Multi-cloud computing is a strategy in cloud system design where you use services from more than one cloud provider.
You can use a mix of two or more public clouds, two or more private clouds, or a combination of both. With different cloud providers offering software solutions targeted for specific workloads, you can use multi-cloud computing to select the best ones that fit your needs.
Cloud computing lets you host your application code and business data on remote servers in different parts of the world. By doing so, you don’t have to manage and maintain your own hardware infrastructure. Add to this the fact that you can serve your customers faster from a geographical location that’s close to them.
Cloud providers are companies that provide you with virtual resources for cloud computing. Popular cloud providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure.
Multi-Cloud Computing vs Hybrid-Cloud Computing
So, how exactly is a multi-cloud different from a hybrid-cloud? In order to get to this, let’s first understand what a hybrid cloud is.
In a hybrid cloud, you combine a public cloud with a private cloud. Additionally, you may also include your on-premise infrastructure. In order for such a setup to be truly considered as a hybrid cloud, the public and private cloud solutions might be tightly interconnected with each other. This creates a highly coupled computing solution that behaves like a single unit.
The terms multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud are often used interchangeably. Since different organizations have different workloads and infrastructure processes, there isn’t a single framework that defines both. To make things simple, think of it this way – in multi-cloud, you primarily use software services from two or more public cloud service providers. For example, using a database from one and messaging bus from another. In a hybrid cloud, you deploy your common workloads and applications in your private cloud as well as your public cloud.
Typically, the multiple cloud providers or cloud environments are not directly connected in a multi-cloud deployment model. However, for a hybrid cloud, the different clouds, as well as your own IT infrastructure, are combined.
Benefits of Multi-Cloud Computing
Now that you know what multi-cloud computing is, let’s discuss the major benefits you’ll get if you go for it.
#1. Choose From the Best
You get the option to try out different cloud providers offering similar solutions and choose the ones that best suit your needs. Additionally, you can combine cloud solutions from different public cloud providers. Using this, you can optimize your tech stack.
#2. No Hassle of Vendor Lock-in
Since you’re not using services from a single cloud vendor, you don’t have to worry about vendor lock-ins. You are free to use solutions from other vendors if that fits your use case better. Most cloud providers now have their own version or service for common use cases. Be it managed NoSQL databases or virtual machines, you can try out different options and choose the one that best fits your use case and requirements.
#3. Optimize Cost
With the option to try out different cloud providers and their solutions, you can opt for the most cost-effective ones that fulfill your requirements. Add to it the fact that you don’t have the added cost of managing your own infra. Cloud providers also have special pricing for enterprises. You can check the different pricing options available and choose the one that’s best for you.
#4. Use the Latest Tech
Cloud providers are always innovating and improving their solutions. This works in your favor as you get the latest innovations in technology. And if a different cloud provider offers a better version of the same service you’re currently using, you are free to use that.
#5. High Reliability
Since you have different cloud providers, there isn’t any single point of failure. Additionally, if a service from one provider is not working, you can move to a similar service from another provider.
It’s evident that deploying a multi-cloud computing strategy comes with a lot of benefits. But is it enough for enterprises to adopt this model?
Why Enterprises Need/Should Use Multi-cloud?
Here’s the truth: there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to cloud computing. Gone are the days when there were limited to no options, and enterprises had to rely on whatever was available. Now, there are multiple cloud providers offering the latest tech and cutting-edge solutions. So why not use the best of the best?
If you look at the pricing for most cloud services, you’ll find that there’s always a separate section for Enterprise Pricing. This is because enterprises often require very specialized services for specific workloads. The pricing is also dynamic, usually based on the compute and power needed. With a multi-cloud computing approach, you can compare similar offerings between different cloud vendors and choose the one that’s more economical.
As an enterprise user, you’d also not want to be locked in with a single vendor. In the event that their services are unresponsive or you’re not getting the required performance, you cannot do much if you’re using a single cloud provider. However, that’s not the case if you go for a multi-cloud model.
You also move past geographical boundaries. It may so happen that one cloud provider does not have their services in a particular geographical region. Well, how would you serve your customers from that region? On top of that, governments often enforce data regulation laws. In order to be fully compliant, you have to ensure data protection rules are met. With multiple providers in a multi-cloud computing environment, you can work past the geographical restraints.
