Learn more about private vs public vs hybrid clouds

Multicloud is an IT strategy in which the organization uses more than one cloud service from more than one service provider. Examples of multicloud configurations include one public and one private cloud, two public and one private, and three or more public clouds.

Why is multicloud important?

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.

During just the past few years, multicloud has become the dominant cloud architecture. 86% of organizations around the world describe their strategy as multicloud. For enterprises with 1,000 or more employees, the figure is nearly the same, at 84%. Organizations report using an average of close to five clouds.

How does multicloud work?

Multiclouds don’t have to be linked to one another, but as architectures become more complex, they are being managed on centralized platforms. This requires considerable in-house expertise in cloud infrastructure, administrative automation, and management tools. These tools are available from many vendors, including the cloud service providers themselves. Cloud management platforms oversee a full range of functions including provisioning and orchestration, inventory and classification, service request management, analytics and monitoring, security, user authentication, and backup and disaster recovery.

What are the benefits of multicloud?

Enterprises of all sizes adopt a multicloud strategy to achieve a variety of goals:

  • Rein in Shadow IT
    Not infrequently, IT departments find themselves with a multicloud not of their own making, owing to business units adopting technology on their own. When brought to IT’s attention, such “rogue” clouds are generally brought under the department’s oversight.

  • 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 multicloud 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 – even the largest – is completely immune from outages. Taking a multicloud approach, especially one utilizing backup clouds, affords 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 to be held in particular locations. In many instances, this will require a multicloud strategy.

  • 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, the optimal solution often involves multiple cloud providers.

  • 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.

What’s the difference between a hybrid cloud and multicloud?

A multicloud contains cloud deployments sourced from different vendors. In contrast, a hybrid cloud indicates the presence of both deployment types – public and private – essentially functioning as a single unit, with orchestration tools used to deploy and manage workloads between the two components.

In recent years, the line between the two cloud types is blurring. An increasingly common model is the hybrid multicloud, utilizing a private cloud plus several public clouds from different service providers.

Is multicloud secure?

It’s challenging to protect data in a consistent way across multiple cloud providers. This is owing to a lack of visibility across hosts and services plus the need to bridge differences among provider approaches to security. Combining your own security measures with those employed by cloud vendors is a complex undertaking and needs to be well-planned. It’s important to build security into your strategy from the start, taking into account the dynamics of shared security oversight with cloud service providers.

Multicloud use cases

Multicloud use cases are already numerous and continue to proliferate. Here are three of the most common:

  • Specialized capabilities
    Some of your customers require you to operate your applications on Microsoft Azure. At the same time, you want to take advantage of specialized services offered by Google Cloud Platform, such as machine learning and developer tools. You move just those workloads to GCP, creating a multicloud.

  • Application modernization
    You’ve been gradually rearchitecting a legacy application and have been running it in a private cloud. Now that you’re ready to move to a public cloud, you select the provider with the best combination of availability and pricing for this particular workload. The migration process is simplified when you deploy the MongoDB database because it runs identically, with no changes required, both on-premises or on public clouds from the “big three” providers worldwide. Learn more about cloud migration.

  • Compliance
    Your application is served from a public cloud in North America. But GDPR regulations require that the data of German users must reside in that country. Your cloud provider doesn’t have a data center there, so you add a public cloud from a different vendor that does.

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