What is Multicloud?
In this article
Multicloud is the use of cloud computing and storage services from two or more public cloud service providers (or hyperscalers) 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 hyperscalers like Google Cloud, AWS or Microsoft Azure means you can match the right workload with the right multicloud platform based on your unique requirements for performance, data location, scalability and compliance.
A multicloud platform is also readily available, meaning if one cloud is offline, you can still work in other clouds. Multicloud offers customizable flexibility, empowering you to choose the best of each cloud type for your needs at any given time.
Finally, a multicloud platform provides a level of security that a single cloud deployment cannot. This includes responding to security threats like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and addressing technologies not managed by your IT department.
Multicloud represents multiple cloud deployments from private clouds, hybrid cloud platforms, colocation facilities and/or public clouds in any combination. A hybrid cloud offers multiple deployment modes, with one being a private cloud. Hybrid platforms are typically deployed at a customer's location, such as hardware and software solutions from Dell, Cisco and VMware.
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.
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. Public cloud is a great solution for users or organizations seeking to cut up-front costs without adversely impacting reliability, scalability, security or flexibility.
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.
Choosing colocation enables organizations to dictate the brand and configuration of their server hardware. To do this, they purchase servers, networking equipment, software and rack space that reside in a vendor's data center. The organization must manage their own installation, maintenance, software licensing and backups.
A multicloud architecture supports an organization's business drivers. As you plan and undertake the move to a hybrid or multicloud platform, you must account for limitations that accompany 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. Also consider your workloads and whether or not they can be moved between clouds, including:
- 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 non-critical 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 most cost-effectively 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 platform can help organizations of all sizes support a wide range of critical business and operational objectives. Using the multicloud platform to advance top-line goals enables them to increase innovation, accelerate transformation and differentiate their organization and offerings from competitors.
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 multicloud, then maintain and optimize its company's heterogeneous platforms.
Multicloud management enables you to manage multiple clouds from one central environment. Commonly referred to as multicloud technology or multicloud management platforms, these solutions are increasingly common and especially notable when comparing multicloud and single-cloud offerings.
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 platform. 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 cloud bursting when you run out of capacity. Containers also help run an application efficiently and consistently in different places across a multicloud environment.
Docker and Kubernetes continue to lead the pack in terms of container 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:
Companies are increasingly turning to multicloud only to find they are unprepared to manage the environment manually. This can include spinning up resources, testing them, identifying when resources are no longer needed and taking them down. But cloud automation enables IT teams and developers to automatically complete these burdensome tasks.
By automating your multicloud management process, you can better coordinate disparate workloads, manage complex hybrid workflows and integrate DevOps processes. However, automation requires its own expertise and specialized tools, but you can get assistance from public cloud providers by leveraging features in private cloud platforms or using third-party cloud tools.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an ever-larger role in multicloud platforms and IT infrastructure. This growing contribution is rooted in AI's ability to automate and accelerate many tasks with greater scalability, predictability, speed and efficiency than manual methods.
As AI becomes more sophisticated, private and public clouds could increasingly rely on them for monitoring, management and repair. Once core workflows are automated, AI's analytical capabilities could create better and largely independent processes. The system could then manage these processes, freeing IT and other staff to fully tap the efficiencies of cloud computing and more strategic demands.
Your multicloud platform 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 IT environments, 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.
By prioritizing a management tool early in the process, you can avoid performance issues that will only increase in severity without adequate visibility.
Storage is a vital multicloud consideration. You need support for multiple cloud storage services independent of APIs and interfaces. Data also needs to be translated into the native format of any cloud storage service to ensure it 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.
Cloud storage also increases flexibility and scalability. However, data privacy and regulations around archiving can impact what types of data can be stored in the cloud, so check the privacy laws in your state or region.
Once stored, data management 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 the number of clouds.
Data security is a critical consideration for virtually every environment and platform, and multicloud is no different. This can be made easier as leading 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. However, it remains 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 platform security should be customized to meet each customer's unique needs and guarantee the visibility of your entire infrastructure.
The benefits of implementing a multicloud architecture are numerous, varied and span your entire organization. But moving to a multicloud platform can present significant hurdles. Let's look at each side of the equation to identify what you can expect.
