IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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A multi-cloud approach - what is in it for me?
Mon, 18th Feb 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A recent survey reported that 89% of businesses have, or plan to, invest in digital initiatives this year. But despite the buzz around digital transformation, implementing it isn't always smooth sailing – only 44% fully adopted the approach. Introducing new company-wide initiatives can be a daunting prospect for leaders, employees and CIOs alike, but particularly for the latter when it comes to assessing the best cloud environment for a business.

Successful digital transformation is not possible without core infrastructure which is fast and offers maximum reliability and flexibility. In today's environment, businesses should consider a multi-cloud strategy that caters for their individual needs.

Before exploring the benefits and challenges that businesses ought to consider, I will look at what multi-cloud is and how it differs to hybrid cloud.

Public, private, hybrid and multi – a lesson in cloud 

We are living in the era of cloud adoption. A recent IDC report indicated that by 2019, enterprises' spending on cloud services will more than double to over AU$9.8 billion, leveraging the diversifying cloud environment.

While multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are closely related, they are not one and the same. Hybrid cloud, as the name implies, is a combination of public and private cloud services. For certain businesses, the model enables organisations to tap into the benefits of the public cloud, while maintaining their own private cloud for sensitive, critical or highly regulated data and applications.

In recent years, the popularity of public and hybrid cloud has signalled that more businesses are seeking off-premise services. That said, even hybrid cloud only offers a service, meaning a singular entity. Multi-cloud, on the other hand, is a series of entities that can be brought under centralised management. A multi-cloud strategy is an approach that operates any combination of private, public and hybrid clouds. Therefore, an organisation may have multiple public and private clouds or multiple hybrid clouds, all either connected or not.

Despite the types of cloud environments you choose to operate in, its these technological breakthroughs in cloud infrastructure that has allowed companies to ideate and conceive new solutions and services at a faster pace.

Take the Internet of Things phenomenon as an example. The proliferation of wearable devices, smart household appliances and security sensors has only been made possible through developments in multi-cloud infrastructure. But putting global internet trends aside, what are the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy? And what challenges are there to consider when implementing it?

With multi-cloud, the world is your oyster

It's worth for a moment pausing to take into account the benefits of hybrid cloud first. Hybrid cloud lets organisations take advantage of the scalability that the public cloud offers. It also lets businesses share resources and migrate between public and private clouds to take advantage of resource costs and network traffic levels which are often in flux.

That all said, with multi-cloud, the world becomes your oyster. A multi-cloud approach provides the most comprehensive mix of public and private clouds, and they don't necessarily need to be integrated, unlike hybrid cloud. Moreover, businesses today don't have to be locked in to one provider. Certain platforms are built on open source technologies like OpenStack, which are widely supported by a range of cloud service providers and vendors such as OVH. At the very least, opting for an open cloud gives businesses an extra element of flexibility.

From speaking to our customers at OVH, combining on-premise and cloud infrastructure with a multi-cloud strategy has allowed them to connect to networks in a totally isolated and secure way, via numerous points of presence around the world.

What's more, I've noticed how it has allowed organisations to shift to the cloud at their own pace and take a flexible approach – all while responding to their strategic objectives. This means businesses can control and run an application, workload, or data on any cloud (public, private and hybrid) based on their individual technical requirements.

Careful consideration

While there are many benefits of a multi-cloud strategy, naturally with new process come new challenges. Multiple cloud platforms can open up a wider range of possible vulnerabilities. Thus, they require extra effort to gain effective security, governance and compliance.

Today, however, businesses can take back an element of control and issues can be offset with thorough training for employees on security requirements. For example, organisations can roll out mandatory IT staff training about how to avoid failures in protection and what the reaction to a security breach or data loss should be.

Therefore, successful multi-cloud security requires embracing cloud-based offerings capable of providing continuous verification, analytics, and governance throughout your software delivery and operations processes.

Another point to consider when opting for cloud diversity is maintaining control of your budget. In order to ensure maximum efficiency with a multi-cloud strategy, it can be useful to have an internal team that can consolidate data and provide a cost/benefit analysis for the organisation. It's also important to monitor cloud spends and finetune them depending on current and upcoming projects.

Whichever way you cut it, cloud adoption is not a matter of it, but when. Importantly, if a business is undergoing change, there are a myriad of cloud environments to help organisations manage that change. As technology continues to advance, cloud infrastructure will become a mandatory requirement for organisations of all sizes to develop and grow. To cater to every organisations' changing needs, we're increasingly advocating a multi-cloud approach that will allow businesses to achieve their digital transformation needs.