Multi-cloud – Why “one for all, all for one” doesn’t work in the cloud

Understanding multi-cloud easily and how to apply multi-cloud strategy yourself

Many companies are no longer satisfied with just one cloud solution for all their applications and processes. And that is a good thing. Every application has different requirements for the cloud. In practice, however, many have difficulty with this so-called multi-cloud approach. This article shows that multi-cloud is actually quite simple.

There is no getting around buzzwords like private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud. With so many terms, it is increasingly difficult for non-IT professionals to keep track of them all. The two terms hybrid cloud and multi-cloud in particular are often used synonymously, even though they describe two completely different concepts.

For more understanding: What distinguishes the business cloud from Google Drive & Co.

In principle, a private cloud is tailored to one company. Accordingly, it is only available to this one company. The private cloud can be managed in-house or by a service provider. This ensures a high level of IT security and you know where your own data is at all times. A public cloud, on the other hand, is hosted by a cloud provider. Several companies share the cloud infrastructure among themselves. This solution is usually cheaper and requires less effort and resources on the part of corporate IT.

In this way, a company can quickly and easily acquire additional storage space or more computing power by scaling resources flexibly and paying according to consumption. The hybrid cloud, on the other hand, is a hybrid form of private and public cloud that optimally combines the advantages of the two cloud worlds. This means that a company uses the secure private cloud for its core business with very critical applications and processes, for example. Other applications with a lower business risk, on the other hand, run via a public cloud.

What is multi-cloud?

However, multi-cloud describes a different approach: In a multi-cloud architecture, clouds/cloud services from different providers are used; in particular, the use of services from hyperscalers such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Webservices, and solutions from enterprise providers such as Open Telekom Cloud or Swisscom Enterprise Cloud is popular. For each business process, an assessment is made as to which cloud solution from which provider is best suited for it and offers the most optimal conditions for the respective workload. At the same time, individual teams or departments no longer have to adapt shared hybrid cloud solutions to their own requirements (which always brings disadvantages for other areas). In the course of the digitalization of the economy, more and more companies want to shift expenses from static to dynamic costs and for this reason are moving away from rigid on-premises systems. They expect a cloud environment to support all their business processes.

In addition to the high level of flexibility and financial benefits, another advantage of multi-cloud deployment is that it allows a company to acquire a broad range of experience and thus not become dependent on a single provider. This also minimizes business risks and increases the resilience of the company’s systems. In addition, using multiple cloud platforms can improve access to certain applications or services. For example, many of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud products and services are not available on AWS, and vice versa.

However, the transition from spontaneous cloud deployments to an optimized multi-cloud environment holds some challenges for CIOs that are hard to overcome without reliable partners.

Why are companies having such a hard time with multi-cloud?

As attractive as multi-cloud sounds, in practice it is often difficult for companies to manage multiple clouds simultaneously. The thought of keeping cloud environments from different providers running in parallel is daunting for many companies. This is why many companies see so-called multi-platform management as an almost insurmountable challenge. With multiple clouds, you quickly end up with a complex entity if companies set the scope of responsibility too low. In a multi-cloud environment, it is therefore very important to bring corporate IT into the role of integrator – it is not technical affinity that is required, but the interaction of business processes with the applications in the clouds.

In addition, cloud technology is evolving at a breathtaking pace and the market is also changing incessantly. Cloud providers are constantly updating their service portfolios, prices and service level agreements (SLAs).

If a company wants to distribute its data and applications across different clouds, IT currently has to set up and manage each cloud individually. And the applications and data must be maintained in each case – in the most complex case on each platform individually. If this is done manually, it is an extreme effort for a company, both in terms of personnel and costs, which may “eat up” the advantages mentioned above.

Companies must therefore ensure that they can manage their clouds sensibly without overburdening IT. One way of doing this is through cross-vendor multi-cloud management.

Overarching management for the clouds creates an overview

Put simply, such multi-cloud management is management software that supports several different platforms instead of just one cloud. Such a system works across clouds and monitors all cloud activities. This makes maintaining the different platforms much less time-consuming. Operational processes no longer need to be tailored to each cloud individually. It is therefore not necessary for a company to employ countless cloud experts with specialist knowledge of each individual platform, and it can still benefit from the advantages of a multi-cloud approach. The use of cloud solutions thus becomes more flexible, more tailored and more cost-efficient for companies. This makes a multi-cloud strategy feasible for any company.

Steven Henzen, Innovation Architect bei T-Systems in der Schweiz, Informatiker mit Leib und Seele, Absolvent der IBZ Schulen für Technik Zürich und der Fachhochschule für Technik Zürich, Microservices- und Cloud-Spezialist, Autor von Fachartikeln zu Themen rund um Digitalisierung, digitale Transformation, IT-Architekturen und -Services sowie Cloud und Internet of Things.

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