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What is Multi-Cloud?

Simply explained, multi-cloud is an IT strategy where organizations use a combination of public, private, and hybrid clouds from different cloud providers like AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, and many similar providers.

Multi-cloud example

A combination of public and private cloud used by an application for various workloads


Multi-cloud clusters in MongoDB Atlas, our globally distributed application data platform —takes the concept a step further by enabling a single application to use multiple clouds simultaneously. With multi-cloud clusters, data is easily distributed across different public clouds, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure, enabling data mobility and resilience without the complexity of manual data replication.

Multi-cloud cluster use cases

The diagram explores various use cases of a multi-cloud cluster


With a multi-cloud cluster in MongoDB Atlas, you can:

  • Use data from an application running in one cloud and analyze that data on another cloud without manually managing data movement.
  • Use data stored in different clouds to power a single application.
  • Easily migrate an application from one cloud provider to another.

Importance of multi-cloud

No one cloud delivers all things to all people. Cloud vendors offer different blends of service-level agreements, availability, security architectures, pricing, tools, and resources for various needs. An increasing number of enterprises will cherry-pick among the various cloud vendors to find the best combination of features for each specific workload. Multi-cloud is increasingly prevalent for the following reasons:

Tackle Cloud Concentration Risk

Experts across the globe are increasingly focused on cloud concentration risk, or the potential peril created when so much of the technology relies on so few large cloud service providers. This is especially true for the finance industry. An outage or cyberattack could derail the global financial system.

Several MongoDB customers in the financial services sector have already taken steps to mitigate this risk adopting a true multi-cloud approach, using MongoDB Atlas, building nodes in a second public cloud provider.

Learn more in our ebook How Financial Services Eliminate Cloud Concentration Risk.

Gain optimal performance for each workload

It’s smarter to choose a cloud with the best combination of features for each application than to tinker with the workloads themselves: A “lowest common denominator” application will likely shortchange high performance to achieve cloud portability. For example, the best option for a given company may be to use one cloud provider for infrastructure, another for development, and a third for performance tools.

Avoid vendor lock-in

An almost universal driver for multi-cloud adoption is the desire to avoid being confined to any single provider’s infrastructure, pricing model, and specialized services.

Minimize failover risk

No cloud provider is completely immune from outages. Taking a multi-cloud approach, especially one utilizing backup clouds, provides protection from the risk of having a business-critical application become unavailable.

Compliance with data governance rules

Data governance requirements, such as the EU's GDPR, sometimes stipulate that customer data must be held in particular locations. This can require a multi-cloud strategy if your primary cloud does not support all the regions where your customers reside.

Maximize availability and performance

Latency can be minimized by choosing a cloud provider with a presence geographically close to customers. For organizations serving users in multiple regions, a multi-cloud strategy may be the optimal solution.

Reduce exposure to DDoS attacks

Distributing your workloads and traffic among a number of clouds reduces the risk of distributed denial of service (DDoS) threats.

Multi-cloud strategy

In a multi-cloud strategy, organizations use a combination of one or more cloud services, like SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS, from different providers. Organizations use multi-cloud strategies for many reasons, like preventing data loss and ensuring they get the best price for all the services.

To ensure a good multi-cloud strategy, organizations must invest in the right people and tools. Some of the best practices are:

Evaluate risks and security measures

Before switching to a multi-cloud environment, businesses have to understand the associated complexities and risks. They should have the knowledge of the services they require, the new risks involved, and new security controls that need to be addressed.

Embrace new IT skills

Organizations should adapt new skills and roles like cloud architect, cloud engineers, and product managers. These roles should be certified in their skill set like DevOps, containerization, and domain knowledge of various cloud providers.

Assess existing applications and overall ecosystem

Before going for a multi-cloud strategy, take a detailed survey of your existing inventory—the current technology stack, how the applications fit into the entire ecosystem, and the business value they bring. This will help in smoother transformation and give better insights on the offerings you’d need.

Choose the right integration approach

If your services are going to be on different clouds (private, public, or on-prem), then the integration between them should be solid. For example, using the Kubernetes operator for MongoDB or the MongoDB Kafka connectors can help to manage the integration of services hosted on different clouds. The ultimate goal is to provide a seamless user experience through a combination of apps and infrastructures.

Prioritize data protection and access control

A combination of public and private cloud could pose many security challenges. Multiple authentication mechanisms should be deployed to ensure the desired level of security. Strict user access controls should be defined to protect data and resources.

Consider overall costs of multi-cloud engagement

One of the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy is cost optimization, mainly because of competitive vendor pricing. However, by adding more services, it is easy to lose track of the costs. This can get out of hand at some point. Consider the costs of factors like integration, performance, mitigating risks, and security controls, as well as human experts, while formulating your strategy.

Leverage vendor-specific services based on your architecture

Choose microservices and cloud native services based on your business requirements. Using containers can improve portability. Similarly, native services provided by a cloud provider are easy to scale and faster to develop and deploy, however, can lead to vendor lock-in.