- Choice: A multicloud platform avoids the limitations of being locked into a single-vendor cloud strategy. Boxing yourself into one provider can make it time-consuming and expensive to move your systems later on. Multicloud offers 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.
- Cost: A multicloud approach meets 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.
- Agility: Multicloud minimizes single points of failure by using multiple clouds to host your various components. This enables you to achieve agile security via a reliable form of redundancy.
- Performance: Depending on your approach, multicloud can also support improvements in risk mitigation, scalability and latency, among other benefits.
- Interoperability: To succeed, your multicloud platform requires a multifaceted approach that spans on-premises, off-premises and public cloud environments. As components are moved to a cloud, you may experience interoperability issues with on-premises systems.
- Operations: Multicloud can present networking or new operational hurdles, such as determining where best to place your applications and data.
- Skills gap: 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 gaps: 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 significant challenges. Cloud security and managing cloud speed and governance topped the list, likely due to the growing number of workloads in the cloud and the development of hybrid and multicloud strategies. But it is worth noting the bulk of the challenges were clustered quite closely.
An effective multicloud strategy starts with the planning process. Devoting the necessary attention to maximizing benefits and minimizing complexity, your multicloud platform will be best positioned to deliver the greatest possible value for your company.
The first step is to determine which workloads belong in which cloud. You need 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. Cloud services commonly include API life-cycle solutions and deployment options, but configurations expertise is crucial to ensuring everything works together.
You also need to address whether any of your on-premises services need modifications before being migrated to the cloud. You need to establish clear rules and best practices for building, testing and running the applications you expect to interact with your cloud services.
Finally, you need to address all needs related to security controls, practices and solutions.
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.
However, it had a vast number of applications and data sets and no experience working in a public cloud, which left the customer unsure of where to start. Working with WWT, the financial organization determined it 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.
With the arrival of a new market leader, one insurance company wanted to rethink its strategy of operating multiple business units each using a separate cloud platform. The goal was to share best practices across the groups and provide one operating model for all three cloud platforms. Consolidation would be achieved by leveraging automation and shared services/communities. The insurance organization also sought to evolve its 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.
To drive better business decisions, a professional sports organization needed a way to cleanse, combine and associate critical data coming from more than nine different sources. It suffered from relational data architecture limitations and an antiquated data warehouse pushed to its limits. The sports organization needed to modernize its 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.
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 platform. We provide a robust array of tools and services designed to empower your cloud efforts and informed by demonstrated expertise in the following:
- Cloud data management: Leverage cloud scalability by calling on the enterprise data services available across your choice of cloud. Take the necessary steps to accelerate, protect and migrate critical data for your cloud workloads.
- Cloud networking: Respond to escalating traffic demands by revisiting your approach and expectations related to public, private and collocated network architectures.
- Cloud security: Safeguard the critical corporate assets that you have migrated onto the public internet. Increase data protection, ensure compliance and achieve a more consistent application of security policies — while also simplifying management and operations.
- DevOps: Iterate and deliver quickly to free staff and IT resources to pursue new and more efficient ways to increase customer adoption and satisfaction.
- Cloud migration: Develop a comprehensive migration strategy incorporating your technical environment, organizational structure and business goals to streamline cloud migration.
- Cloud optimization: Capitalize on the benefits of cloud architecture by harnessing the best practices for cloud operations, from capacity management monitoring to automation strategies and tools.
- Cloud strategy and planning: Craft a strategic vision for your business-critical applications to get the most out of modern, private and public cloud platforms. Your applications need to be accessible on-demand through self-service workflows.
- Hybrid cloud platforms: Determine how hybrid cloud platforms should fit into your larger cloud effort. Understand the hybrid cloud intention to ensure applications are running where they maximize value and meet business requirements.
WWT is your partner for public, private, hybrid and multicloud 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 the friction often associated with migrating to cloud.
WWT supports and simplifies your multicloud platform through 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 and our data center and colocation experts can architect nonpublic cloud environments for optimal performance.
WWT offers cloud consulting that simplifies cloud complexity and maximizes 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 leads the way in innovative mechanisms that yield tangible gains and value across your enterprise.
Our ecosystem is further strengthened by 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 platform 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 positive outcomes faster.
Harness the power of multicloud and sprint past your competitors. Let WWT show you how.