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Cloud Cloud Migration
18 minute read

What is Multicloud?

Why use a multicloud strategy? WWT cloud experts review the basics of how to quickly and securely store, process, optimize and deliver data in multiple clouds, public and private, on-prem and off-prem.

In This Article

What is multicloud and why use it?

Multicloud is the use of cloud computing and storage services from two or more cloud service providers in a single network architecture. It can include any combination of platforms across a private data center, private cloud, colocation and public cloud. A multicloud approach can also rely on several cloud services, from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Using different cloud providers like Google Cloud, AWS or Microsoft Azure means you can match the right workload with the right cloud platform based on your unique requirements for performance, data location, scalability and compliance.

Multicloud is also readily available, meaning if one cloud is offline, you can still work in other clouds. As a solution, multicloud offers customizable flexibility, empowering you to choose the best of each cloud type for your needs at a given time.

Finally, a multicloud strategy provides a level of security that a single cloud deployment cannot. This includes responding to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and addressing technology that is not managed by your IT department.

Multicloud vs. hybrid cloud

Multicloud represents multiple cloud deployments from private clouds, hybrid cloud platforms, colocation facilities and/or public clouds in any combination. On the other hand, a hybrid cloud offers multiple deployment modes, with one mode being a private cloud. Hybrid platforms are typically deployed at a customer’s location; think of hardware and software solutions from Dell, Cisco, VMware or others.

Here’s another way to look at it. Multicloud is a superset in which a hybrid cloud would be considered a multicloud deployment. When we say hybrid cloud, we are referring specifically to a customer- or partner-managed IT infrastructure plus a public cloud. For its part, multicloud refers to having more than one cloud deployment (private or public) interconnected. The two approaches can be mutually exclusive.

Public cloud vs. private cloud vs. colo

Public cloud

A public cloud delivers IT services and infrastructure offsite via a network. The hosted applications share storage and computing resources with the other tenants on a single host in a multi-tenant architecture. It is a great solution for users or organizations seeking to cut up-front costs without adversely impacting reliability, scalability, security or flexibility.

Private cloud

With a private cloud, services and infrastructure are dedicated to a single organization and resources are not shared. As a result, data storage, hardware and network pools are not accessible by other businesses in the same data center. Organizations use a vendor’s offsite IT infrastructure, with the vendor owning the hardware and the client owning their data.

Colocation

Choosing colocation means purchasing one’s own servers, networking equipment, software and rack space — all of which reside in a vendor's data center. Overlapping with private cloud, colocation allows organizations to dictate the brand and configuration of server hardware. But the organization must manage their own installation, maintenance, software licensing and backups.

Types of cloud architectures

A multicloud architecture is created to support an organization’s business drivers. As you plan and undertake the move to a hybrid or multicloud model, make sure to account for the limitations that may come with existing software applications.

Getting the most from the migration means choosing the cloud architecture that most closely aligns with your organizational goals. Considerations should include how your apps are treated with different clouds, the integration of your data across providers, and the benefits to disaster recovery times. Give thought to workloads as well, including whether or not they can be moved between clouds.

Use of multi-cloud architectures by all organizations
The majority organizations use a multicloud architecture that segments apps on different public and private clouds. 

Edge hybrid: Edge hybrid (or intelligent workload placement) runs time- and business-critical workloads locally at the edge of the network using Intel Optane technology, while all other workloads run the cloud. In an edge hybrid setup, the internet link is a noncritical component.

Analytics hybrid/multicloud: The analytics hybrid/multicloud pattern capitalizes on the separation of analytics and transactional systems by running the two kinds of workloads in two different computing environments.

Environment hybrid: Keeps the production environment of a workload in the existing data center but uses the public cloud for other, non-production environments.

Business continuity hybrid/multicloud: With mission-critical systems, disaster recovery (DR) can be approached in the most cost-effective manner by using a public cloud-based computing environment for failover purposes. DR support is offered by many independent software vendors (ISVs), including Rubrik, Cohesity and NetApp.