We are already seeing a rise in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud technologies. About 82% of large organizations are using a multi-cloud approach with roughly 51% hybrid, 21% multiple public, and 10% multiple private clouds. As per Statista reports, 79%-84% of small and medium businesses are expected to adopt multi-cloud by 2023. More organizations are preferring to distribute their workload using multi-cloud and the trend will continue in 2022 as well. Further, container orchestration tooling like Kubernetes and Docker will continue to be the fastest way of deploying and scaling hybrid multi-cloud environments. Cross-cloud integration and serverless computing are some more trends to look for in 2022. It will also be interesting to know how companies blend the capabilities provided by various cloud providers to best suit their application requirements.


multi-cloud usage trends

Important multi-cloud trends to look for in the coming years

Multi-cloud management

Multi-cloud management addresses the challenges of using multi-cloud by providing the right set of tools and infrastructure. IT teams can manage, automate, and monitor any combination of clouds from a single centralized console. Effective multi-cloud management reduces the strain on IT teams, provides them more visibility in monitoring workloads, and helps them enforce consistent security measures across providers.

Multi-cloud benefits

There are several benefits of a multi-cloud system apart from the fact that organizations need not be locked to a particular vendor.

Increased availability and resilience

Effective multi-cloud approach enables seamless mobility of workloads from one environment to another in case of a failure or disaster, thus ensuring high availability. Cloud providers also provide backup recovery capabilities to protect critical business data.

Better analytics and performance

Organizations can create better infrastructure at reduced costs, and develop systems that produce better user experience. They can weigh-in the cost and performance aspects before choosing the vendors for individual business applications.

Automation

By automating multi-cloud management, companies can manage complex workloads and workflows, and integrate DevOps processes. This is because data, infrastructure, and applications can be orchestrated across multiple cloud environments.

Cost management

As organizations have multiple vendors to choose from, they can choose the vendors that offer competitive pricing, customizable capacity, and flexible payment options for different services.

Governance

As per privacy regulations such as CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), some of the data can be stored only in specific locations due to data security concerns and for effective governance. Organizations can do this through a multi-cloud strategy without the need for on-premise data centers.

Challenges of multi-cloud

The main concern of a multi-cloud strategy is data privacy and security. Organizations have to carefully implement multi-cloud strategies with stringent security measures. Some common challenges of multi-cloud are:

Data privacy and protection

Keeping data scattered across various data centers and cloud environments makes protection and privacy a challenge. To combat this, organizations come up with various access control measures, as well as a robust cloud architecture.

Need for specialized skills for multi-cloud management

If a multi-cloud environment is not managed properly, it can create more complexity and add up to costs. A dedicated role with specific expertise in IT cloud management is necessary for effective multi-cloud management.

Growing need for services

As the number of services keep growing, the capacity requirements also increase. If the organizations don't put a proper strategy in place, the cost and complexity of services may quickly go beyond control.

Increased complexity

Security and governance are more complex to handle in a multi-cloud environment. Also, if the right set of products and services are not selected, this may lead to integration, compatibility, and resilience issues.

Integration issues between different environments

Since each cloud platform is different, a good multi-cloud strategy should pose minimal or no integration issues while moving across environments. Containers are a good way to overcome this challenge, as they provide seamless portability between public clouds.

Learn more about MongoDB Atlas

MongoDB Atlas is a fully-managed, multi-cloud database service that provides global data distribution and mobility across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Try MongoDB Atlas for free today.

FAQ

What is meant by multi-cloud?

Multi-cloud is a strategy where organizations make use of a combination of services provided by different cloud vendors to solve their business purposes. For example, they can use one public cloud from AWS, another from Microsoft Azure, or a mix of public and private clouds (hybrid) from different cloud providers.

What is a multi-cloud strategy?

A multi-cloud strategy is the approach adopted by an organization to create an environment using more than one cloud provider for their business requirements. It is important to have a good multi-cloud strategy in order to reduce the complexities and enjoy the benefits of multi-cloud.

What is a multi-cloud example?

An example of multi-cloud can be two public clouds from different providers, where applications use data from one cloud, while performing analytics on another.

What is multi-cloud vs hybrid cloud?

Hybrid cloud is a deployment model where an organization uses a mix of public and private clouds (or on-premise servers) from the same vendor. In a multi-cloud, organizations can use clouds from different vendors. Hybrid can also be used in a multi-cloud strategy.

Why is multi-cloud strategy important?

Multi-cloud strategy ensures organizations evaluate risks and security measures early on and choose the right services and integration methods. Further, by implementing the right multi-cloud strategy, organizations can save costs and deploy high-speed infrastructure, thus improving performance.

Is multi-cloud trustworthy?

Multi-cloud makes the cloud computing environment a bit complicated. Although security becomes more challenging because of increased vulnerability to attacks, it can be handled by ensuring proper methods are in place: - Centralizing the security measures across the cloud platforms - Constantly monitoring threats and upgrading security functions - Encrypting all the communication channels, including communication between the applications, and in the control plane

How is multi-cloud implemented?

To implement a multi-cloud strategy, you have to follow a set of best practices and make a plan based on your business requirements. For example, asking questions like “Why do I need a multi-cloud architecture?” can help you determine how many clouds you need and set your goals accordingly. The next step is to identify the risks and security concerns and select the cloud vendors based on the value added services and unique features they provide. A good multi-cloud strategy also involves overcoming the associated challenges.

What are the top benefits and challenges of multi cloud?

Some top benefits of multi-cloud are freedom from vendor lock-in, cost savings, and increased performance. Some challenges of multi-cloud are ensuring security and the increased complexity of managing multiple cloud environments.