Comprehensive Guide to Multi-Cloud Strategies

Introduction to Multi-Cloud Strategies

Effective multi-cloud strategies help optimize performance and enhance security. Learn best practices for a winning strategy. 

Businesses using a cloud-forward perspective in their network operations need to optimize their operations by investing in a strong multi-cloud strategy. A multi-cloud network uses a combination of public clouds, private clouds, on-premises data, and app management. But without a comprehensive multi-cloud strategy, companies may not be positioned to scale and grow into a secure, reliable future. This article will outline the benefits and challenges of adopting a multi-cloud strategy. 

Why Is a Strong Multi-Cloud Strategy Important?

When a company decides to use a public cloud (like Microsoft Azure or AWS), either by itself or integrated with a private cloud and/or its on-premises network, there must be strategic thinking behind the decision. While it’s true that deploying a multi-cloud solution is a wise move for companies wanting to realize the benefits of growing, scaling, and securing data in the cloud, it’s simply not enough to acquire and deploy that technology.

What will truly make the multi-cloud solution a game-changer is having a strong strategy behind it. There are several reasons why companies adopt a multi-cloud strategy. According to Gartner, the most common reasons include: 

  1. Flexibility of vendor choice: Companies want to avoid being locked into a single cloud provider and instead have the flexibility to choose the best cloud solution for their business objectives and goals. 
  2. Access to best-in-class solutions: Not every company’s business objectives and goals align with the features of a single cloud solution. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy allows companies to choose the best cloud solution for each of their specific needs. 
  3. Resilience against future competition: Adopting a multi-cloud strategy can help companies scale and adapt with future regulations and emerging technologies. 
  4. Control shadow IT: Adopting a multi-cloud strategy can help companies avoid shadow IT by providing employees with access to best-in-class services across multiple cloud providers. 
  5. Protection against outages: By using multiple cloud providers, companies can ensure that they always have access to critical data, even if one provider experiences an outage or other external factors (such as the COVID-19 pandemic). 
  6. Support for mergers and acquisitions: Companies that have adopted a multi-cloud strategy are better equipped to handle mergers and acquisitions, as they can easily integrate new cloud solutions into their existing infrastructure. 

By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, companies can enjoy the benefits of best-in-class services across multiple cloud providers while ensuring business continuity. If your company is eager to optimize your network with the above benefits, that mindset will help shape your strong and relevant multi-cloud strategy.

Common Types of Multi-Cloud Strategies

There are several types of multi-cloud strategies. But first, it’s important to understand the differences and similarities between a multi-cloud solution and a hybrid cloud

Multi-cloud involves the use of multiple public cloud computing services from different cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and more. Different cloud providers may offer different areas of expertise, like data analysis and storage, application support, and enhanced security. Companies often employ two or more public clouds, which is called multi-cloud computing. With a multi-cloud solution, organizations can create the cloud network that best aligns to their multi-cloud strategy.

Hybrid cloud is a mixed computing environment that integrates infrastructure from the public cloud with an organization’s private cloud or on-premises data center. In this model, companies can keep some data in their legacy on-premises servers or in their own private cloud

Distributed Application Deployment

This strategy involves deploying applications across multiple cloud providers to improve availability and reduce latency. It also helps with load balancing and fault tolerance. It can be achieved using a variety of tools and technologies, such as Kubernetes, Docker, and Istio.

Data Replication and Backup

Replicating data across multiple cloud providers helps to ensure high availability and disaster recovery. It can be achieved using a variety of tools and technologies, such as AWS S3 Cross-Region Replication, Azure Site Recovery, and Google Cloud Storage.

Vendor Lock-In Mitigation

Using multiple cloud providers helps your organization avoid being locked into a single vendor’s ecosystem. It can be achieved by adopting a multi-cloud architecture that leverages the strengths of each cloud provider. By having more options, cloud customers are able to negotiate better terms and pricing, and avoid being tied to a vendor’s proprietary technologies that may conflict with the client’s own multi-cloud strategy.

Performance Optimization

With multiple clouds, a company can more easily optimize application uptime and performance. For example, a multi-cloud strategy can enable a company to deploy applications in areas that are physically closer to end users. It can also leverage the unique capabilities of each public cloud provider.

Cost Optimization

By comparison shopping, or leveraging the pricing models of each public cloud provider, a company can get the best pricing value. Companies can also reduce costs after deployment for unanticipated needs or issues by comparing providers.

Compliance and Data Sovereignty

With multiple cloud providers, companies can more easily comply with data sovereignty laws and regulations. It can be achieved by deploying applications in regions that comply with local laws and compliance regulations like GDPR or HIPAA, or by leveraging the unique capabilities of each cloud provider.

Challenges in Multi-Cloud Strategies

There are some common challenges in creating and executing a multi-cloud strategy. With multiple compute surfaces comes additional complexity. Below are some of the common challenges and how to overcome them.

Complexity and Management

By its very nature, multi-cloud means more than one cloud environment. That translates into challenges in managing complex, diverse cloud environments. It’s critical to have a reliable monitoring system in place that operates efficiently in each cloud. Deployment and automation may also be different among cloud services, so ensure you have visibility into how those functions work (and don’t work) among your cloud providers.

Also, it can be difficult for companies to hire and retain sophisticated cloud experts who have broad and deep knowledge of multiple cloud environments from network and security roles. 

Interoperability and Integration

It’s also critical to have public clouds that integrate and communicate with each other. Some public clouds are so proprietary they can be difficult to integrate with other vendors. In addition, different cloud services may integrate differently with your APIs and applications, so understanding how to maximize their efficiency is key.

