A multi-cloud strategy enables businesses to choose services across clouds to improve business resiliency and achieve digital transformation goals.

Multi-cloud generally refers to an approach in which an organization uses cloud computing services from public cloud providers to meet specific business needs and customer demands. Multi-cloud strategies can be extended to include on-premises private data centers and edge locations, as well as optimizations within a single public cloud provider. It enables organizations to choose the best services and features to enhance digital experiences, while improving business continuity and operational stability and safety. Multi-cloud boosts an organization’s resilience by distributing workloads across multiple cloud platforms—with comprehensive visibility to mitigate performance and security issues. This approach allows organizations to take advantage of a broader range of services but introduces inherent complexity with respect to maintaining a consistent security posture.

Key Features of Multi-Cloud

Key concepts and features of multi-cloud computing, networking, application delivery, and security include:

  1. Centralized management, including dashboards, reporting, and logging to assist with governance and troubleshooting across otherwise disparate and loosely connected environments.
  2. Core services, such as networking, segmentation, service insertion, and traffic steering.
  3. Advanced services, such as load balancing, content delivery network (CDN), firewall, web application firewall (WAF), and zero trust network access (ZTNA). 
  4. Workload portability, which enables organizations to easily move workloads across cloud providers or bring workloads back on-premises as needed. This portability is often achieved through use of containerization or virtualization technologies, which can enable workloads to run consistently across different cloud platforms. This gives organizations more flexibility in terms of where they deploy their applications and data.
  5. Data integration and warehousing, which enables organizations to integrate data from multiple sources, such as on-premises data centers and various cloud platforms into a central, consistent data store. This can help organizations gain valuable insights and make more informed decisions.
  6. Improved security response, by implementing security measures across different cloud environments in an as-a-service model to improve detection and remediation.
  7. Ecosystem integrations, including advanced application delivery and security capabilities, L7 gateways, and automation tools for software development and deployment.

By leveraging these features, businesses can optimize their cloud strategy through cost efficiency, improved resilience, and increased agility.

Multi-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are both cloud computing models that involve the use of multiple cloud platforms. However, there are key differences between the two:

  • Hybrid cloud involves using a combination of on-premises or private cloud infrastructure and one or more public cloud providers. The on-premises infrastructure and the public cloud are integrated and work together seamlessly, with workloads moving between them as needed.
  • Multi-cloud involves using services from multiple cloud providers for different purposes, such as using one provider for data storage and another for application hosting. The workloads are distributed across these providers, and they may or may not be integrated with each other. Multi-cloud can also include a private cloud, single public cloud provider, and edge locations.

Multi-cloud offers greater flexibility than hybrid cloud, and may be a good choice for businesses in several scenarios, such as:

  • Accessing a broader range of services and features. Different cloud providers offer different services and features, and using multiple providers allows businesses to take advantage of the best, or the most affordable, offerings from each provider.
  • Meeting regulatory or compliance requirements. Certain regulations or compliance requirements may require businesses to use specific cloud providers or to keep data in specific geographic locations (for instance, the data residency provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR). Multi-cloud can allow businesses to meet these requirements while still taking advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.
  • Improving resilience and redundancy. Distributing workloads across multiple cloud providers can improve resilience and redundancy, reducing the risk of performance degradation and downtime. In addition, one public cloud could be used as backup to another cloud as part of a disaster recovery strategy that ensures business continuity.

Benefits of Multi-cloud

Multi-cloud can increase flexibility by enabling organizations to choose the cloud provider that best meets their specific needs in terms of performance, cost, compliance, and geographic location. For example, an organization can choose a cloud provider that offers high-performance computing capabilities for compute-intensive workloads, or a cloud provider that offers specialized services for data analytics or artificial intelligence. By using different cloud providers for different workloads, organizations can optimize their resource usage and reduce costs. Having multiple cloud providers also helps organizations avoid being boxed into unwanted service limitations, or other issues that may arise from vendor-specific changes or policies.

In addition, multi-cloud can improve disaster recovery capabilities by enabling organizations to distribute their data and applications across multiple cloud providers and geographic regions. This can help mitigate the impact of natural disasters, cyberattacks, or human errors, by providing redundancy and failover capabilities. In case of a failure or outage, workloads can be automatically migrated to another cloud provider, ensuring business continuity.

Challenges of Multi-Cloud

Addressing challenges such as complexity, security, governance, and compliance is critical for the success of a multi-cloud strategy, and requires a holistic approach that involves collaboration among multiple stakeholders within the organization, including IT and business teams.

For instance, managing workloads and applications across multiple clouds can be complex and require specialized skills and tools. This can lead to increased operational costs, integration challenges, and potential performance issues. In addition, differences in controls and logs obscure visibility, potentially delaying troubleshooting and incident response. Different cloud providers may also use different APIs, data formats, or protocols, which can make it difficult to integrate and manage data and applications across multiple clouds.

Likewise, multi-cloud environments may increase the risk of security breaches, data loss, or regulatory non-compliance, as organizations may have to manage multiple security policies, access controls, and data protection measures. This is due to the varying responsibility models, underlying technology, and efficacy of different cloud platforms.

