It’s common knowledge in the tech world that the vast majority of organizations shifting to public cloud are adopting a mix of hybrid and multi-cloud operating models as part of their cloud strategy. In response, all three of the major cloud providers, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are expanding their service offerings for this positioning.
Correspondingly, the market is seeing an uptick in customers that are using these hybrid and multi-cloud environments. According to a recent Gartner research statistic, over 80% of enterprises characterize their strategy as multi-cloud. This can run the gamut from organizations deploying a combination of providers to create a multi-cloud network to firms implementing five or more unique public cloud environments.
In reality, while these organizations think they are operating in a multi-cloud environment, they are simply operating “multiple clouds.” This is more than just semantics: Multiple cloud does not equal multi-cloud. And not understanding the nuances may leave a lot on the table when it comes to a CIO managing enterprise IT.
Various Cloud Operating Models/Differences
Hybrid and multi-cloud operating models generally align to one of three high-level configurations, with varying maturity:
A hybrid cloud strategy is a combination of private and public clouds, and includes environments with workloads in private, on-premises infrastructure and a single public cloud. This strategy is typically used with legacy environments where it is not feasible to move all applications, workloads, and data to public cloud for a variety of constraints (e.g. data residency, latency, level of effort and complexity to migrate). This option is great for incremental modernization and innovation while remaining on-premise for certain use cases that are not cloud suitable and can serve as an interim strategy for evolution and progression to other operating models.
A multiple clouds strategy is a model that the majority of enterprises actually adopt and is simply segregated environments across multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) that interact with existing private, on-premises workloads. These different vendor clouds, managing different workloads, are often based on an arbitrary selection of services that are not portable or homogeneous across environments out of the box. By engaging with multiple clouds, organization increase the complexity with a higher surface area and do not capture the many benefits gained from a true multi-cloud deployment.
True multi-cloud is a model that a minority (less than 10%) of enterprises adopt. Its features include seamless multi-cloud management, the ability to securely migrate workloads in real-time, and the ability to freely deploy workloads to multiple CSPs in parallel. A true multi-cloud strategy uses different public clouds from more than one provider, offering the flexibility to choose different cloud providers for certain tasks, avoid outages, and achieve compliance and governance goals. True multi-cloud deployments enjoy the benefits of:
- Edge computing -- Increased ability to shift workloads toward edge computing, like mobile and wearable devices and IoT technologies
- Infrastructure control -- Regained control above the infrastructure layer by insourcing and reducing vendor lock in
- Flexibility -- Expanded distribution flexibility by promoting consistency, portability, reusability across CSP through containerization and multi-cloud tooling (e.g. GCP Anthos)
- Operational resiliency -- maximized operational resiliency in the cloud, namely with disaster recovery and backup in the cloud
- Innovation -- Increased access to innovation hubs provided by cloud-native services and independent software vendors (ISVs)
Adopting a true multi-cloud model unlocks edge delivery, reduces vendor lock-in, and maximizes operational resiliency and flexibility of environment distribution. This is imperative for CIOs to take advantage of these benefits, rather than operating in a “multiple clouds” operating model that simply leverages numerous cloud vendor resources without optimizing for the control, flexibility, and operational resiliency that true multi-cloud enjoys.
Taking Advantage of the True Multi-Cloud Opportunity
As organizations move to a true multi-cloud deployment, here are five imperatives that CIOs should consider:
Action 1 - Assess your current cloud journey. Conduct a discovery of your environment to map out the contractual, cost, complexity, and maturity gaps. This mapping will help get to true multi-cloud model, faster, by identifying opportunities to both rationalize migration and augment with new capability requirements.
Action 2 - Identify your must-have priorities. Evaluate your architecture and operating model to establish what should be commoditized, regardless of CSP environment (e.g. core infrastructure components), versus more bespoke features to best serve customers and business partners (e.g. product development and engineering for business applications). This will enable you to abstract away what is commodity to the business and focus on the products that truly matter and differentiates your organization (e.g. line of business, customer facing and revenue generating functions).
Action 3 - Make balanced cloud architecture and technology choices. At each layer of your cloud-native architecture, establish to what degree you intend to be CSP agnostic versus CSP native. When evaluating, consider what will maximize control of your product while taking advantage of the benefits of a public cloud.
Action 4 - Establish the data and service fabric for cloud integration. Enhance your data and service fabric required to integrate and orchestrate the total multi-cloud ecosystem, including CSP-native orchestration services (e.g. GCP Anthos, Azure Arc), network and distributed data patterns, and compute.
Action 5 - Promote an ecosystem of innovation and operational resiliency. A solid cloud ecosystem will be comprised of architectural choices that promote innovation within the context of a resilient technology profile. For instance, some high-tech firms have chosen to leverage public cloud for Dev/Test workloads to accelerate product development, engineering and innovation, and environment standardization to repatriate to the data center for production stability operations, resiliency, and optimized run costs.
Recognizing the nuances of a true multi-cloud deployment is the first step toward making it happen. From there, CIOs can follow a straightforward plan to actualize value.
Matthew Leybold is an Associate Director with Boston Consulting Group out of New York City and leads the Cloud and IT Infrastructure topic, serving Financial Institutions and Public Sector industry verticals for BCG Platinion North America. He can be reached at [email protected].