What Is Multicloud?

Multicloud generally refers to the consumption of cloud services from two or more public cloud providers. It also often describes specific architectures where an app uses the same service model across multiple cloud providers, in some cases including on-premises data centers and colocation facilities.

Why adopt a multicloud model?

Most organizations embrace multicloud models as part of their cloud strategy. They want to distribute applications and services between multiple cloud services to meet business needs and objectives. They also look to benefit from best-of-breed innovations, cost savings, and risk reduction.

What is a hybrid cloud?

A hybrid cloud is any combination of two or more clouds (on-premises private, hosted private, or public) that can be centrally managed to enable interoperability use cases, such as workload and data portability, and load balancing.

How do multicloud and hybrid cloud differ?

As previously explained, hybrid cloud technically refers to any two or more clouds that are centrally managed, such as on-premises private, hosted private, or public. The term is typically used to reflect specific architectures across on-premises and public cloud environments.

While the term multicloud can be used to describe an application architecture that includes an on-premises environment, it refers primarily to the consumption of cloud services from multiple public clouds.

Therefore, multicloud is not exclusive and should not be confused with a hybrid cloud deployment model. The term hybrid multicloud has emerged to cover both.

The benefits of a multicloud model

Why are organizations adopting a multicloud strategy?

Organizations can realize several positive benefits from a multiple approach. For example, they can gain:

Access to innovation

Organizations using multiple cloud providers can benefit from their relative strengths in certain service types and areas, and compensate for a potential lack in others. Examples include using a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering from a provider that specializes in artificial intelligence and machine learning toolkits or a provider that serves a specific geographic area more effectively.

Increased resilience and reliability

Using multiple cloud providers for various services can also help an organization to increase its operational resilience. This method spreads the risk associated with downtime from potential service outages or data loss across multiple providers.

Reduced risk

By consuming services from more than one cloud provider, organizations can benefit from not being locked into a commercial relationship with a single provider.

Lower costs

Because multicloud deployments help organizations avoid vendor lock-in, they can choose cloud services that are the most cost-effective for their needs. The arrangement can potentially give more leverage to negotiate pricing as well.

Complexity of a multicloud strategy

What are some issues to consider with a multicloud strategy?

A multicloud approach can create additional risk and undermine a cloud strategy's success. A few examples of typical considerations when using a multicloud model are the following:

Management complexity

Navigating through multiple platforms to manage and maintain heterogeneous environments can add complexity for IT operations and development and DevOps teams. Challenges may be related to acquiring new cloud-specific skills, managing multiple tools for different environments, or successfully monitoring costs from the multiple services in use.

Application interoperability

Moving applications successfully between different cloud providers, or between an on-premises environment to a public cloud, can often be a hassle. This is due to the proprietary nature of the cloud platforms each provider uses.

Security and networking

Organizations using a multicloud model can find it difficult to implement and manage their IT functions across multiple cloud services from different providers. These functions can include security policies, user authentication and access processes and methods, as well as networking protocols.