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Multicloud as a service (MCaaS) is, as the name suggests, a way of hosting your computing, apps and data across multiple clouds that are managed and optimized by a third party on your behalf.

Clients who have signed up for this relatively new concept can therefore be confident that they have the right resources and data in the right place at the right time.

Depending on where you are on your organization’s cloud journey, you may already understand the benefits of a MCaaS approach – in which case, jump in and learn more about how we can support you with our Managed Cloud Services.

If you’re new to the idea, stay here and we’ll explain not just what multicloud is and how it differs from other forms of cloud or on-premises computing, but also how “as a service” applies to multicloud.

What is multicloud?

Multicloud refers to the use of multiple cloud computing services from two or more cloud providers to run their applications. It can be two private clouds, two or more public clouds or a combination of these. This can be part of a deliberate strategy, or an unintended outcome of mergers and acquisitions and/or having business units in several countries.

In the not-too-distant past, before multicloud, the big decision for many organizations was whether to move to the cloud at all and rely on a single cloud provider. Why not simply keep everything on-premises, under your own control? Should you even trust a third party with hosting your computing, applications and data? What about the inevitable risks and the additional costs?

Increasingly, though, the world has realized that the pros – the ability to quickly spin up additional space, move workloads or scale up and down as needed – outweigh the potential cons.

More and more forward-thinking organizations are moving some or all of their workloads and data to the cloud. Being a hybrid-cloud user is becoming the norm, even while some executives are still pondering the options.

Multicloud, single cloud or hybrid cloud?

If your organization has not yet migrated your computing, applications and data to the cloud, you may not be ready for one public-cloud provider, let alone many. On the other hand, if you’re already in hybrid-cloud mode – with your computing, applications and data spread across your on-premises infrastructure and a single cloud provider – you may wonder if being tied to just one third-party provider presents a risk.

Or, you may already have a sprawling cloud estate. Whether that’s through planned diversification, organic growth, acquisitions or mergers, dealing with too many cloud providers could now be a concern. It can be complex to manage the workloads, changes, contracts and more that such an environment requires. Your in-house team now needs knowledge and expertise spanning different platforms, which can put additional strain on staff and resource allocation.

That said, there are many benefits, too.

Multicloud versus one cloud

Multicloud refers to the use of more than one cloud provider, which helps to avoid vendor lock-in. While there are advantages to having a close relationship with a single cloud provider, the downside is that you may find yourself exposed to performance issues, unnecessarily high costs and fewer options than a variety of cloud providers would offer.

Pursuing a multicloud strategy may deliver more agility, resilience and flexibility, with less risk. Let’s consider each of these points:

  • More agility: If you choose to use a single cloud, then you are restricted to the technology or functionality of one cloud provider. You may cast a curious eye at what other cloud providers offer, but as long as you are staying true to a one-cloud approach, you will not be able to adopt new solutions that arise elsewhere.
  • More flexibility: Using multiple clouds makes it easier to consider the best location for each workload by taking into account variables such as geographical location, price, performance, security and compliance requirements.
  • Less risk: When your users have access to a wider range of officially sanctioned cloud options from different providers, they can more easily find solutions that suit their needs. This can reduce the risk of “shadow IT”, where users independently sign up for cloud services from unapproved providers. This may suit their short-term needs, but it can present significant security, licensing and compatibility issues later. If you don’t have a clear view of where your workloads are and how to access them, then your compliance and governance standards will be hard to uphold.
  • More resilience: Downtime is a real downer – but it is less likely to be an issue if you have embarked on a multicloud strategy. With workloads in different clouds, you can mitigate the effects of outages and downtime, considerably reducing your vulnerability and risk.

Multicloud versus hybrid cloud

This is not a straightforward comparison, because multicloud and hybrid cloud are not separate entities – you can have both at the same time. The designation of “hybrid” just refers to the fact that you have on-premises architecture as part of your setup.

However, if you are using two or more public-cloud providers alongside your private-cloud environment – for example, having application workloads in an Amazon Web Services cloud and databases in a Microsoft Azure cloud – then you’re using both hybrid cloud and multicloud.

Such a dual status is not uncommon when many organizations are at different stages of their journey to the cloud. It can take them a while to reach their goal of being entirely in the cloud: some applications and workloads may not yet be suitable for migration to the public cloud.

What is multicloud as a service?

Multicloud comes into its own when it is offered to organizations as a managed service. It delivers the benefits of more control, greater expertise and significant cost savings.

With the managed service model, you get a dedicated MCaaS team to support you at a global level – one that’s able to help you execute your digital strategy while ensuring that all technical aspects are under control. They will proactively issue alerts about potential issues and keep your apps and data safe and secure.

In this way, you can easily maintain a multicloud approach with all the upsides that come from deploying your workloads across different cloud providers, but none of the downsides. MCaaS also supports streamlined consolidation, mergers and acquisitions. You now have access to a centralized team of experts who are fully aware of every development and potential opportunity, without the unwanted costs of a disparate and underresourced in-house team.

MCaaS ultimately means multiple clouds but only one monthly invoice – and, best of all, a single dashboard for a unified view of your estate.

How to define your strategy for multicloud as a service

Your MCaaS strategy will, of course, depend on your objectives. And those are likely to be derived from your organization’s current status and where you would like to be. If you’re solely on-premises or in hybrid mode with just a single cloud provider, then your first concern may be about adopting a multicloud approach.

If you are already working across multiple clouds, it may be time to consider how multicloud as a service can work for you. This is where a managed service provider like NTT can help you bring everything under control, improving your security and agility while delivering the maximum bang for your buck.

How mature is your cloud strategy? Take our cloud maturity assessment and find out.

Amit Gandhi is Vice President: Marketing, Managed Cloud and Infrastructure Services at NTT