratio of different cloud services to determine the most suitable execution venue for each workload. Consequently, multi-cloud configurations naturally emerged as workloads were migrated to their optimal execution venues or relocated to seize cost-effective opportunities.

In reality, organizations rarely set out with a deliberate goal of adopting a multi-cloud architecture. Instead, the emergence of multi-cloud approaches typically occurred organically, driven by innovative Lines of Business (LOBs) and a handful of IT rebels.

Interestingly, this unplanned evolution has been beneficial, breaking the inertia that often arises from solely focusing on maintaining operational IT infrastructure day in and day out. With LOBs taking proactive stances and pursuing their own interests, IT departments have been compelled to adapt. They’ve had to grasp the value propositions offered by diverse cloud infrastructures and make informed decisions on resource allocation.

While formalizing multi-cloud as a strategic approach may be relatively new, most companies have swiftly embraced it, demonstrating adaptability in navigating this dynamic landscape.

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Enter the hybrid cloud

In contemporary organizational structures, a prevalent architecture has emerged, typically structured as follows: Essential on-premises servers, storage solutions, and networking setups are upheld for critical, high-value tasks like managing financial data and safeguarding intellectual property. Meanwhile, routine business operations such as customer relationship management (CRM), marketing activities, and human resources management are transitioned to diverse Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is embraced to facilitate swift provisioning of computational, storage, and networking resources. Additionally, Platform as a Service (PaaS) is leveraged for expediting application development and testing phases, ensuring seamless transitions to the most suitable execution environments for applications.

In general, cloud services have traditionally operated in isolation from each other. Nonetheless, an increasing number of enterprises are now designing hybrid cloud systems, enabling orchestrated processes across multiple execution venues. This integration facilitates interoperability of workloads across diverse cloud environments, thus reducing organizational and data silos, potentially leading to their convergence.

Effective management of hybrid clouds is paramount to ensure a smooth transition, considering its complexity. Although many cloud management tools are being incorporated into existing cloud services as supplementary features, the development of cross-platform cloud management tools has been relatively slower.

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Best practices for adopting a hybrid cloud environment

When venturing into the realm of migrating to and managing a hybrid cloud environment, it’s essential to ensure that various components seamlessly align. While the landscape of best practices continues to evolve, experts in the field offer invaluable insights:

  1. According to a prominent industry expert, exercising caution when dealing with sensitive data during the hybrid cloud transition is crucial. They emphasize that while a hybrid cloud approach can yield benefits, it can also introduce complexities that organizations might not be fully equipped to handle. Understanding the precise locations of sensitive data becomes pivotal in determining which data can safely migrate to the cloud. Additionally, having a comprehensive grasp of the purpose behind collecting each piece of data, understanding its internal flow, and effectively assessing the associated risks are imperative steps in this process.
  2. Optimizing load distribution emerges as a critical concern within a hybrid operational setup. Michael Williams, the evangelism and community management lead, underscores the significance of maintaining symmetrical performance across various cloud platforms to avert potential bottlenecks. “Ensuring robust load balancing mechanisms is imperative for sustaining seamless system operations,” he advises.
  3. Navigating compliance mandates can introduce complexities to your infrastructure. According to an industry expert, assuming that compliance standards address all security vulnerabilities is a mistake. “Some entities may solely rely on industry-specific security requirements to determine the necessary level of dedicated cloud resources for compliance upkeep. However, this approach, while ensuring compliance, often overlooks availability risks inherent in multi-tenant environments,” the expert explains. They highlight the potential threat posed by shared network resources, where a DDoS attack targeting another tenant could jeopardize your assets. To mitigate downtime risks, it may be necessary to segregate storage from other infrastructure components.
  4. Navigating the realm of digital infrastructure entails understanding the nuances, particularly when it comes to the “undo” button. As Dean Mannella, wisely points out, it’s crucial to delve into the fine print. Why? Because the decision to migrate data to the cloud is not a one-way street. Mannella underscores that the expense associated with repatriating your data can be substantial. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find yourself shelling out five to seven times the initial cost incurred when transferring data to the cloud, should you opt to bring it back in-house later on. This underscores the importance of strategic decision-making and thorough comprehension of the implications before embarking on any digital migration journey.

Hybrid cloud infrastructures are becoming increasingly prevalent, following the trend set by multi-cloud setups. It’s crucial to recognize that developing a carefully planned, policy-driven cloud strategy can mitigate challenges along the way. Keep in mind that transitioning to hybrid cloud environments can be done gradually, starting with the activation of individual services or lines of business. Approach your hybrid cloud deployment methodically, incorporating relevant cloud interoperability pilot initiatives as needed, to leverage the advantages of seamlessly orchestrating across multiple clouds within your continually evolving IT framework.