Multi-cloud. What is it? And why does every company need it?
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Multi-cloud. What is it? And why does every company need it?

Cloud has become the norm. Most companies these days have embraced at least some aspects of the public cloud as part of their overall business and technology strategy. However, many companies have committed to cloud suppliers for the storage of data or the hosting of applications in a way that leaves them suffering from a lack of flexibility.

Embracing the cloud as a flexible, cost-effective alternative to proprietary infrastructure is an important first step. But without the right cloud strategy, companies can find themselves suffering from vendor ‘lock in’ and this can lead to higher costs and a lack of business agility.

Marcin Dąbrowski, CIO at ITMAGINATION, proposes Multi-cloud. Such an approach can help reduce costs, empower the business with the freedom to pursue the most appropriate solutions for its business objectives, and provide a whole host of technology benefits.

Cloud Computing's Humble Beginnings

Cloud computing was brought to the general public’s attention as a viable technology option for businesses in 2006, with the launch of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Soon after its launch, other leading technology companies followed suit with their own cloud platforms. A little over a decade later, Canalys estimates that the market for cloud computing services was worth more than USD 80 billion in 2018.

Amazon, a relative upstart back in 2006, has remained at the top of the pile. Moreover, according to a Gartner at the end of 2018, Amazon was ranked by clients as one of the leading providers of cloud infrastructure as a service, along with Microsoft (Azure) and Google (Google Cloud Platform). ITMAGINATION is an official partner of all these three leading technology companies and regularly works with their cloud infrastructure platforms. In the case of Microsoft and Azure, ITMAGINATION has Microsoft Gold Certified Partner certification, among others, in the Cloud Platform area.

Simply using the cloud isn’t enough anymore. It’s how you procure and use it that can make the difference.

Despite some early trepidation about security, in most markets, the hosting of data and business applications on the public cloud has become commonplace. Businesses looking to maintain their market share and/or achieve competitive advantage need to be making use of and innovating with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). And yet most organizations would find it both logistically difficult and prohibitively expensive to do this using only their own infrastructure. Cloud provides the option of ‘tapping into’ unlimited infrastructure and computing power in a way that requires no long-term investment in acquiring and maintaining physical machines.

Most organizations recognize the value of having one cloud services provider, but why should they consider having more than one? Why should they consider a Multi-cloud approach?

Multi-cloud can help your business get the best deal on cloud computing and it can help you avoid getting locked into unfavorable overreliance on any one provider. What does it mean to “get the best deal”? Well, different cloud service providers have different pricing models. What might work well for your office in a single country might not be right when you scale a solution globally.

One service provider might be able to provide 99.9% uptime, whereas another can only guarantee 99%. That difference might seem small but if the application you’re hosting on the cloud is business critical and your customers rely on it 24/7, that 0.9% could make a big difference. And what about APIs and the skills needed to work with a specific platform?

If one platform has more APIs than another and professionals find it easier to work with, it could be easier and cheaper to integrate and build your services there. IT decision makers need to consider all of this when they procure cloud service. In many cases, the right provider might be good for one service or application, but not for others.

Having more cloud providers doesn’t mean you end up paying more

Whether we’re talking about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Feature as a Service (FaaS) the specifications and attributes of many of the market-leading cloud infrastructure services are similar.

However, there are some features and benefits that are unique to services like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services. What might seem like a safe decision to work with just one partner might be limiting your ability to extract the best value and features from your cloud procurement decisions.

By not exploring the landscape and diversifying your cloud procurement policy, you might be reducing your potential to optimize costs. Scale up or down at the speed that is right for your business, procure the right staff, or take new products to market. Simply put, no ‘one size fits all’ and working with more than one provider empowers you to benefit from the features that your organization and users value most. Also, the way in which cloud services can be used (i.e. pay per use and flexible contracting models) means that you don’t necessarily end up paying more if you work with more than one provider.

Most importantly, though, IT decision makers, product managers and solution architects should first articulate what they want to achieve with their systems, services and microservices. And only then should they evaluate which cloud service provider is right for that solution. Given the range of options available to us today (more on that later), there is no reason to put the technology decisions before the business objective.

Cloud agnosticism as a key to business agility

As stated several times in this post, it’s important to not be dependent on just one cloud services provider. Enjoying some freedom makes sense from a cost-effectiveness and business-risk exposure. At the same time, there are also huge technology and business agility benefits to being ‘cloud agnostic’. Business should be able to launch their applications on whichever cloud platform they choose, and they should be able to move them from platform to platform (e.g. AWS to Azure, or vice versa) as and when it suits their business to do so.

The process should be as simple as the click of a button or some minor changes to the processes of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD). This should enable them to benefit from optimized costs and the freedom to scale their business up or down in response to market trends and demand. The cloud and its open-source nature allow for such freedom – it’s up to businesses to make use of that freedom and generate business value from it.

Programmers and specialists from the DevOps domain around the world have developed entire toolkits that enable companies to be completely cloud agnostic. Among the most important are technology containers like Docker. It allows application code and data to be isolated and packaged up so that they can be managed by platforms like Kubernetes (which is the foundation underpinning the Google Cloud Platform and Google products, such as Maps, Mail and Search).

Kubernetes operates under the guidance of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which works to facilitate the use of containers as part of a microservices architecture. With so much industry emphasis on open source and facilitation of flexibility and freedom of choice the conditions are ripe for businesses to pick and choose from the best that the cloud market has to offer.

ITMAGINATION and Multi-cloud solutions

ITMAGINATION recently worked on a custom software project that required image recognition capabilities. IBM Watson Visual Recognition represented the best option for us as it provided the most-accurate results. It would be easy to assume that it would then make sense to use the IBM Cloud Platform for all other aspects of the service.

As it transpired, the Microsoft Azure App Service represented a more cost-effective solution, and so we combined cloud services from two different vendors as part of one solution to address the business objectives of our project. It might seem complex, but such is the convenience of cloud solutions facilitated by APIs that none of this integration of multiple platforms or apparent complexity is discernible by the end user. For him or her, it’s simply a product that works.

How can you start benefitting from a Multi-cloud approach?

ITMAGINATION can support companies seeking to benefit from the cost-effectiveness and business agility that comes with a Multi-cloud approach. ITMAGINATION can procure and configure new sources of cloud capacity, move data and applications to the cloud and even build new ‘cloud-native’ applications. Thanks to recent technology advances and the widespread availability of APIs, ITMAGINATION is able to build software and systems that can work with a wide variety of different tools, programs and sources of data that are hosted in a variety of different locations.

ITMAGINATION has relationships with all of the leading cloud providers and our entire technical workforce is proficient in working with cloud. With these credentials, ITMAGINATION is a partner that businesses can look to as they embark upon – or seek to accelerate – their journey to the freedom and benefits of a Multi-cloud IT landscape.

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