The Multi Cloud
The multi-cloud approach, spreading cloud apps across different service providers, is a new trend that might compete or integrate with hybrid cloud, depending on how users and providers choose to implement it. Though business leaders readily accept the need for cloud adoption with its reduced CapEx disbursement and speedy access to the best and latest resources, many fear locking themselves into a single service provider. Others make use of multiple providers in an attempt to reduce latency problems, and some prefer to pick and choose the most relevant and appropriate product from the range of providers hawking their unique takes on different amenities. Suggests Dell’s UK cloud strategy director, Gordon Davey, “Platforms chosen for a specific purpose will often have less over-provisioning, and will usually out-perform a generic multi-purpose solution. The aggregated cost and performance benefits of using the right platform for the right workload can often make a very compelling business case.”
Challenges of Multi-Cloud Systems
Managing the implementation of and utilizing multi-cloud systems requires strict management and overall consistency. Organization can easily find themselves juggling the features of different products for individual projects, losing track of their business goals in their efforts to adequately exploit the disparate features they have access to across Service Providers. An early obstacle revolves around the differing metrics cloud service providers deliver. For instance, as Peter Duffy, CTO of Sumerian, remarks, “All the cloud providers sell you compute instances in different sizes. So there’s complexity right there from the get-go. If I move a workload from Dell to Amazon, then how many of these should I be buying?”
The complexities around service provider integration create a greater space for cloud brokers who step into the thick of it and negotiate multi-cloud environments for businesses. Business brokers handle contracts and billing, and technical brokers assist in the operations of the multi-cloud systems. Kalyan Kumar, SVP of HCL Technologies, says, “Brokers help in unifying the different services, standardizing the implementations and taking care of governance, risk, and compliance.” He believes brokers simplify multi-cloud implementations, and continues, “They can also provide support and expertise that may not necessarily exist within the organization, such as managing the use, performance and delivery of cloud services.”
Are the Benefits Worth It?
With the cloud already delivering enhanced flexibility and considerable choice, multi-cloud systems distil these benefits further from service provider down to product down to feature. Organizations can cherry-pick and tailor their solutions, disregarding the customizations or adaptations an individual service provider allows. But aside from the complexity this may create, a few other pertinent concerns must be addressed.
An oft-mentioned benefit of the cloud is the diminished expense. The benefits of CapEx reduction remains in a multi-cloud system, and one might imagine that choosing only the individual features required from relevant service providers would be an additional saving. However, most service providers are not providing their individual tools at cutthroat prices, but rather market complete systems competitively. It’s quite possible that choosing single tools from a range of providers to combine into your own system will be far more expensive than making use of a ready-made package from one provider.
Location & Security
Dealing with a range of providers is also likely to mean utilizing data centers in various locations. This requires a certain amount of extra effort on the user’s part, ensuring the regulations and policies of each data center address the needs of their organization. Privacy and security concerns are particularly relevant as many of the cloud services we make use of could leave us vulnerable should they not be appropriately controlled and safeguarded.
For now, the multi-cloud approach is more a theory than an actual system businesses make use of. Without brokers handling the intricacies of the collected services, organizations are likely to find themselves in a time consuming, and possibly treacherous, muddle. And with brokers managing the disparate systems, one wonders how truly distinct and personalized the final combination will be. Nevertheless, cloud solutions are developing so quickly they seem to be keeping pace with, and often outdistancing, our imaginations. Today’s fumbling multi-cloud systems could have a new sophistication shortly.
By Jennifer Klostermann