As a multi-cloud strategy becomes popular, it’s important for decision makers to understand the advantages and disadvantages.
Multi-cloud is a dynamic strategy of mixing and matching workloads across multiple public cloud vendors (e.g. AWS, Azure, Google), managed under one platform, to achieve long term business objectives.
A multi-cloud strategy is becoming increasingly popular among larger enterprises. Many companies already use more than one cloud, as it gives them greater flexibility and even more potential for rapid innovation and deployment.
However, with other possible options available, such as developing a hybrid cloud infrastructure, it is important that those who make the decisions are educated on the advantages and disadvantages of adopting a multi-cloud strategy.
Advantages of Multi-Cloud
There are many benefits to moving to a multi-cloud strategy. Some of the key advantages of a multi-cloud approach are:
The foremost advantage of multi-cloud strategy is the flexibility to innovate rapidly while taking advantage of the unique or best-in-class sets of services every cloud provider offers. This enables your developers to focus on innovation without having to compromise to meet the limitations of one cloud provider over another.
It is no different from the legacy enterprise approach where the vendor dictated the architecture of the enterprise applications through the features. The opportunity to innovate, by using the right set of services, is the foremost advantage of multi-cloud strategy.
While all cloud providers compete to offer the best services and toolsets for everything you need to accomplish, a multi-cloud approach allows you to choose the provider and services that best fit your needs.
For instance, AWS may have the best service for encoding a video, but Google Cloud may be the best – or the only – cloud that can annotate videos to make them searchable.
Each cloud provider has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the features that you need to incorporate into your application, you can pick the best services from each provider to build your app.
All cloud providers have multiple geographic regions and multiple datacenters within each region from which to host your environment. While outages don’t occur often, they can occur and cause major disruptions when they do.
A multi-cloud approach can help you mitigate major IT disasters by not putting all of your eggs into one basket.
Going multi-cloud allows you have to a separate, independent replica of your application on another cloud provider’s infrastructure that you can deploy in the case that one vendor goes down.
Managing Vendor Lock-in
By using multiple cloud providers, you can minimize your dependency on a single provider.
One provider may not meet the required service levels for a particular service. Worse yet, a cloud provider can go out of business or become your competitor.
Depending on one service provider for anything is a risky proposition.
The power of competition is strong.
For a larger corporation with high usage and spend, you may have increased negotiating power if you pit two or more cloud vendors against each other for your IT business.
You can leverage the different pricing options between vendors to choose the service that gives you the best value.
You can select cloud regions and zones that are in close proximity to your customers to minimize latency and improve user experience.
The less distance data has to travel, the faster your application will respond.
Each cloud provider has regions across the world, but one provider may have a data center closer to your customers.
Using a combination of multiple cloud providers to achieve faster speed may be worth it to improve your applications’ user experience.
Disadvantages of Multi-Cloud
Building and managing a multi-cloud architecture comes with a unique set of challenges as well. Some of the primary concerns to consider before adopting a multi-cloud strategy are:
Cloud professionals are in high demand. It’s difficult to recruit for cloud engineers and architects with expertise of a single cloud provider.
Finding developers, engineers and security experts who have knowledge of multiple clouds is nearly impossible.
As an organization, you’ll need to find the right people to develop on multiple cloud platforms, secure multiple infrastructures and manage and operate across multiple clouds.
Cost Estimation, Optimization and Reporting
Although you can save costs by using multiple cloud vendors, consolidating the costs, chargeback and cost estimation gets more complex.
Each cloud provider has varying costs for each service and to accurately estimate costs, you’ll need a good handle on the pricing structure of each cloud to wade through the math and draft estimates.
In terms of usage and billing, you’ll need to have cross-account cost reporting and optimization tools in place to efficiently manage the financial aspects of using services across multiple clouds.
In some cases, if you are moving data between clouds, costs can be higher due to the higher costs of transferring data out of one cloud and into another cloud provider.
When working with a single cloud provider, you can leverage their tools and expertise to manage the security of your app’s data, access permissions, and compliance requirements.
Applications become more complex and have a larger attack surface when deployed on multiple clouds, which increases the likelihood of a security breach.
Setting up a secure network with IDS/IPS, firewalls, WAF, virus protection and incident response for a single cloud is a complex process.
Organizations must consider how they will configure, manage, alert, log and respond to security events across multiple clouds. Additionally, consideration of how to manage encryption keys, Identity and Access controls, SSL/TLS encryption, secrets management, resource policies across multiple cloud providers must be accounted for.
Using third-party tools may help minimize some of your security risk, but securing a multi-cloud environment can be significantly more difficult than with a single cloud provider.
Multi-cloud adds can be complex when it comes to operational management.
With your infrastructure spread out across multiple clouds, consideration of simple administrative tasks – such as how to patch your operating systems, monitor applications and services, alert and respond to events, consolidate logs, backup data, and access your resources – add additional layers of complexity.
Every cloud provider has integrated services for each of these operational domains. You can choose to use these value-add services that can be tightly integrated with one another to get the most value from each provider’s service or you can look to abstract some or all of these to gain efficiencies.
Either way, there are trade-offs between convenience, timeliness, and value.
Organizations can benefit from using multiple cloud providers. You can lower your risk from dependency on a single provider, cherry-pick the best services, make your app faster and more resilient, and potentially lower costs.
But you may find that building and managing multi-cloud applications may be a greater burden to your development, operations, and security teams, and it may be more difficult for you to fully staff these teams. Your rate of innovation may slow down initially as teams adjust to the different environments. And estimating and tracking costs across multiple clouds becomes more complex.
The decision to move to a multi-cloud environment is dependent upon your company’s IT philosophy and maturity and your ability to make it work. Weighing the pros and cons is critical and you must make a commitment to properly architect, govern, and execute in a multi-cloud landscape.