Multi-cloud server infrastructure arises almost inevitably in enterprises, as indicated by David Gewirtz. Since that is the case, enterprises should consider their management strategy for the multi-cloud environment.

This article looks at what multi-cloud is, why it is adopted, its distinction from hybrid cloud, and ways to properly manage it. Finally, it addresses the issue of responsibility for management – whether you should take the DIY route or use an expert third party.

What is multi-cloud?

There was a time when there was greater debate about public and private cloud, prior to firms realizing that it made sense to mix the two styles in a hybrid cloud.

The notion of a hybrid cloud was initially understood as a two-part model with one public cloud and one private cloud integrated. Now many hybrid clouds have become hybrid multi-clouds (see below).

A basic kind of multi-cloud might simply be a company that is using various types of software as a service (SaaS).

Chances are that multi-cloud will be more sophisticated than a simple assemblage of SaaS relationships, though. What companies typically find that they need is an agile, high-performance platform that makes it possible to consider the risk, cost, and performance related to certain workloads and move them as needed. Multi-cloud usually refers to a blend of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) systems.

Why multi-cloud is adopted

Companies frequently were investing in the multi-cloud approach because they did not know which cloud would give them the best performance. Using the multi-cloud strategy is a way to avoid downtime and data loss that might accompany a defect within a single cloud, noted Alan Earls. Companies also wanted to use numerous companies so that they were not vulnerable to vendor lock-in.

The desire for redundancy and concerns with lock-in are still present; however, incorporation of multi-cloud is now part of the general technical or business objectives of the organization. The objectives that a company might be trying to meet are leveraging the specific capacity, speed, or other elements of a cloud service in a certain area, or choosing alternative providers based on price.

Multi-cloud is also popular because of the issue of data sovereignty.

Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud and public/private components

Cloud thought-leader David Linthicum has written that multi-cloud is the use of more than one public cloud (although private clouds can be involved, as noted above). The use of the term multi-cloud came about as companies decided that they wanted to use different cloud vendors so that they could access different service from each, or for redundancy.

A multi-cloud differs from a hybrid cloud in that it mixes together more than one public component, sometimes along with private clouds (in which case it may be a called a hybrid multi-cloud), while the hybrid cloud is a pairing of a public cloud with a private cloud.

Compared to a public cloud, a private cloud can be particularly challenging to build, noted Clive Longbottom of analyst Quocirca.

“While a public cloud has multiple customers with a variety of disparate workloads (and where resource requirements can be averaged out across them),” said Longbottom, “a private cloud has a single customer with just a few workloads.”

There is a huge difference between a private platform that might have 20 workloads running on it and a public one that might have tens of thousands of workloads on it. For that simple reason of scope, a private cloud is going to be costlier to run.

A private cloud platform will give you greater flexibility and control, though, since you control the entire system, including the software and hardware.

In order to have complete control, a business might decide to use private cloud for a certain workload. As Longbottom notes, though, since a private cloud has a higher cost, it only makes sense to use it when the value of using it exceeds the added expense.

Keys to proper multi-cloud management

Here are some strategies to manage a multi-cloud environment effectively, as indicated by and Kevin Casey in The Enterprisers Project:

Map your network comprehensively, and look for the places in which cloud is implemented. In order to meet the continuing needs of business managers and other customers, get a sense of how cloud fits into your overall infrastructure.

Use companies that are extremely responsive when unforeseen circumstances arise. You want your providers to give you regular updates on services and parameters.

Become knowledgeable of the native interface of each individual cloud vendor. Start by managing providers one at a time, then transition toward a standardized governance of your multi-cloud ecosystem.

Automate low-grade maintenance and tracking. Keep your oversight as low as you can, especially since cloud is supposed to improve efficiency and reduce cost.

Watch what your users do. It is important that you understand the actual manner in which people are interacting with your systems and apps. The way that the tool is put to work that tells you how it is improving productivity and possible areas for upgrades.

Prioritize cost controls. It makes buying trickier when you have various providers. Make sure your purchasing flow is agile. Regularly review services and look for possible replacements.

Have a strong resource tracking plan. Think like a bookkeeper or accountant when you are managing multi-cloud. Map which business objectives and services are connected to which cloud resources, so you can optimize your resources and scale out any successes you have to the whole company.

Use a data center management system that has been developed for virtual backends. You will have difficulty with your multi-cloud plan if your management approach is structured in terms of physical, traditional parameters.

Spend a little money upfront on your multi-cloud strategy; this will make it likelier that your plan works long-term. The result of initial investment is better ongoing productivity and efficiency.

Keep investing in your in-house systems and personnel. The effort to manage a multi-cloud effectively is not about gutting your own IT team.

Determine what apps you have that would best work in a cloud-native deployment. Traditional apps are more complex to create, deploy, and support, while cloud-native programs are easily automatable and scalable.

Automate policy throughout your cloud. You want your management of multi-cloud to be efficient. Standardized policies – which should incorporate rules for security, reporting, compliance, traffic, data storage, workloads, and virtual servers – should be automatically applied to each plan.

Multi-cloud should not be any-cloud. Remember that the meaning of multi-cloud is simply a combination of more than one cloud. Control the cloud environment so that your do not go over budget and experience scope creep.

DIY or experienced multi-cloud management

A December 2017 multi-cloud report in CIO noted ways to pick out a DIY management environment. You want a tool that offers workflow management and automatic provisioning – including the option to automate cloud deployment.

You also want there to be self-service capabilities in place, a brokerage scenario in which the whole staff is able to access services through a catalog.

Multi-cloud management can be sophisticated but does not have to be a headache. At Atlantic.Net our highly available infrastructure stands ready to accommodate cloud hosting projects of any scale and size; and our high-touch, consultative approach allows us to craft the best management solution, even for complicated management setups such as HIPAA-compliant multi-cloud.