Our industry is caught up in the multi-cloud hype but, while I hate to spoil the fun, I do believe many of us have let ourselves get carried away with the excitement. Too many of us are turning a blind eye not only to the ambitious journey to true multi-cloud that lies ahead of us, but the prevalence of the hybrid model that will continue to serve us dutifully until then.
Since enterprises took their cautious first steps into the realm of the cloud, many have grown to combine their own storage solutions in conjunction with a public cloud service. This is hybrid cloud computing as we know it - and it continues to provide the right blend of functionality and flexibility for many organisations. Multi-cloud, by comparison, sees organisations adopt several public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, to undertake specific tasks. The appeal of course being that businesses may pick and choose the best resources from each provider.
But such freedom for our cloud environments is some way away, as multi-cloud brings with it a set of challenges and obstacles that we’re not yet ready to overcome. In the meantime, and for the foreseeable future, the hybrid cloud will remain king.
You may argue that multi-cloud isn’t as far off as I’m predicting, and that many enterprises are already successfully using it. And you’d be right. So, to avoid any further confusion, I think it’s important to clearly define multi-cloud and the distinction between the everyday multi-cloud already in action and the utopian Multi-cloud of the future. Everyday multi-cloud - let’s call it “small-m-multi cloud” - uses SaaS applications like Office 365 in combination with infrastructure from another public cloud vendor. Comparatively, the utopian Multi-cloud, with a capital M, describes the model of complete freedom and control to run applications, workloads and data across any cloud. Whilst we are already using the former, and we may well get closer to the latter, in reality, we will continue to rely on some form of hybrid cloud.
I’m not doubting that we will one day reach that coveted Multi-cloud. After all, it was only some years ago that adopting the public cloud was only conceivable to the most forward-thinking, risk taking enterprises. Fast forward to today and public cloud vendors are, rightfully, considered to be trusted partners. When organisations took their first tentative steps towards public cloud adoption, a popular “dip your toe in and check if the water’s warm” test was to see away with physical tapes and archive their backup data with their new cloud partner. This common entry point eventually led the way for bigger and bolder deployments that lead to the hybrid cloud we know today, but it didn’t happen overnight.
In a similar fashion, Multi-cloud will require a period of cautious steps and tests before it begins to become as prevalent as some predict it will soon become. Until then, there are still many obstacles in the way.
Regardless of any other factors, if organisations don’t understand their own cloud spending habits they will never be able to budget for, or properly utilise, Multi-cloud. After all, implementing an entire Multi-cloud environment and managing several vendors is no small task. According to a 2020 state of the cloud report, organisations are already struggling to accurately predict their fast-growing cloud costs. Respondents reported their public cloud spend was over budget by an average of 23 percent, and expected their cloud spend to further increase by 47 percent throughout 2020. Until the industry is able to better account for its cloud spending habits, implementing something as costly as Multi-cloud may prove challenging. Costs aside, migrating to a new cloud environment requires dedicated time and skill sets that, given our industry’s ongoing skills gap, may not be readily available. These resources would again be needed for organisations to effectively monitor this complex Multi-cloud setup.
As enterprises become more sophisticated in their understanding and use of public and private cloud resources I have no doubt that we will one day see the Utopian Multi-cloud of our dreams, but for now it firmly remains just a dream. In the interim - as technology marches forward, organisations get to better know their own cloud habits and needs, and bolder steps are taken when it comes to cloud adoption and trust - the hybrid cloud will reign. Those who fail to recognise this have their heads in the (wrong) clouds.