The ability to have your services geographically closer to your end users is also beneficial for your business. Because the services are in the same region, it reduces the time taken to serve the requests coming in from the users. For example, if your users are mostly from the US, it’s better to have those requests being served from a server in the US rather than a server in the UK.
Use Cases for Multi-Cloud Computing
#1. Separate Cloud for Development and Production
Your services running in your production environment, which serve actual customers and generate business for your enterprise, need more computing and resources. With more computing power comes more cost. Compared to it, the resource requirements during development or testing are not that high. So, if you need to use cloud services for both, why would you pay the higher price?
For example, if you’re using reserved EC2 instances from AWS for your production servers, you don’t need the same during your development or your test environment. Instead, you can get Digital Ocean Droplets when you require them. By doing so, you’ll save a lot of cost by cutting down on unnecessary resources.
#2. Handling Specific Requirements
It may so happen that you require a specific service from a particular cloud provider because it fits your requirements. Well, with a multi-cloud computing approach, you are free to go for it even if your other services are from a different provider.
Consider the case where the majority of your workloads are running on Azure. However, you require a highly performant and managed NoSQL database. And it so happens that Amazon DynamoDB is offering you the perfect feature set as well as the optimal price-to-performance. You can easily integrate it into your system with a multi-cloud approach.
#3. Being Global With More Geographical Locations
You might be running a global enterprise that requires you to be in as many geographical locations as possible. At the same time, you have to be careful with the local data laws and regulations.
For example, running a social media network like Instagram or TikTok. In order for you to serve your content as quickly as possible, you need CDN or Content Delivery Networks. There are different CDN providers like Akamai, Cloudflare, and Fastly. And some providers have their presence in certain geographical locations where others don’t. If you sign up with multiple providers, you’ll be able to serve your users faster.
Challenges of Multi-Cloud Computing
🔴 Managing Complexity – With different pieces to your architectural puzzle, it becomes difficult to manage it. As you keep adding different cloud services from different vendors, it becomes increasingly complex. Different cloud solutions come with their own unique set of APIs and tools. You need to take extra care to manage all of them.
🔴 Integration and Data Transfer – You may find it difficult to seamlessly transfer your application data from one cloud service to another. You need to be aware of the different data formats and ensure you’re not sharing any unauthorized data.
🔴 Monitoring and Observability – Although there are different observability platforms available, monitoring different cloud providers and their solutions is difficult. Most of them come with their own monitoring stack. But you’d want to have a single panel where you can monitor everything.
🔴 Disaster Recovery – Cloud services from cloud providers can fail. And in such an event, you cannot let your business suffer. Planning for disaster recovery becomes tricky when you have multiple services incorporated into your stack.
🔴 Managing Security – Because of more cloud services, you are vulnerable to more cyber attacks. Security thus becomes important. There are different kinds of endpoints in a multi-cloud computing approach, and it makes it more challenging for you to manage security.
Use Multi-Cloud Computing to Your Advantage
Multi-cloud computing has emerged as a new cloud strategy for organizations. In this article, I’ve walked you through many advantages multi-cloud offers, including the freedom to cherry-pick services from various providers, cost optimization, and increased reliability through redundancy.
For enterprises, the flexibility to choose specialized services, escape vendor lock-in, and address geographical and compliance requirements makes multi-cloud a valuable proposition.
With the benefits and use cases discussed, you have a better understanding of how multi-cloud can be useful for your enterprise. However, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges associated with multi-cloud computing. From managing complexity to keeping security in check, it requires extra effort and planning. While the rewards are significant, they come with responsibilities.
By understanding the benefits and use cases and addressing the challenges, you can make informed decisions about incorporating multi-cloud strategies in your own processes. There’s an ever-increasing demand for computing, resources, and services, and multi-cloud computing offers you a path of flexibility, resilience, and optimized performance.
Cloud Computing is a modern solution for modern businesses and users. It allows us to share or use resources directly from a cloud server over the Internet, making this technology more efficient, fast, and cost-effective for everyone.
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