Multi-cloud environments may also raise governance issues, as organizations may have to manage multiple service-level agreements (SLAs), contracts, and billing models, as well as comply with different regulatory requirements.

To address these challenges, organizations can use cloud management platforms and purpose-built networking solutions with consistent security and infrastructure policy management capabilities to provide centralized visibility, control, and automation of the multi-cloud environment. These platforms can help organizations manage workloads and applications across multiple clouds, optimize resource usage, and enforce security and governance policies. Multi-cloud networking services provide simple and secure connectivity between cloud regions and across multiple cloud providers. These services can reduce complexity and simplify operations with automated provisioning of links and network services with end-to-end orchestration across sites and providers.

Multi-Cloud Best Practices

Here are some tips and best practices for organizations considering adoption of a multi-cloud approach:

  1. Select the right cloud providers. Choose cloud providers that meet your business goals and requirements, and consider factors such as their selection of services, features, pricing, support, reputation, and ecosystem. Also, make sure to consider the interoperability and compatibility of the cloud providers you choose.
  2. Define strategies to manage data and workloads across multiple clouds. Manage data and workloads across multiple clouds using data replication, backup, and recovery solutions and tools such as cloud storage gateways, data integration platforms, and container orchestration frameworks.
  3. Ensure consistent security and compliance. Using a centralized security and compliance framework and tools such as identity and access management (IAM), encryption, threat detection and response, and compliance monitoring to ensure consistent security and compliance across multiple clouds.
  4. Use a cloud management platform. Use a cloud management platform that provides a single view of your multi-cloud environment. This platform should support provisioning, monitoring, billing, and governance across multiple clouds.

Multi-Cloud Strategy

A multi-cloud strategy is becoming increasingly popular as organizations are hard pressed to balance digital velocity and operational stability and safety. A multi-cloud strategy can offer greater flexibility, agility, scalability, and resilience.

However, adopting a multi-cloud strategy requires careful planning and execution. It is important to define clear business goals and requirements, evaluate the capabilities and limitations of multiple cloud providers, and determine how best to integrate them into existing systems and workflows. Careful planning is also needed to ensure that data and applications are properly secured, managed, and monitored across multiple clouds, and that security and compliance measures are consistent across all cloud providers.

An effective multi-cloud strategy requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses technology, governance, and operations. It necessitates the use of standard APIs and technologies to ensure portability and interoperability between cloud providers, the adoption of a cloud-native architecture that leverages the strengths of each provider, and the use of a cloud management platform that provides a single view of the multi-cloud environment.

Multi-Cloud Use Cases

There are many multi-cloud use cases, but three of the most common are:

  • Greater resilience and improved redundancy. Multi-cloud deployments can provide resilience and redundancy by distributing workloads across multiple cloud providers. In case of a cloud provider outage, traffic can be redirected to the other cloud providers, ensuring minimal downtime and disruption.
  • Cost optimization. Multi-cloud deployments can help organizations optimize their cloud costs by selecting the most cost-effective cloud provider for each workload. Different cloud providers have different pricing models and cost structures, so by choosing the right provider for each workload, organizations can save money and improve their ROI.
  • Data sovereignty and compliance. Multi-cloud deployments can help organizations address data sovereignty and compliance requirements by selecting cloud providers that offer data residency in specific regions and comply with relevant regulations. By leveraging multiple cloud providers, organizations can ensure that their data is stored and processed in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Future of Multi-Cloud

Multi-cloud computing has tremendous potential for organizations as it enables them to take advantage of the strengths of multiple cloud providers and optimize their IT infrastructure. With the adoption of multi-cloud computing, businesses can reduce their dependence on a single provider, enhance resilience, and gain greater flexibility in managing their workloads.

In the coming years, we can expect multi-cloud computing to evolve further as cloud providers continue to innovate and offer new services and capabilities. Some of the emerging trends in multi-cloud computing include:

  • Serverless architectures. Serverless computing is becoming increasingly popular as it enables businesses to run applications and services without the need to manage infrastructure. With multi-cloud computing, businesses can leverage serverless architectures across multiple cloud providers, allowing them to take advantage of the best services and capabilities from each provider.
  • Edge computing. Edge computing is gaining popularity as businesses seek to process data and run applications closer to the source of data. With multi-cloud computing, businesses can deploy edge computing solutions across multiple cloud providers in a range of geographic locations, allowing them to optimize the performance and reduce latency of their applications.

Considering a multi-cloud approach is important for businesses as it enables them to achieve greater agility, flexibility, and resilience. By leveraging multiple cloud providers, businesses can avoid being restricted by specific public cloud provider limitations and select the best services and capabilities for their specific workloads.

F5 offers a comprehensive set of multi-cloud application services and management tools to help speed multi-cloud deployments and reduce operational complexity. F5 services are highly programmable, API-accessible, and can be integrated with existing automation and delivery systems. Follow this link to learn more about F5 multi-cloud application services.