Cloud computing was supposed to simplify IT environments. Now, according to a recent study by Microsoft and 451 Research, nearly a third of organizations work with four or more cloud vendors. It would seem multi-cloud is the future of cloud computing. But what is driving this trend?
Some organizations simply want to have more options—using multiple cloud providers to support different applications and workloads mean they can use the solution best suited to their needs. For example, an organization’s core applications may need resilient applications that can run even if local power is lost or that can expand or contract their capacity depending on workload.
Other departments in the same organization may need customer management and data analytic and modelling tools available anywhere in the world to enhance productivity.
Settling on a single cloud model would create compromises for such an organization that would ultimately dilute its benefits and the business use case. It’s inevitable big companies with many divisions and their own agendas and vendor alliances will end up with multiple clouds.
According to a report by Ovum, a quarter of European firms are unhappy with their cloud service provider largely due to poor service performance, weak service-level guarantees and a lack of personalized support.
Organizations tend to prefer a multi-cloud strategy to get out of the “keeping all your eggs in one basket” problem that can leave them vulnerable to a variety of issues, such as cloud data center outages, bandwidth problems and vendor lock-in. A cloud application that consistently goes offline doesn’t reflect well on a business and can ultimately lose it customers. If critical data and applications depend on a single cloud provider the ability to negotiate through business disagreements and arbitrage compute and data storage pricing is also constrained.
Data sovereignty and compliance issues are also leading to a surge in multi-cloud as organizations, particularly in Europe, worry about how to comply with current rules and their exposure if they operate in areas where no rules governing cloud services yet exist. Storing data locally minimizes issues over data sovereignty whilst directing traffic to data centers closest to users based on their location is vital for latency-sensitive applications.
While organizations may want to deploy a multi-cloud strategy, the reality is that moving between clouds can be challenging. Unfortunately, no two IT environments are ever alike, and the cloud is no exception. While cloud providers do all they can to make it simple for their clients to move applications to their platforms, they don’t want to make it easy to leave—after all absolute portability would reduce their business to a price-sensitive commodity.
Many organizations are rightly concerned about the downtime involved in moving petabytes of data between cloud providers. Fortunately, the same patented Active Data Replication technology that all the major cloud vendors offer to make it simple for customers to move to the cloud can also be used to migrate data between the clouds.
The recent acquisition by Google of Orbitera, a platform that supports multi-cloud commerce, show that Google recognizes that multi-cloud environments are the future. The ramifications of this are huge. While Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the dominant player in the space, businesses wanting the freedom to juggle multiple cloud services and avoid vendor lock-in may well help the other players to catch up.
In a market estimated by Gartner to be worth $240 billion next year, multi-cloud creates a new front in the so-called “cloud computing wars.” This can only be good news for those businesses looking for flexibility, cost savings and ultimately better solutions.