Cloud bursting: Uses a private computing environment for the baseline load and bursts to the cloud temporarily when extra capacity is needed.

Choosing the best multicloud architecture can help organizations of all sizes support a wide range of critical business and operational objectives. By using the multicloud to advance top-line goals, companies are finding they're better able to spur innovation, accelerate transformation and differentiate their organization and offerings from competitors.

Managing multicloud

Few enterprises rely on a fully homogeneous cloud environment. Most incorporate multiple environments in their multicloud architecture to achieve their cloud objectives. As a result, IT finds itself tasked with identifying the best ways to integrate, maintain and optimize their company’s heterogeneous platforms. 

Multicloud management offers the ability to manage multiple clouds from one central environment. Commonly referred to as multicloud technology or multicloud management platforms, such management solutions are increasingly common and especially notable when comparing multicloud and single-cloud offerings.

Containers

Known for their agility and portability, containers are small files that combine applications, libraries, environment variables, configuration files and other software binaries. By packaging things this way, a container ensures everything needed to run the application out of the box is included, regardless of the operating environment.

Data stores or services can be built within containers and efficiently moved to the public cloud. Containers are also useful for testing applications across multiple operating systems and accelerating application deployment. Kubernetes has become the go-to container orchestration engine.

With open standards across clouds, containers are the ideal means for moving applications within a multicloud infrastructure. The application can run in any environment, meaning containers can be taken from an on-premises environment and placed on any public cloud infrastructure for the purpose of cloud bursting when you run out of capacity. Containers also help run an application in different places across a multicloud environment with efficiency and consistency.

Current and planned container use for all organizations
Organizations cited Docker and Kubernetes as the top two container platforms. 

When considering container options, Docker and Kubernetes continue to put lead the pack in terms of popularity and preference. Some 65 percent of organizations use Docker, with another 58 percent using Kubernetes — a container orchestration tool that leverages Docker. Other organizations are also choosing Container-as-a-Service offerings from public cloud providers, including:

Automation and orchestration

A growing number of companies are turning to multicloud only to find they are unprepared to manually manage the environment. This can include spinning up resources, testing them, identifying when resources are no longer needed and taking them down. Cloud automation gives IT teams and developers the ability to automatically complete these burdensome tasks.

Still, automation requires its own expertise and specialized tools. You can look for automation help from public cloud providers by leveraging automation features in private cloud platforms or by using third-party cloud tools. By automating your multicloud management process, you can better coordinate disparate workloads, manage complex hybrid workflows and integrate DevOps processes.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an ever-larger role in multicloud management and IT infrastructure. This growing contribution is rooted in AI’s ability to automate and accelerate many tasks with more scalability, predictability, speed and efficiency than manual methods alone can achieve.

As AI becomes more sophisticated, private and public clouds could increasingly rely on these tools for monitoring, management and repair. Once one’s core workflows are automated, AI’s analytical capabilities could help create better and largely independent processes. The system could then manage these processes, freeing IT to fully tap the efficiencies of cloud computing while freeing other staff to redirect time and energy on more strategic demands.

Monitoring and analytics

Your cloud requires steady, focused attention if you're to maximize your return on investment. It starts with developing a sound understanding of best practices as they apply to vital monitoring functions spanning capacity, security and compliance.

Despite its many benefits, multicloud can still create silos and add unwanted complexity. This can increase the difficulty of monitoring one’s IT environment, which makes visibility more important than ever. For this reason, a growing number of vendors have started offering monitoring tools that provide a complete view of a multicloud environment. 

If you make selection of a management tool a priority early in the process, you'll be able to avoid performance issues that will only get more severe without adequate visibility.

Storage

Storage is another multicloud consideration. You'll want support for multiple cloud storage services independent of APIs and interfaces. Also, make sure data can be translated into the native format of any cloud storage service; this will ensure the data remains open and accessible to any system, not just the one that placed the data. Depending on your needs, you can run the storage infrastructure on-premises, in the cloud or use a combination of both.

