The next phase in multi-cloud convergence

The next phase in multi-cloud convergence

24 June 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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Capacity’s Natalie Bannerman explores the world of multi-cloud, questioning what’s next for the space and the evolution of the trend.

In its 2017 report FutureScape: Worldwide Cloud 2017 Predictions, IDC forecast that more than 85% of enterprises would commit to multi-cloud architectures. Now in 2020, that it clearly the new norm.

Three years on, Capacity explores what's next in the world of multi-cloud convergence and how the demands have changed.

The most obvious question posed is will the trend of multi-cloud architectures mature further, or have we reached the peak?

“It will definitely mature further, and I think the way enterprises connect to the cloud can still be improved dramatically,” says Mattias Fridström, chief evangelist at Telia Carrier.

“Various clouds offer various solutions hence multi-cloud is the way to go. This will really only be achievable if you carefully select the way to be connected to these clouds.”

“Through your service provider you should be able to get the most optimal set up for the clouds you have decided to use and so far we see many enterprises who have reached this maturity in their solutions.”

Speaking to Simon Ratcliffe, principal consultant at hybrid IT services provider at Ensono, he has a somewhat expanded view of multi-cloud adoption, believing its adoption has only begun.

“Far from having reached the peak of multi-cloud adoptions, I think the trend is only now beginning to emerge and this is partly because much of the industry, especially in managed services, tend to hitch their wagon to one public cloud provider or another and, therefore, it inevitably becomes the ‘right’ answer.”

Though many years younger than the emergence of the cloud itself, the needs of enterprise customers have greatly changed between 2017 and 2020.   

“Like many other areas of IT (and life) once something is accepted as possible – for example –  meeting application performance requirements in the cloud, the next need/demand is to optimise it so it can be available to the masses,” explains Justin Augat, vice president at global cloud service provider iland.

Detailing how these enterprise needs have changed, Sanjay Ramnath, vice president of product marketing at application networking specialist, NS1 said: “Some of the most prominent top of mind requirements have changed and tend to focus on: security and data privacy; cross-cloud migration, management, monitoring and service discovery; simple administration and centralised reporting; API-consistency; workload optimisation; and of course, managing spend,” he says.

Over at EnterpriseDB, a developer of Open Source Postgres, Jan Karremans, director of sales engineering in EMEA, is witnessing – along with the convergence of applications and more core infrastructure – a shift in attention from cloud to containerisation.

“All major enterprises are shifting attention, which is an abstraction from infrastructure,” Karremans says.

He says that this drives a change that separates compute usage, for example applications from compute delivery like cloud or data centres.

“This will free up the road to further changing adoption of cloud-like infrastructures,” he says.

Another key demand, unsurprisingly, is cost. However, it is far from the last demand, according to from Dave Locke, chief technology advisor of EMEA at WWT.

“Cost has been a key driver of multi-cloud adoption from the start, and cost reduction remains a key demand we see from enterprise customers.”

“Businesses have seen processes that can be done more efficiently in the cloud or looked at applications and abilities they would like to adopt that reside mostly in the cloud such as AI and machine learning,” continues Locke.

“This need for new technologies to stay competitive, produce the best products, and decrease time to market, has been a key demand from enterprise.”

In May Flexera published its 2020 State of the Cloud report in which it surveyed 750 vetted IT professionals at the start of the year.

Key findings showed that 93% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy and on average respondents use 2.2 public and 2.2 private clouds, making the split between the two even.

Additionally, participants are also experimenting with an additional 1.2 public clouds and 1.7 private clouds.

Looking at the view of the public cloud versus private cloud in the context of multi-cloud environments, we question whether or not it is an equal split or are some better suited for different things?

“The majority of private clouds are still infrastructure-based whereas public clouds offer platforms, functions and capabilities that are not cost effective to build in a private cloud,” explains Ratcliffe.

He adds that while private clouds will continue to be needed for many businesses in the foreseeable future, to support legacy systems for example, public clouds offer a range of solutions that address very different needs.

“Those that simply want infrastructure will see little value in public cloud but those that seek innovation, change and the ability to leverage platforms and services will see distinct differences between the two.”

Drawing parallels to the subsea cable world, content providers and hyperscalers, despite their increasing ownership of submarine cable systems, for the most part enjoy the cost benefits of becoming an owner, but have no interest in operating and maintaining those systems.