Security and Governance

Every public cloud has its own set of security features. While cloud security is very reliable, each vendor may focus on different aspects. Maintaining consistent security across clouds means having deep visibility into how your cloud vendors handle identity and access management, encryption, and compliance. And you should ensure you can take action with your vendors to enhance and increase the interoperability of their security features with those of your other cloud or clouds.

Data Consistency and Latency

Just as performance and security can vary among cloud providers, so can data consistency and latency. As you grow your operations into multiple clouds, you get more performance and capabilities – as well as more potential for latency and inconsistent data management. Your data, which powers your business, needs to be handled consistently, reliably, and securely, no matter which public clouds or how many you are using. It’s imperative to have a multi-cloud solution that enables real-time and secure data synchronization.

Best Practices for Multi-Cloud Strategies

In carpentry, the most critical advice is to “measure twice, cut once.” The technology equivalent of this adage is a bit more of a mouthful, but still spot on: “Define and research your multi-cloud strategy before you adopt and deploy one.” Here are some best practices to consider.

  • Define your objectives: All the great public clouds in the world won’t be able to do their best for your business unless you have clearly identified your business goals, requirements, and KPIs. Your business and technology decision-makers need to determine which workloads benefit most from multi-cloud. Think about which capabilities are the most important for your circumstances, including performance, scalability, compliance, and security.
  • Seek interoperability: As you consider different public clouds in your multi-cloud strategy, make sure the platforms are compatible and can seamlessly integrate. You can help do this by adhering to industry-standard protocols and APIs. This allows for efficient operations and data transfer, centralized management, and workload portability. After all, you’re considering a multi-cloud strategy specifically because you want your operations to be more reliable and streamlined.
  • Implement a comprehensive architecture design: Interoperability is related to the need for a comprehensive architecture design. That means it’s important to front-load your multi-cloud choice and build with the creation of a well-architected multi-cloud framework. After deployment this will help ensure scalability, redundancy, and load balancing.
  • Look for strong governance and security: Implement robust governance and security measures to maintain control and visibility across the different clouds. Adopt unified identity and access management, encryption, and monitoring solutions. 
  • Consider a common cloud management platform: A cloud management platform can provide centralized control across multiple clouds. It can also simplify your multi-cloud operations throughout your systems.
  • Monitoring and optimization: Use monitoring and analytics tools to gain insights into performance, cost, and resource use. Continuously optimize your multi-cloud environment, right-size resources, and implement ongoing cost-saving measures.

Real-World Examples of Multi-Cloud Strategies

More and more organizations are executing world-class multi-cloud strategies, and continually enhancing them to scale into the future. Here are just a few of the companies and agencies realizing comprehensive gains with their multi-cloud strategies.

Netflix: The streaming content giant needs to use multiple clouds for the delivery of its popular content. It also needs to ensure high availability, as well as fluctuations and spikes in demand. That’s why it uses a hybrid cloud model. The company uses a public cloud to store and organize its large catalog of content and information about users’ preferences. For additional flexibility and to further reduce latency, it built its own private cloud which integrates with the public cloud, and which can deliver video content from the company’s servers. The result: A seamless experience for its millions of users.

Airbnb: Airbnb uses a multi-cloud strategy in its use of public and private clouds to optimize its operations and scalability. It strategically chose its public cloud to provide storage and database services, as well as to power its website, analytics, and other needs. During spikes in demand, it leverages this public cloud to handle the demand. In addition, the company has integrated the public cloud with its own private cloud, which handles the storage of sensitive private data of its users, which helps ensure security and compliance.

Scottish government: The Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate (ARE) is responsible for supporting the agriculture in Scotland, including through the payment of subsidies. The agency created a multi-cloud strategy to streamline its operations,  secure data, and be proactive against potential threats. The agency needs to be able to scale with user demands, and to be as cost-effective as possible. Its multi-cloud solution now offers secure, uninterrupted services for all its users.

Future Trends in Multi-Cloud Strategies

According to Forbes, the adoption of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies will continue to grow. Organizations are recognizing the benefits of leveraging multiple cloud providers to realize increased flexibility, resilience, and cost optimization.

Edge computing integration: Processing data closer to the source of the data, rather than in a centralized cloud can help reduce latency and improve performance for applications that require real-time data processing.

AI-driven multi-cloud management: The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise across virtually every vertical, including multi-cloud and IT operations. AI can help optimize resource allocation, improve security by using predictive analytics, and reduce costs.

Serverless cloud management: Developers can build and run applications without having to manage infrastructure, saving money and reducing the risk factor that comes with a larger compute surface.

Containerization: Developers are able to package applications into containers that can be easily deployed across different cloud environments.

While these trends do come with the expected challenges of managing multiple cloud environments and security, they also are expected to solve several IT problems. Those include improving application performance, reducing costs, increasing flexibility, and boosting security.

How F5 Can Help

In a competitive and rapidly evolving cloud landscape, multi-cloud strategies offer organizations the freedom, flexibility, and resilience they need. By embracing a multi-cloud approach, businesses can leverage the strengths of different providers, achieve vendor independence, and optimize their cloud infrastructure for enhanced performance, reliability, and cost-efficiency. Remember to define your business objectives, ensure interoperability, prioritize governance and security, and leverage monitoring and optimization tools. Embrace the power of multi-cloud to power your organization in the digital era.

At F5, we have deep experience in helping create and then execue multi-cloud strategies for a variety of customers. We help simplify the process, and the complexity, involved in adopting a multi-cloud strategy and solution. And we can implement strong security across all your compute surfaces and environments. Let F5 help power your strategy to achieve optimal multi-cloud networking.