Flexibility and scalability are enhanced with cloud storage. Still, data privacy and regulations around archiving can impact what types of data can be stored in the cloud. Check the privacy laws in your state or region. 

Once stored, management of that data is the next hurdle. Overseeing multiple storage locations to keep data close to users makes sense but also adds complexity. We recommend exploring available solutions to simplify cloud storage, regardless of geographically dispersed storage networks or number of clouds.

Simplify IT complexities and maximize business value Multicloud Consulting

Multicloud security

One consideration shared by virtually every environment and platform is security. The same is certainly true for multicloud. 

Cloud service providers like Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure understand how critical it is to build in robust security controls and tools. It is, however, the responsibility of customers to implement the requisite protocols and solutions to secure data when it sits in an on-premises environment and travels to and from the cloud.

A sound multicloud security strategy includes authentication policies that ensure users access only the cloud-based resources they need for their jobs. It must also protect the mobile devices those users rely on to connect to cloud services. Multicloud security should be customized to meet each customer’s unique needs. Visibility into the entire infrastructure is a key requirement for meeting the security challenge.

Key multicloud benefits and challenges

The benefits of implementing a multicloud architecture are numerous, varied and span your entire organization. But the move to multicloud does not come without its hurdles. Let's look at each side of the equation to identify what you can expect.

Benefits

  • Avoid the limitations of being locked into a single-vendor cloud strategy. Boxing yourself into one vendor can make it both time consuming and expensive to move your systems later on.
  • Meet the needs of your business at the best possible price. AWS may be right for some needs, GCP or Azure for others. A multicloud strategy makes it easier to optimize for cost and performance.
  • Minimize single points of failure by using multiple clouds to host your various components. This way you can achieve agile security via a reliable form of redundancy.
  • Enjoy maximum choice by tapping different providers to find the best match for each part of your business. Remember that business unit demands for things like upload speed and size requirements can differ.
  • Depending on your approach, multicloud can also support improvements in risk mitigation, scalability and latency, among other benefits.

Challenges

  • A multifaceted approach that spans on-premises, off-premises and public cloud environments is needed. As components are moved to a cloud, you also may experience interoperability issues with on-premises systems.
  • Networking or new operational hurdles may be revealed, like determining where best to place your applications and data.
  • Your staff may not have the skills necessary to solve multicloud challenges. This skills gap can cost time and effort to resolve in the short term.
  • Security is a consideration as you spread your workloads, applications and assets across multiple platforms. The added complexity can make it harder to safeguard data and stop leakage.

In Flexera’s 2020 State of Cloud Report, respondents identified more than half a dozen key issues as important challenges. The top spots went to cloud security and managing cloud speed and governance — likely due to the growing number of workloads in the cloud and the development of hybrid and multicloud strategies. But it is worth noting that the bulk of the challenges were clustered quite closely in the voting.

Cloud migration challenges for all organizations
Organizations surveyed cited lack of understanding app dependencies and assessing technical feasibility as the top two cloud migration challenges. 

Elements of a multicloud strategy

An effective multicloud strategy starts with the planning. By devoting the necessary attention to the means and methods for maximizing benefits and minimizing complexity, you will position multicloud to deliver the greatest possible value for your company.

The first step requires determining which workloads belong in which cloud. You want to take the necessary steps to ensure your business is not impacted in the event of a loss of data. The alternative could be devastating.

Another facet is addressing how you'll manage APIs to enable the desired interoperability among clouds and on-premises systems. It is true that cloud services commonly include API life-cycle solutions and deployment options. But note that configurations expertise is crucial to ensuring everything works together.

Have you addressed whether any of your on-premises services need modifications before being migrated to the cloud? This is another important piece to a cloud smart strategy. You will want to establish clear rules and best practices for building, testing and running the applications you expect to interact with your cloud services. 

