By taking that next step of developing a multi-cloud strategy, organizations that are already delivering IT services to end users via a blend of on-premises and cloud-based resources can yield benefits in three specific areas: service delivery, security and cost management.
Why invest in a multi-cloud strategy?
Nemertes Research’s “Cloud, Network and Infrastructure: 2019-2020 Research Study” found that 2019 was the watershed year for multi-cloud. For the first time, the average organization delivered most services — approximately 56% — using external clouds, with 27% of the workload using SaaS and 29% using IaaS/PaaS.
Research has also consistently shown that those who wrap this shift from on-premises to cloud-based in a cloud architecture and strategy are more likely to succeed, whether success is judged by the cost of delivering services or by service reliability. Those that don’t develop an architecture and strategy face increased costs and less reliability.
Defining a multi-cloud strategy
A multi-cloud strategy defines the following:
- how the enterprise will decide which clouds to use for what purposes, including both public and private clouds and all types of cloud platform — i.e., IaaS, PaaS and SaaS;
- how cloud offerings will fit together with each other and with on-premises offerings;
- how the enterprise will decide where data can and should live; and
- how the enterprise will use and secure access to resources and data.
As with any technology strategy, to reap the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy, it must be grounded in business requirements and technology principles.
These business requirements may include minimizing capital costs and variation in monthly Opex and eliminating customer-perceptible service outages. Such services can vary significantly across industries and organizations in both content and priority. For example, one business will put a much higher premium on continuity of service to customers than another, even in the same industry.
IT must also ground a multi-cloud strategy by considering several key factors about the technology, including whether to build or buy, utilize open source or proprietary software, and implement one platform for everything or a central platform with some gap fillers.
IT leadership should explicitly state the principles that guide decisions about how cloud offerings are selected and knit together. They are as important in developing a multi-cloud strategy as they have been in building on-premises portfolios.
Benefits of a multi-cloud strategy
1. Better service delivery with multiple clouds
With a strategy and architecture to guide them, organizations embracing multi-cloud can achieve lower downtime for critical services. Nemertes found that the most successful cloud organizations, in terms of downtime, all have cloud strategies and architectures. They also embrace several other practices at higher rates than less successful peers, including the following:
- use of a workload placement process for selecting which cloud to implement an offering in to get the best fit of platform to workload;
- use of a cloud service broker for deploying and orchestrating workloads in multiple clouds and optimizing for performance, availability and cost; and
- use of a formal cloud workload onboarding process.
Implementing a strategic approach to where and how multiple clouds are deployed and used results in consistency and speed. On average, when there is a problem with a cloud-delivered service, these organizations can resolve it and restore normal service in 29 minutes or less, versus 1,672 minutes for everyone else.
2. Better security
An organization that implements a multi-cloud strategy can raise the bar on security as well. By bringing new services into the overall enterprise portfolio with clear guidance on how users can authenticate data, how it can flow and where it can live, IT can reduce the opportunities for data loss and leakage, weak authentication and lateral compromises from lower-security platforms into higher-security ones.
Successful cloud organizations are also more likely to use cloud-based security systems, including single sign-on as a service and cloud access security brokers. Nemertes’ “2019-2020 Cloud and Cybersecurity Research Study” found use of such tools associated with a 50% reduction in the amount of time required to detect, understand and contain cybersecurity attacks.
3. Reduced costs
Proper care and planning in where and how workloads are spread across multiple clouds can also lead to lower costs overall. On average, organizations spend about 12% more to run a workload in IaaS than they do in their own data centers and about 21% more to run in SaaS instead of in-house. However, the most successful organizations can spend 40% less to run work in IaaS than in-house and about 38% less using SaaS.
IT teams can reach these savings by utilizing a workload placement process. This enables them to consider an offering’s architecture as a factor in deciding whether to move it to cloud and how. For example, it might have branches for performing a simple lift and shift on a workload well suited to IaaS, for implementing a platform to exploit PaaS options in an IaaS environment or for doing a rewrite for cloud.