The same is also true in the cloud space, which contributes to growing preference for public over private.

“Private clouds solve a number of problems, but in general I think it is becoming less interesting for companies to own and operate their own IT infrastructure, for the same reasons that few people still want to own their own electric power plants or dig up streets to lay their own fibre,” explains David Friend, CEO and co-founder of cloud storage provider, Wasabi Hot Cloud.

The closer we get to unpacking the differences and preferences between the two, the closer we see that hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments are somewhat synonymous, as the organisations that are embracing multi-cloud architectures are doing so across private and public ecosystems.

“Hybrid cloud can be used as part of a multi-cloud strategy. For some enterprises, it may be more cost-effective to continue using a local data centre while expanding to the cloud,” adds Shane Johnson, senior director of product marketing at MariaDB.

“It may make sense for some databases to be on premises and others in the cloud. In addition, it provides a smoother transition to on prem to the cloud as you can simply shift more and more of the database instances from your private cloud to your public cloud(s).”

Were it not already apparent, opting for the multi-cloud setup comes with its own benefits and challenges, meaning that the decision on whether or not to proceed with one depends entirely on your unique requirements and the resulting trade off.

In line with this, Paul Speciale, chief product officer at Scality points out that one main benefits of multi-cloud is “the freedom of choice to pick and choose best of breed cloud services across public cloud providers, as well as enabling data mobility to eliminate concern over vendor lock-in”.

He goes on to reveal that multi-cloud also enables companies to achieve enhanced data availability and durability with data sets spread across multiple cloud architectures, in addition to cost optimisation as they can use the most appropriate cloud pricing scheme for each application across providers.

On the other side of the argument the biggest obstacle is not the technology itself but its application.

“Poor implementation could exacerbate the drawbacks and challenges that cloud customers face, such as increased complexity and overhead of data management, and reduced flexibility in ways the data can be accessed and used.”

“In addition, limited control and tracking of where data resides, and inflated costs with unnecessary copies sitting on multiple clouds or unexpected cloud egress costs when data is moved around,” he says.

Even though we are in an age of multi-cloud, and using it correctly can truly transform a business’s digital strategy along with its digital customer experience and engagement, Greg Hanson, vice president of EMEA and LATAM at Informatica says:

“To avoid the pitfalls, it’s important to work with the right partner, and set up the right systems, processes and strategy to avoid complexity from the very start to take advantage of the benefits that cloud can bring."

 

One of the more obvious challenges is security across the multiple cloud environments and its inherent increased points of access.

“The overall rise in the number of remote workers and IoT or mobile devices accessing the cloud, in addition to the volume of data that can be accessed with ease, significantly increases the need for cloud security,” says Craig Tavares, global head of cloud at Aptum.

“This needs to be vital focus for any organisation, as with cloud being a fundamental enabler for meeting global mobility expectations, it inherently increases the attack surface for different attack vectors and vulnerabilities.”

Another important factor to consider is the management of these different environments, leveraging such technologies like SD-WAN, AI and M2M – delivering a much-needed light tough, highly visible overview of your network.

“Managing networks like before no longer works,” adds Mansour Karam, CEO and founder of Apstra.

“You can't manage networks manually by configuring devices by hand. It has to be done through software and powerful automation.

“You have to have the ability to abstract out all of those network services across all of those domains and need the ability to operate these networks, enforce those policies, set these configurations and verify them remotely in every location where data resides.”

We also can’t overlook the need for resilient, high bandwidth disaggregated optical networking solutions for data centre interconnects, which support the rapid connectivity required for an enterprise to reach its data and applications in the cloud.

“For both competitive and operational reasons, multi-cloud architectures are here to stay and grow and so are the advanced compact modular optical networking solutions to support them,” says Tim Doiron, senior director of solution marketing at Infinera.

Ultimately, regardless of the complexities, multi-cloud gives organisations the required freedom and agility in order to deliver the best experience for its customers and execute on its digital transformation goals.

“An open relationship is definitely preferable to monogamy when it comes to the cloud,” says Aron Brand, CTO at CTERA.

“Insisting on multi-cloud capabilities from your software vendors will help shift the power dynamic, enhance your bargaining position and remove the barriers to cloud migrations.”