At Rishidot Research, we are convinced that multi-cloud will be the foundation of a modern enterprise. We strongly advise our enterprise clients to hone on a multi-cloud strategy because it is critical to retain the flexibility to innovate rapidly. Our internal research indicates that by 2020, most of the enterprises will adopt a multi-cloud strategy.
Similar predictions are made by other industry research firms
- A third of organizations work with four or more cloud vendors – 451 Research
- Organizations already use multiple clouds, they will do so even more in 2017 – Forrester Research
As we have argued previously, multi-cloud is enviable but what is critical for enterprise decision makers is to understand the pros and cons of a multi-cloud strategy and take a more informed approach to their strategy. In this post, we will highlight some of the pros and cons of the multi-cloud.
- The foremost advantage of multi-cloud strategy is the flexibility to innovate rapidly. Every cloud provider offers unique set of services tackling different needs. As the developers focus on innovation, requiring them to compromise on their application needs to meet the services offered by a particular provider will stifle innovation (and it is no different from the legacy enterprise approach where the vendor dictated the architecture of the enterprise applications through the features). Giving the opportunity to innovate using the right set of services is the foremost advantage of multi-cloud strategy
- As a follow up to the previous point, it is important to provide developers right application platform for their workloads. Having a multi-cloud strategy makes it easy for the developers to pick a platform to meet their application needs
- Some applications might require geographic performance needs and not all cloud providers will have a data center in a particular geographic location. With a multi-cloud strategy, there is a much higher likelihood of finding a cloud region that fits the network performance needs
- Some countries have stricter data privacy rules and having a multi-cloud strategy makes it easy to remain compliant with various regulatory needs of different governments
- Even though this may not be a very attractive advantage for many organizations but multi-cloud does offer price flexibility. The cloud providers compete hard by lowering their prices all the time. With a multi-cloud strategy, one can take advantage of these pricing wars to have better TCO for the application needs
- The potential to avoid vendor lock-in. At Rishidot Research, we strongly encourage our clients against pursuing a strategy focussed on vendor lock-in. The bigger risk lies in technology lock-in which multi-cloud alleviates with proper application architectural decisions. However, if vendor lock-in is still your concern, a multi-cloud strategy will help you reduce the risks. Having said that some use cases involving redundancy and HA might lead to higher costs and even limited flexibility in innovation (depending on the services used by the application)
- Multi-cloud adds complexity in management. Managing multiple services from multiple cloud providers is not an easy task. Multi-cloud adds management complexity and, if left unmanaged, could impact the agility and add costs
- Multi-cloud makes security more difficult. Public clouds changed the very idea of perimeter security by extending it beyond the data centers to the cloud provider. With multi-cloud, your perimeter runs through multiple providers and it is critical to handle this with proper networking and security precautions. Multi-cloud also complicates the application security and the complexity increases further when the driving architectural pattern for innovation is more microservices based
- Monitoring is different and complex in the cloud-native world with containers. Having a multi-cloud strategy adds an additional layer of complexity to monitoring
- Governance gets more complex in the multi-cloud world with different services from different service providers. If the driving architecture for applications is Microservices based, the complexity goes further into the application layer
- As I pointed out earlier, there are cost risks associated with certain use cases where applications use internet across providers for redundancy and HA. If you thought VM sprawl inside your data center or unused resources with a single cloud provider is a headache, multi-cloud only increases it manyfold
Considerations For Decision Makers
Yes, multi-cloud adds complexity and there are many problems that could derail your IT, if left unchecked. However, in today’s world where disruption comes not just from your competitor with better technology team but from a technology provider without the domain advantage (think Uber and Airbnb), rapid innovation is critical to very survival. Multi-cloud strategy helps your organization retain the flexibility to innovate at the speed of your business. As a decision maker or stakeholder, it is important that you pick the right set of tools, portable APIs and right application architectures to mitigate these risks and take advantage of multi-cloud for your innovation needs. You cannot stop multi-cloud in your organization because shadow IT is going to lead your organization to a multi-cloud enterprise. Instead, having a multi-cloud strategy with the right set of tools might make your enterprise IT the core part of the innovation team.