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If you are working in enterprise IT then you will no doubt have heard of multi-cloud, where organisations use multiple private and public clouds to benefit from best of breed solutions and avoid vendor lock-in.

The multi-cloud model

Multi-cloud should not be confused with the hybrid cloud approach. Hybrid cloud means the combination of private and public clouds, using orchestration tools to deploy and manage the two. Multi-cloud is a different way of doing things, a more strategic approach is taken to choose the best platform depending on business and technical requirements. Furthermore, it also brings in where cloud-native applications built from containers use services from different cloud providers.

An example of multi-cloud may be where you use AWS for test and development but use Azure in a specific geography to avoid latency issues.

When to use multi-cloud

Using one environment for test and dev and another to overcome latency is a real-world example of why companies use multi-cloud. Another example may be a company who have adopted AWS but now wants their embedded Microsoft stack, such as SharePoint, to move to the cloud, so they also use Azure.

There are many other reasons to adopt a multi-cloud strategy, including:

Operational advantages from a wider choice of services

Every platform comes with a range of tools, some more suited to your workloads than others, allowing you to pick and choose the best location for each application.

For example, you may develop apps on the IBM Watson platform, but these may need to integrate with applications running on AWS, so you would need to run both AWS and IBM.

Avoiding unscheduled downtime would disrupt your business

Running across two independent platforms builds additional resiliency into your infrastructure. While cloud outages are rare, they are still something that needs to be planned for.

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A solution to help manage costs, performance, and security

Moving to the cloud means conceding control of things to get the benefits. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, you are not tying yourself to a single vendor, so if their service catalogue changes or the services levels decline your business doesn’t have to suffer.

How to manage multi-cloud

When developing a multi-cloud strategy, one of the main considerations is around how you will actually manage it. Running across multiple clouds could end up a bit of a mess – it certainly gets going to be more complicated than all of your workloads being on a single platform.

Some tools, such as Servicenow, have been developed from their hybrid cloud offering to provide management capabilities in a multi-cloud environment. These tools can provide a single pane of glass to manage and administer a multi-cloud environment, giving the IT department full control.

Using Kubernetes goes a long way towards making managing a multi-cloud simpler. There are tools, including open-source ones, that help with managing these in multi-cloud environments by abstracting the application from the underlying infrastructure.

Ultimately, cloud infrastructure will become commoditised and cloud providers will recognise that for many organisations locking themselves in wholesale to a single platform is never going to be a realistic option and then they will work together to make managing a multi-cloud strategy even easier. Currently, public cloud vendors provide tools for integration with on-premise private clouds, but they are not so forthcoming with tools to integrate with their competitors.

Data management

Adopting multi-cloud means putting together a data management strategy that integrates disparate cloud platforms, understanding and managing automation of movement across the new multi-cloud ecosystem.

A key consideration for this ecosystem involves understanding the data and where it’s stored. If a multi-cloud strategy has been driven by acquisition, then the team responsible for this new infrastructure will need to map what type of data there is and where it’s stored.

If you’re adopting a multi-cloud strategy for increased resilience then they will have to assess how portable the data and the workloads are, what it would take to migrate them if necessary and whether or not you can get that data back if necessary? Migrating data and portability are age-old problems and can still prove challenging, although this can be somewhat mitigated by using software-defined storage which decouples storage from a specific hardware platform.

Despite the increased complexity that a multi-cloud strategy brings, it is being adopted by over 50 per cent of companies. The benefits of running optimised workloads, removing vendor lock-in and adding resilience far outweigh the upfront complication around data and perceived management overheads.

If you are considering a multi-cloud strategy, it’s best to start off with a conversation. Get in touch today for a free, impartial discussion about your environment – we can help you define requirements and choose the right approach to take.

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