Are you reaping the benefits of your multi cloud strategy?

Stéphane Zema I 9:56 am, 21st May

Cloud adoption has been increasing rapidly in various sectors, with certain organisations opting for a multi cloud approach. Employing a multi cloud strategy comes with crucial benefits, but it involves a specific set of challenges as well. It can naturally be more complex to run compared to more traditional single cloud models. Such a strategy must be properly planned and long-term impacts on the organisation must be considered, otherwise this could lead to confusion between the teams, increased complexity, and additional costs. 

The speed of cloud adoption is accelerating in Europe. According to PwC’s EMEA Cloud Business Survey 2023, 54% of surveyed companies have already largely embraced cloud technology across their operations, and 73% aim to have all their operations in the cloud within two years. 

Source: PwC’s EMEA Cloud Business Survey 2023

42% of these organisations highlight that they already have developed an enterprise-wide strategy with regards to cloud. Such a strategy covers, among other things, their approach to multi cloud for both short and long terms. In reality, numerous organizations are already mature with their approach to single cloud, but it is far from being the case for multi cloud. 

What does multi cloud entail, and what benefits does it offer to businesses?

Multi cloud allows enterprises to deliver applications across multiple clouds, public and private, choosing services from multiple providers.

A first benefit is that such an approach enables them to use the best fit services for their intended purpose. They could choose a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) based on, for instance, its ability to actively support and integrate with open-source technologies, or to offer access to innovative services, e.g., based on OpenAI. 

Going multi cloud could also reduce the risk of being locked in with one single provider. This is entirely true when using loosely coupled cloud designs. However, in some cases, especially when leveraging Platform-as-a-Services (PaaS) environments, it may be demanding and very costly to move workloads to another cloud provider, as such PaaS environments may use proprietary tools and frameworks. 

The adoption of multi cloud can also help achieve a better business resilience. Nevertheless, failing over workloads from one cloud provider to another can be challenging to achieve. As for the previous point, this is possible when true portability can be achieved. In other cases, moving a workload to another provider will require effort in adapting the applications architecture. It is key to highlight that leveraging the availability zones and regions offered by one cloud provider can already offer strong levels of resilience. In such a case, failovers can be natively achieved.  

From a regulatory standpoint, some organisations in certain industries may be exposed to digital sovereignty risks. A multi cloud approach could be used to use specific providers for certain use cases, and host data in datacentres operated by EU-based legal entities, with operations and support restricted to EU residents.

Finally, from a cloud economics perspective, there could be some benefits, as by having multiple providers, organisations could have better negotiating power when dealing with pricing and service agreements. On the other hand, distributing workloads across various cloud providers could also lead to reduced volume discounts. 

What are the challenges of moving to multi cloud?

Increased complexity is one of the biggest challenges faced by organisations when designing, implementing, and operating multi cloud environments. Each provider may offer their own tools, e.g., for backup, monitoring, cost management, or Security Posture Management purposes. It will be crucial to assess whether the organisation would benefit more from the use of cloud providers native tools or from leveraging vendor agnostic multi cloud solutions. Regarding the use of such third-party solutions, it is essential to understand in which depth they support each cloud provider, as some may not support all the services offered by them.

Such complexity will also be significant in relation with applications integration and data management. One of the key risks of multi cloud is to scatter workloads and data across various providers, without having a proper strategy in place to define the best position for each application. In this regard, organisations must implement a clear decision-making framework that supports the choice of a provider and a platform for each workload. 

Furthermore, if an organisation decides to leverage multiple cloud providers, there will be a need to acquire the necessary skills to implement and operate them. In most cases, there will be a need to have separated teams, specialised in each cloud provider, as well as in any third-party tools used for multi cloud management purposes. This is the case for internal teams, as well as for partners, such as Managed Services Providers.

Finally, multi cloud environments tend to expand the attack surface of a company and the use of visibility solutions are required to improve the multi cloud security posture.  

The Importance of a Workload Placement Strategy

Multi cloud will deliver business value to any enterprise. However, it is of paramount importance to have a proper approach in place and understand the long-term impacts of multi cloud choices on the organisation. 

Indeed, distributing workloads randomly across different cloud providers without taking a strategic approach may result in challenges in terms of integration, increased complexity, and higher costs in the long term. If no clear rules are defined upfront by the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) together with Enterprise Architecture teams, it could end up in a situation where developers and applications owners select a cloud provider purely based on individual and teams’ preferences, or available skills. However, the choice of a provider for a particular workload must be done on a case-by-case basis, considering multiple factors, such as how the application is communicating with other ones, what the volume data exchanged is, or the location of the main source of data. 

In other words, workloads with frequent and significant exchange of data between themselves shall not be scattered across different CSP, otherwise, it may lead to additional complexity, challenges in terms of security, networking, performance, and operations. There could be a significant impact in terms of costs as well. Indeed, while sending traffic to a cloud provider is costless, transferring data out of a provider (egress costs) can become expensive. 

In essence, the choice of a provider for a workload shall be made considering various criteria, such as the impacts on the overall architecture, possible regulatory constraints, performance requirements, or among other parameters, the technological stack of the application.

Multi cloud empowers organisations to harness the power of cloud technology, fostering optimal innovation and performance. Have a clear strategy and think holistically to unleash its limitless potential. 

Multi cloud empowers organisations to harness the power of cloud technology, fostering optimal innovation and performance. Have a clear strategy and think holistically to unleash its limitless potential.

Stephane Zema, Director, PwC Luxembourg (Cloud Transformation Leader)

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