Multicloud or hybrid cloud: How to make the right choice

Now more than ever, the role of cloud computing in taking companies from “here to there” is considered all-important. Startups and SMBs, nonprofits and enterprises — all kinds of organizations understand how cloud architecture has to be a part of their digital transformation strategy. The days of saying we will get to this next week are long gone. Words like multicloud, hybrid cloud, distributed cloud, cloud bursting, and fog computing are now being used in strategy meetings of businesses from all industries. Among these, people often confuse multicloud and hybrid cloud, probably because these terms imply the same literal meaning. But technically, they’re very different.

The two architectures could appeal very differently to businesses, based on what they wish to achieve from cloud computing for their business. We’ll help you understand the nuances of the two cloud approaches in this guide.

Basics of cloud architecture

Before we get really nerdy, let’s talk basics.

An architecture where a single server is used by a single organization is called a private cloud. A private cloud is about using virtualization and automated provisioning to deliver cloud services such as PaaS and IaaS on assets managed and owned by the organization itself.

A public cloud is more complex and represents an architecture where elastic and highly scalable IT-powered capabilities are delivered as a service to you, via Internet-based technologies. In this type of architecture, the service provider is fully responsible for the ownership and management of datacenters. The three biggest public cloud providers are Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform

Each of these architectures offers unique advantages which are pretty well documented and well known in the industry. When you mix and match, the result is either a hybrid cloud or multicloud. And that’s where things get a bit murky for the layman.

Core difference between hybrid cloud and multicloud

It’s easy to understand that an enterprise can’t simply leap on to a public cloud system at once. That would be foolhardy and risky. Even the clear tech strategy is to move every workload to the cloud, enterprises do it in a phased manner.

During this phase, major workloads are transitioned off to a public cloud, one after the other, whereas many workload capabilities remain in the enterprise’s owned datacenter. So, hybrid cloud combines the use of public and private clouds, for the same purpose.

In a multicloud architecture, organizations use many different public cloud services from different cloud vendors. The purpose of this kind of choice is primarily to buy public cloud systems best suited for specific workloads, and to avoid vendor lock-in.

These multiple public clouds, invariably, work alongside several on-premises physical, virtual, and private cloud components. So, the multicloud is made primarily from your different public cloud systems and with or without a few on-premises deployments and private cloud systems.

Now, whereas a hybrid cloud approach always includes a public and one or more private clouds, a multicloud approach always uses more than one public cloud with the aim to map workloads on cloud systems best suited for them.

The components of a hybrid cloud system work together, whereas usage is mapped to ‘its own cloud’ in a multicloud architecture.

Is it really a choice?

When an enterprise makes its first move to the cloud, it’s invariably to a public cloud system. Here, a typical concern is about the risk of dependency on a single cloud vendor. Hence, it becomes common for companies to ponder whether it makes sense to mitigate the risk by using multiple public cloud vendors (multicloud).

So, it’s often true that most companies always move from the hybrid-cloud model to the multicloud model. This happens once:

  • They truly understand the capabilities of the cloud model.
  • They understand the key USPs of different public cloud solutions.
  • Internal IT becomes mature enough to handle integrations between different clouds.
  • The risks of vendor lock-in become more and more obvious.
  • They begin to feel that the organization’s cloud strategy is being impaired because of the constraints of a single cloud vendor.

The question, then, becomes “why should we consider multicloud?” rather than “which one to choose — hybrid cloud or multicloud?”

Why multicloud?

As companies begin to understand the cloud model, they also start thinking on lines of how they can fully utilize the potential of different public clouds to deliver the best of cost-effectiveness and flexibility to the enterprise IT.

Different types of workloads have different requirements in terms of security, performance, privacy, and geographical reach of the cloud. Naturally, organizations want to use multiple cloud vendors that can satisfy these different requirements. Let’s understand them in more detail:

Better ROIs: Why pay a premium for a public cloud solution when a specific type of workload doesn’t even require the ‘premium’ capabilities that the vendor is charging highly for?

Different public cloud systems are made of different physical infrastructure, offers different capabilities, and are available in different pricing models. In a multicloud system, you don’t have to bind yourself in trade-offs. Find the public cloud solution that offers the best price match for your computing needs and optimize your ROI.

Low latency: When data is distant on the cloud network, apps suffer from latency. In a multicloud system, the datacenter that’s closest to the end users can serve data requests by minimizing the number of server-hops the data otherwise has to go through. When global organizations need data to be served across geographically disparate locations without latency, multicloud is the answer.

Autonomy: In an Internet Trends report for 2017, released by venture capitalist Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, it was highlighted that CEOs of conglomerates have concerns regarding vendor lock-in were on the rise.

The multicloud architecture allows organizations to mix and match vendors and platforms such that their critical workloads are not locked-in to a single vendor. Switching is simple, inexpensive, and often automated, which keeps vendors on their toes to deliver high-quality services.

‘Cloud of clouds’

Whereas hybrid cloud is a concrete position to be in for many companies, it’s well known and acknowledged that the future is about being in the “cloud of clouds” or “multicloud.”

Featured image: Pixabay

Benjamin Roussey

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA. He has two master’s degrees and served four years in the US Navy. His bachelor’s degree is from CSUS (1999) where he was on a baseball pitching scholarship. He has an MBA in Global Management from the Univ. of Phoenix (2006). Currently he lives in the Phoenix area after living in Cabo San Lucas, MX for 3 years. He enjoys sports, movies, reading, and current events when he is not working online.

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