What is multicloud?
Multicloud is when an organization uses cloud computing services from at least two cloud providers to run their applications. Instead of using a single-cloud stack, multicloud environments typically include a combination of two or more public clouds, two or more private clouds, or some combination of both. By having the freedom to create a strategy that utilizes multiple vendors, you can pick and choose the capabilities that best suit your specific business needs and minimize vendor lock-in.
Increasingly, organizations are adopting multicloud strategies and multicloud solutions to allow them to run applications where they need them without adding complexity.
Multicloud solutions, built on top of open source technologies like Kubernetes, provide the flexibility and portability to migrate, build, and optimize applications across multiple clouds and computing environments.
In addition, multicloud environments work well with DevOps development practices and other cloud-native application technologies that enable portability, such as containers and microservices architecture.
Start your multicloud journey with Anthos, Google Cloud’s managed hybrid and multicloud platform.
Multicloud refers to using services from more than one public cloud provider at the same time. A multicloud environment allows your cloud environments to be private, public, or a combination of both.
The primary goal of a multicloud strategy is to give you flexibility to operate with the best computing environment for each workload.
Multicloud vs. hybrid cloud
Not clear on the difference between multicloud and hybrid cloud? This simple analogy may help:
Think of a hybrid cloud like a hybrid car, which combines two different types of engines—an electric engine and a traditional combustion engine—to power your automobile.
On the other hand, a multicloud infrastructure would be using different types of transport to go to different places. For instance, you might drive your car to the mall because it’s easier to carry shopping bags home but choose to take the train to work since it saves you gas money and helps you avoid rush hour traffic.
Since workloads, instructures, and processes often vary across organizations, there’s a lot of inconsistency around what multicloud and hybrid cloud mean. In some cases they are even used interchangeably. However, these two terms actually refer to two distinct concepts.
The primary difference between multicloud vs. hybrid cloud comes down to the type of cloud infrastructure. The term multicloud refers to using cloud computing services from more than one public cloud vendor for different workloads, while the term hybrid cloud describes when common workloads are deployed across multiple computing environments.
Multicloud deployments interconnect services from separate cloud environments for different purposes without having to connect the clouds. On the other hand, hybrid cloud deployments typically combine a private computing environment (on-premises IT infrastructure or a private cloud) and a public computing environment.
To get the most out of multicloud architecture, it’s important to be able to track, secure, and manage your workloads consistently across all your environments from a single interface, similar to if you were running them on a single platform.
The more cloud providers you use, the more complex the task of managing your environments becomes. Most public cloud vendors not only have different features, but also have varying tools, SLAs, and APIs for managing cloud services. While it’s possible to manage each environment separately, most IT teams lack the time and resources. Multicloud management capabilities should be built directly into the products and solutions of your cloud provider, allowing you to gain visibility across all your cloud environments, track costs and usage, implement consistent security controls and policies, and migrate workloads to increase availability.
Benefits of Multicloud
Leveraging multicloud services can offer many opportunities to increase the IT agility and flexibility of your organization. Let’s take a look at some of the most common benefits of multicloud:
Best of each cloud
Multicloud allows you to choose from many cloud vendors and provides the flexibility to match specific features and capabilities to optimize your workloads in the cloud based on factors like speed, performance, reliability, geographical location, and security and compliance requirements.
Avoid vendor lock-in
A multicloud environment allows you to build anywhere, fast. With a multicloud approach, you’re not tied to a single provider. You can choose whatever solution best suits your business needs while reducing data, interoperability, and cost issues that often arise when you become too dependent on one cloud.
Multicloud environments can be a good option for minimizing your IT spending. Public cloud comes with less overhead while allowing you to scale up or down according to your needs. You can lower TCO while also taking advantage of the best combination of pricing and performance across different providers.
Cloud providers constantly invest in developing new products and services. Multicloud enables you to leverage new technologies as they emerge to improve your own offerings without being limited to the choice offered by a single cloud provider.
Advanced security and regulatory compliance
A multicloud strategy enables you to deploy and scale workloads while also implementing security policies and compliance technologies consistently across all of your workloads, regardless of service, vendor, or environment.
Increased reliability and redundancy
Multicloud reduces unplanned downtime or outages since it reduces the risk of a single point of failure. An outage in one cloud won’t necessarily impact services in other clouds, and if your cloud does go down, your computing needs can be routed to another cloud that's ready to go.
Challenges of multicloud
For all its benefits, a multicloud approach does come with potential roadblocks that some organizations find difficult to navigate. Some of the most common multicloud challenges include increased management complexity, maintaining consistent security, integrating software environments, and difficulty with achieving consistent performance and reliability across clouds.
A multicloud strategy should take into consideration business requirements, design and development drivers, and any architecture constraints that may arise from existing systems. It’s vital to take the time to clearly define your goals in a vision statement that outlines the reasons you want to migrate your current computing environment, the primary metrics you want to optimize for with the public cloud, and the long-term plan for using a multicloud setup in your organization. From there, you can work to create a plan on how to approach and implement a multicloud setup, from assessing and prioritizing your workloads, identifying the right cloud computing environment for them, and the architecture pattern, technologies, and network topologies that will work best for your requirements.
Why use a multicloud strategy?
By having the freedom to move your applications, you can directly control cost, uptime, latency, and downtime, which all directly impact your customers’ experience. On the enterprise side, using a multicloud strategy allows you to avoid vendor lock-in, allowing you to find the cloud products and services that bring the most value.
If your organization cares about any of the following, you’re probably a good candidate for a multicloud strategy:
- Having more flexibility and avoiding vendor lock-in
- Ensuring high availability to prevent website outages
- Developing a strong data protection and risk mitigation plan
- Providing the best latency and load times for your customers
- Acquiring competitive pricing between cloud providers
- Having constant access to network performance improvements
- Following region-specific compliance rules
These activities require more options and capabilities than a one-cloud strategy can provide, especially given the differing priorities, business requirements, and digital maturity across organizations.
The cost vs. value of multicloud
Many organizations often worry about the overall cost of migrating to cloud environments as well as ballooning bills that may arise from underutilized resources or lack of control over provisioning and usage. However, multicloud management tools or a multicloud management platform can be used to gain visibility and governance over cloud resources across cloud environments.
Additionally, it’s important to weigh short-term costs against the long-term value of adopting multicloud. For example, deploying applications on multiple clouds for disaster recovery or increasing reliability may increase costs but could prevent outages or failures that would cause long-term financial and reputational damage.
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Multicloud use cases and examples
Multicloud allows you to back up critical applications. In the event of a disaster or single vendor outage, you can rely on your other providers.
Better latency globally
For a global organization, multicloud can help you better serve customers by giving you access to servers in diverse locations, providing better connections with low latency.
Multicloud allows you to abide by both region-specific compliance rules, with the ability to switch between on-premises, private, and public landscapes from different vendors.
Multicloud deployments can help combat employees using unsanctioned apps or services by providing them with the approved cloud technologies that comply with security standards and policies.
Related products and services
Anthos, Google Cloud’s fully managed multicloud solution, allows you to view what's happening across your entire online landscape from one platform. Anthos streamlines your business activities so that you can have visibility at all times across on-premises and multicloud infrastructure. Although multicloud can be great, without a unified platform to manage your environments such as Anthos, things can quickly get very complex and time-consuming.