Clear Skies Ahead: How a Multi-Cloud Strategy Can Benefit Your Business

Todd Matters, CTO, VP of Engineering at RackWare

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As more organizations move to the public cloud, they face an important decision: Should they use just one cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), or should they adopt a multi-cloud strategy, one that makes use of multiple cloud providers?

There are several major cloud platform providers, including AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. The advantage of a multi-cloud strategy is that organizations can reap significant benefits by using the best of different platforms, rather than relying on a single provider for all of their cloud needs.

Many companies are now realizing this advantage. According to Rightscale’s 2016 State of the Cloud Report, companies are using an average of 3.6 separate public clouds. It’s not always on purpose. In some organizations, multi-cloud happens by accident. The marketing team makes the decision to use AWS, while the HR department, operating in its own silo, decides to deploy Azure. And there you have it: a multi-cloud environment.

But for many organizations, multi-cloud is a strategic imperative and the driver for many of them is disaster mitigation. In some instances, the use of multiple clouds can minimize the risk of widespread data loss or application downtime due to a failure in a cloud-computing environment.

Such a worst-case scenario is not theoretical. Indeed, it’s almost inevitable. A recent outage of the AWS S3 storage service sent shock waves through IT departments around the world. The result is that many companies that never pursued a multi-cloud strategy are now giving it serious consideration because it could help protect their data and keep their business running in times of crisis.

“(The) S3 crash will inevitably cost businesses millions of dollars,” asserted Cloud Foundry CTO Chip Childers in a statement. “This is why all businesses need a multi-cloud strategy so they can adapt immediately when, inevitably, one of their cloud vendors experiences a failure.”

Another reason not to put all your eggs in one cloud is buying power. It’s never a good idea to get locked in with just one vendor. A multi-cloud approach lets you play vendors against one another to keep them honest in terms of pricing. Establishing relationships with multiple cloud providers gives you more leverage when negotiating with one particular vendor. Multi-cloud gives you a level of protection against price gouging and enables you to strike more favorable deals.

It also keeps your options open if one of your providers decides to change its Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Say one of your cloud providers decides to change its SLAs in a way that no longer aligns with your needs. If you’re operating in a multi-cloud environment, you can easily move your workloads to another provider. This works too if you’re not getting the level of support you expect.

Companies that pursue a multi-cloud strategy also benefit from a best-of-breed infrastructure. This is a real advantage because, in truth, some clouds are better at some functions than others. Microsoft Azure, for example, may be the best choice for running Windows applications. Google Cloud has a reputation for excelling where big data systems are concerned. Some clouds are known for their secure storage capabilities. Others cater to developer organizations, offering fast start times for virtual servers and low rates for small instances.

I’ve seen some companies that make the decision to use one cloud for production and another cloud for disaster recovery. For other companies, certain applications and data might be subject to very stringent regulatory requirements and thus only safe in the hands of particular cloud providers. By selecting the cloud service best suited to a specific use case, your organization can construct a cloud experience that ideally meets your needs and satisfies your unique requirements.

And then there’s the question of capacity and growth. If you’re relying on just one cloud provider to meet your capacity and growth demands, that could be risky in and of itself. Multi-cloud, on the other hand, can ensure you always have the resources you need to quickly meet the demands of your growing business.

But don’t more clouds mean more problems? Some argue that the more clouds you mix together, the more complex your environment becomes. It becomes more difficult for workloads to interoperate across heterogeneous cloud environments and could also become more risky from a security standpoint. These concerns can be mitigated, however, if your multi-cloud environment is well managed.

The good news is that there are cloud-management tools to help you monitor usage, performance and costs across a multi-cloud environment. They can also bring intelligence and automation to your multi-cloud environment, enabling your organization to easily and cost-effectively leverage multiple clouds without having to change applications or operating systems.

For many companies, multi-cloud is now providing a significant competitive advantage. The bottom line is that businesses are benefiting from better performance and greater cost efficiency by selecting a variety of cloud platforms and technologies tailored to their needs.