The last to-do involves security and making sure to address needs related to security controls, practices and solutions.

Multicloud and hybrid cloud use cases

Financial industry

A retail banking business wanted to reduce the amount of time and resources it spent managing its data center. The goal was to devote a greater share of both to accelerating innovation and creating the differentiating web-based services its customers were increasingly looking for.

But with its vast number of applications and data sets, and no experience working in a public cloud, the customer didn’t know where to start. Working with WWT, they determined they wanted to keep some of those applications and data sets out of the public cloud. The solution included use of a colocation facility and AWS.

Insurance industry

With the arrival of a new leader, one insurance company wanted to rethink its strategy of operating its multiple business units individually, each using a separate cloud platform. The goal was to share best practices across the groups and simplify under one operating model for all three cloud platforms. Consolidation would be achieved by leveraging automation and shared services/communities. They also sought to evolve their new project intake business model to start determining which cloud was the best fit.

The organizational objectives focused on modernizing the business to enhance efficiency and collaboration, spur innovation and sharpen the company’s competitive differentiation. WWT advanced those goals by leveraging the benefits of AWS, Microsoft Azure and GCP. We also recommended establishing a Multicloud Center of Excellence managed by a cross-functional team built from multiple departments.

Professional sports industry

To drive better business decisions, a professional sports organization needed a way to cleanse, combine and associate critical data coming in from more than nine different sources. It suffered from relational data architecture limitations and an antiquated data warehouse pushed to its limits. They needed to modernize their data platform, eliminate choke points, increase the efficiency of data capture/flow and support a more flexible analytics model.

The organization pursued faster access to critical data sets and the ability to allow various types of users to work with those data sets. Working with WWT, the organization was able to restructure its on-premises applications and data sets to run effectively in a multicloud environment. The aim was to help the company become more competitive and, ultimately, win championships.

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WWT cloud services

WWT’s overriding goal is to help you build a smart cloud strategy. That means aligning the strategy to your business and its goals, no matter if you need a public, private, hybrid or multicloud solution. We offer a robust array of tools and services expressly designed to empower your cloud efforts. These resources are informed by demonstrated expertise in the following:

Ranking of 2020 cloud initiatives for all organizations
The majority of organizations are looking to optimize their existing use of the cloud in 2020. 

The power of WWT Cloud

WWT is your partner for public, private and hybrid cloud solutions, bringing expertise in both strategy and execution. With years of experience consulting, building and deploying cloud solutions, we can bridge the skills gap and remove any of the friction associated with migrating to cloud.

With WWT, your project is also supported and simplified through our established partnerships with the three major cloud providers: AWS, Microsoft Azure and GCP. Our AWS, Azure and GCP architects can create a secure environment in any cloud. 

Our data center and colocation experts can also architect nonpublic cloud environments for optimal performance. 

WWT offers cloud consulting to help companies simplify cloud complexities and maximize business value. Our cloud consultants can help you develop and execute a cloud strategy that supports your goals without wasting critical IT assets. We start by evaluating your current processes, identifying the capabilities you wish to add, and exploring how a cloud investment will impact every IT domain. WWT is always looking for the mechanisms that yield tangible gains and value across your enterprise.

Our ecosystem is further strengthened by our long-standing working relationships with key ISVs like VMware, F5 and Tanium, and with OEMs like Dell Technologies, Cisco, HPE and NetApp. We are especially proud of our alignment and collaboration with Intel, optimizing the latest Intel compute, storage and networking technologies to address all multicloud architectures — public, private and hybrid.

In a world in which speed and agility are increasingly the defining features of success, a WWT multicloud solution gives you a powerful tool for enhancing both. Your ability to accelerate and do so nimbly can unlock powerful innovation within your teams and get you to market — and to positive outcomes — faster. 

Harness the power of multicloud and sprint past your competitors. Let WWT show you how.

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