What is Multi-Cloud? A simple explanation

What is Multicloud? In this post we see how multicloud can help you simplify and improve your cloud infrastructure

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Cloud is out there, and everybody knows it. Still, not everyone knows the concept of multi-cloud. In this brief post, we will see what is multi-cloud, why it is important, and what are its benefits.

About the cloud

Cloud is the buzzword in the IT world. In fact, everybody is talking about it – for years. However, not everyone may know exactly what cloud is, so we better make this straight.

In short, the cloud is an abstract place where you can get IT services on-demand. Services can be of any kind, for example, storage: think about OneDrive or Dropbox. It can be a service providing you Video-on-demand, like Netflix or Prime Video.

However, the cloud we mean here is more appealing to companies rather than single users. In fact, you don’t get video-on-demand, but computing power, infrastructure, platforms, and so on.

You can get everything as a service, meaning that you pay only for what you use. Typically, you don’t have any setup fees either. If you want to know more about the as-a-service concept, read this article about IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

What is Multi-Cloud?

Now that we refreshed our minds about the cloud, we can talk about multi-cloud.

In short, multi-cloud means having multiple cloud providers, at the same time. You don’t get all your computing power and storage from a single provider, but at least from two.

You can have many reasons to have a multi-cloud, as well as some challenges. First of all, you need to decide when to use a provider and when to use another.

In multicloud you deal with multiple cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Alibaba Cloud.
Cloud providers: AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Alibaba Cloud.

There are many cloud providers out there, but the top four hold virtually all the market. I am talking about Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. If you are serious about multi-cloud, you are going to work with a few of those for sure.

However, multi-cloud doesn’t mean you simply subscribe to more than a single cloud platform. It means you use a single platform to control all your clouds. If you run a single cloud provider, the provider will give you the platform to manage it. However, if you run multiple providers, you will have to use your own overlay to control them all.

What is multicloud? Multicloud is an overlay over existing cloud paltform
Multicloud is on top of cloud providers.

By using your overlay, all the clouds are uniform and you can seamlessly distribute resources among them.

The benefits of multi-cloud

Understanding what is multi-cloud was fairly easy, and so is understanding their benefits. In fact, many of those benefits don’t need a long explanation.

The most important part is that you avoid any lock-in. You will never be stuck with a single cloud provider. Since your overlay can request resources to any of the providers you are using, it will be easy for you to move away from a provider. Just ask the resources you were asking to that provider to another one.

Another key benefit is cost optimization. You can get each resource from the provider that sells it at the lowest price.

Increased redundancy is another great improvement you bring on the table. Even if each cloud provider puts in place plenty of measures to prevent failures and downtimes if you have multiple providers you protect yourself even more.

Furthermore, you will have a capillary presence of data centers. In the end, providers source clouds from data centers, and you can know their locations. If you run a single provider, you can only get resources in their data centers. Instead, if you run multiple providers, you can get resources in any location of all your providers. This can be a major improvement if you want to expand in China (in that case look at Alibaba).

The challenges of multi-cloud

Multi-cloud is not for everyone. It brings some challenges into the picture, and you need to evaluate if the benefits outweigh them. Normally, the more resources you are putting in the cloud, the more the benefits offset the challenges.

The first challenge is that you have to run your own multi-cloud overlay. This can be a server (possibly in the cloud), a custom software, or an as-a-service solution. Depending on which one you use, this may translate into an additional administrative burden or more cost.

You also need to forget about native integrations in most cases. In fact, if you have something that directly integrates with – say – Azure APIs, you cannot use it any more directly. It has to use the APIs of your overlay, which then will engage Azure. In this way, you can later migrate transparently to another cloud provider. You may workaround that by having an overlay that accepts calls in Azure-style (as well as any other language used by the other providers).

If you truly want to be able to migrate resources from a provider to another at will, you will have to limit the resources you can use. In fact, you will use only the type of resources that are available in all the provider you are using. Only in this way you are sure you can migrate from one provider to another whenever you want.

In summary

What is multi-cloud? Multi-cloud is an overlay on existing cloud providers to manage multiple of them as if they were one. Large companies may use that to avoid lock-in, optimize costs, improve redundancy, or have a broader geographical reach with their datacenters.

To implement multi-cloud you need to build, configure, or buy a multi-cloud overlay and use always that instead of native API calls to the providers. Furthermore, if you want to migrate your resources between providers seamlessly, you can only use the resources that all the cloud providers have to offer. Is something is not offered by all your providers, forget about it (or put different rules for it).

Are you considering multi-cloud? What does it give to you?

Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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