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Public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud … just when you thought you’d figured out your cloud strategy, along comes another option to consider.

Initially, cloud computing involved placing workloads on a single cloud platform in a data center, but public- and hybrid-cloud platforms soon gave organizations more choice. Now, multicloud has also entered the increasingly complex playing field.

What is multicloud?

Multicloud and hybrid cloud may sound like similar concepts – and the terms are often used interchangeably – but they are, in fact, quite different approaches to cloud computing.

Hybrid cloud refers to the pairing of a private cloud (an on-premises data center built on cloud technologies) and a public cloud. Multicloud involves implementing more than one cloud service from more than one cloud vendor – whether public or private.

Multicloud can be seen as the evolution of hybrid cloud, as many organizations are now likely to use multiple cloud providers. A multicloud environment typically combines public-cloud services (such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure), software-as-a-service platforms (Microsoft Office 365, Workday, Oracle) and private-cloud services (such as NTT’s Private Cloud, which makes use of VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine).

The line between the public and private cloud is blurring. Microsoft’s Azure Stack allows organizations to run Azure services in private data centers, while AWS has announced AWS Outposts, a similar offering. And it’s not only the public cloud that’s coming to the private data center: VMware has an offering that runs on AWS.

So, AWS and Azure can now be private cloud and VMware can be public – making your cloud strategy ever more complex. Add to that the rising demands of edge computing in many industries, and it’s clear that real expertise is required.

What does a good multicloud strategy entail?

A good multicloud strategy matches the best cloud service to each of your business requirements and allows flexibility in the consumption of different cloud services as your business needs and cloud capability evolve.

It is not, however, about changing providers on a whim. Rather, it’s about the ability to move between providers without serious application or business implications. Cloud providers work to distinguish themselves with unique features that may add value but can create vendor lock-in, too – making migration to another vendor difficult.

Your multicloud strategy should therefore also include awareness of when to accept vendor lock-in and to what degree. This requires careful evaluation of the potential business risks.

Amid such complexity, choosing the right strategic partner is key to implementing and operating a successful multicloud strategy. A skilled cloud partner will provide everything from management, optimization, patching, disaster recovery and backup services to full security, audit support and governance across public and private cloud.

5 benefits of sound multicloud management 

  • Avoiding cloud lock-in: A strong multicloud strategy can prevent vendor lock-in and leave your organization in control. The flexibility to pick the right tool for the right job means you have access to the latest innovation from all your providers. Amid the rapid evolution of cloud technologies, organizations that are less “locked down” are more agile in adapting to change.
  • Access to expertise: Engaging a cloud managed service provider can raise productivity and offer a better customer experience – and you don’t have to hire additional staff or spend time managing your cloud environment. The provider does the heavy lifting on your behalf to keep your cloud environment operating optimally.
  • Flexibility and scalability: The business needs of organizations can change as rapidly as technology evolves. When your organization grows, your cloud environment must scale up, too. By engaging more than one cloud-hosting company, you can match your needs to the solutions that are the best fit for your business and technology requirements at the time.
  • Cost governance: There once was an assumption that migrating to the public cloud would lead to cost savings, but as organizations started implementing public-cloud strategies, they quickly realized this was not always true. A managed cloud service provider can help you manage your cloud costs and continually adjust your cloud strategy to fit your budget.
  • Access to new cloud models: Your organization can rely on your cloud service provider to recommend, implement and manage new cloud models, technology and approaches, such as infrastructure as code. This means you benefit constantly from the latest innovations.

The challenges of multicloud

  • Disparate processes: When your organization uses a single cloud provider, you can manage their services through a single point of contact or portal. However, should you engage additional cloud providers, you may have to deal with a variety of processes and portals. This may be manageable when only a handful of providers are involved but is likely to become complex when, for example, a large, global organization is dealing with multiple providers.
  • Compliance: When you’re working with a single provider, compliance can be tricky; with several providers, it can be a nightmare. Considering the range of government- or industry-mandated data protection standards now in place, it is difficult to ensure compliance across multiple providers, some of which may, for example, not meet certain compliance requirements in specific regions.
  • Security: It is complex to maintain application and workload security in a multicloud environment. The pressure is on chief information security officers to remain accountable and to protect their organizations across disparate cloud-security implementations.
  • Data management: Moving data between cloud providers can be costly. While deploying production in one public cloud and disaster recovery in another may sound appealing (and it does have some use cases), it can also be expensive.

Making the right choice

Multicloud strategies give you more agility, flexibility and choice, but you must follow best practices to reap these benefits – and vendor selection is the all-important first step.

CIOs and CTOs need to understand the full scope of variables: pricing, security and compliance, service-level agreements and platforms. Not all cloud providers are created equal, and the provider of choice must meet all your requirements.

A managed cloud services provider such as NTT’s Global Managed Services offers everything that you need to make a success of your multicloud strategy. We can help you through every phase – from planning and migration to security and optimization.

If you’re ready to start your multicloud journey, contact our Global Managed Services professionals.

Rob Sears is Vice President of Service Offer Management at NTT