The Pros and Cons of the Multi-Cloud Trend for Businesses

A growing number of enterprises are choosing to migrate their information and applications onto the cloud. Whether they opt for a “lift and shift” or “re-platforming” approach, business adoption of the cloud is moving faster and wider than ever.

Businesses have quickly discovered that relying on a single cloud solution might not be sufficient to meet their future needs. In 2018, their strategy will be more focused on following a cloud-based model. Gartner foresees that by 2019, the multi-cloud approach will become the norm for 70% of businesses in contrast to 10% today.

Still, adopting this trend requires a general awareness of benefits and pitfalls that come with the migration to the new cloud environment. Even if the multi-cloud approach offers greater flexibility, it can also mean skyrocketting costs, since it implies divisions of labor in the companies among even more providers. Gains in terms of reliability and availability are some of the strengths of the cloud, but managing several cloud environments at the same time risks dispersing the firm’s computing services. Companies must then weigh the pros and cons of this trend if they want to successfully deploy a multi-cloud strategy:

Advantage #1: Choosing the service provider that offers the best performance

There’s a growing fear in businesses of being confined to a single solution. This is why the evaluation of a multi-cloud environment can help companies determine the best performing service provider and adapt the support system to cater to their specific needs. General Electric, for example, revised its cloud hosting strategy by using both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. GE’s goal was to understand which cloud hosting environment had the best performance and determine which contract would allow the best cost controls for their clients. Companies can thus test out different technologies from various service providers before choosing the most adapted for their specific needs and at the best price.

Inconvenience #1: Reduction of acquisition power and increase of costs

Adopting a multi-cloud strategy can reduce companies’ purchasing power. By dividing up their purchases among several service providers, they cannot benefit from cost advantages presented by economies of scale. Companies, therefore, risk purchasing less for more. Costs can actually increase for them in this scenario, and force IT services to deal with several cloud service providers instead of concentrating on a single platform.

Advantage #2: Flexibility  

The multi-cloud approach offers businesses greater flexibility by allowing information services to  adapt the cloud to their specific needs. For instance, one cloud provider may offer better security checks, while another may boast a more efficient high-availability system. By using multiple clouds, businesses have the possibility of opting for a deployment option that is best adapted to a greater variety of tasks by combining the assets of different cloud services to reach their commercial goals.

Inconvenient #2: Management and functionality difficulties

A lot of time and resources are needed in order to familiarize oneself with a single cloud platform. The usage of various cloud environments — each with their own complexities — can become problematic very easily. This means that less time is available to concentrate on other tasks like the creation of new tech functionalities or managing customer service. What’s more, if a multi-cloud environment is not well monitored, operational problems can start accumulating and create obstacles when managing access control or security updates. An effective multi-cloud environment thus requires planning, as well as a certain allocation of resources, since it requires the team of in-house developers to master several platforms and put in place supplementary governance processes according to different environments.

Advantage #3: Continuity in operations and decrease in stopages

The use of a single cloud platform can prove risky, given that the majority of the data is stored in the same place. The advantage of a multi-cloud strategy is that in case of a breakdown or a slowdown in performance on one of the cloud platforms, the applications can keep running on another service. It is crucial to take reliability and disponibility questions into account, as the reduction of risks and of stoppage times allows a boost in productivity and global performance of businesses.

Inconvenience #3: Security problems

Security is of key importance when dealing with cloud services, and even more so in the context of multi-cloud environments, since the data that they safekeep may be sensitive. The increased complexity that a multi-cloud environment approach implies can lead to security drawbacks, especially if the multi-cloud environment is not managed in an adequate way and security updates are not applied correctly. Still, using various clouds can reduce the risk of lost data, as well as stop time caused by hardware failures. By combining several cloud services, companies have the possibility to secure their data on a private cloud and keep other activities running in a public cloud environment.

Finally, a multi-cloud environment means that the team of internal developers have to get acquainted with several platforms and put in place the supplementary governance procedures necessary to handle those environments.

Everything points to expansion of the multi-cloud solution in 2018, and companies will be expected to choose wisely to which degree they will adopt this or that cloud platform, how they will handle its internal use, as well as handling the costs and implementation. To find a satisfactory cloud solution, it is absolutely necessary for companies to weigh all these pros and cons.

All rights reserved: Les Echos/Worldcrunch

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