You can barely read a tech blog these days without finding an article that sings the praises of multi-cloud architectures. There are good reasons for that: multi-cloud provides a range of benefits, from cost-savings to increased reliability and beyond.
But multi-cloud strategies also pose some challenges, not least when it comes to application deployment. Before jumping on the multi-cloud bandwagon, it’s important to evaluate how a multi-cloud architecture will impact your deployment strategy and be sure that you are ready to address those pain points.
This article identifies common deployment challenges in multi-cloud environments, as well as tips for mitigating them.
When you have more than one cloud, you need to provision more than one environment before you can deploy applications to it.
To a degree, Infrastructure-as-Code (or IaC) tools can help to streamline this process. You can use one IaC template to provision multiple clouds in the same way.
However, there are limits to how much IaC can help with this challenge. If you use an IaC tool that is provided by a specific cloud vendor, it may offer little or no compatibility for other clouds. You may therefore need to use a different IaC tool for each cloud, which partly defeats the purpose of IaC. Even if you do have an IaC tool that can work with all of your clouds, chances are you’ll need to tweak your configurations manually, because you won’t be able to use the same exact template for each cloud.
In situations where IaC can’t solve your multi-cloud provisioning challenges, a better approach is to use a solution that abstracts workloads from underlying clouds entirely. That way, you need not worry about provisioning each cloud separately.
Like provisioning, the process of actually deploying your app can be complicated if you deploy instances to multiple clouds. Each cloud will require a different deployment process.
You can try to use third-party release automation tooling to deploy application instances automatically to each cloud that you use. This will simplify the process, but as is the case with IaC tooling, you will probably need to make some manual changes, because you won’t be able to use the exact same configuration to deploy to each cloud.
Here again, a solution that abstracts workloads from the clouds that host them and offers a totally consistent deployment process across multiple clouds goes further than release automation tools in mitigating the challenges of deployment for a multi-cloud architecture.
If you host multiple instances of your application on multiple clouds, how do you ensure that each one is handling the ideal amount of traffic? How do you avoid directing too much traffic to one cloud while the other cloud sits idle? How do you know when you need to add or remove an instance?
These are important questions. If you can’t balance loads properly across your multi-cloud architecture, you may suffer from performance problems and waste money – which is exactly the opposite of what a multi-cloud architecture is supposed to provide.
Unfortunately, these questions are very difficult to answer in a multi-cloud environment. Because cloud vendors themselves don’t offer load balancing solutions that will work with other providers’ clouds, you’d need to monitor each cloud separately and carefully to determine how to balance traffic between different clouds and application instances.
By using a common networking and monitoring platform that can be deployed to multiple clouds, as well as an Application Delivery Network that connects and balances loads automatically, you can avoid these challenges and ensure that you actually enjoy the benefits that multi-cloud strategies are supposed to offer.
Cloud providers are greedy. They want your workloads and data to stay inside their clouds forever. If you move data out – in other words, perform data egress – they charge you substantial fees.
What this means is that a multi-cloud architecture that requires data to move frequently from one cloud to another may substantially increase your cloud computing bill due to the egress fees.
At a basic level, you can mitigate this risk by designing your multi-cloud architecture in such a way that data doesn’t need to move frequently between your different clouds. Avoid a situation where your application lives in one cloud but the data it has to ingest is hosted in another, for example, because that would require a lot of inter-cloud data movement.
Another helpful strategy is to use an Application Delivery Network that stores some of your more actively used data. In addition to providing a range of other security and performance benefits, an Application Delivery Network can reduce the frequency at which applications in one cloud need to move data into or out of another cloud. Instead, they can use data stores within the Application Delivery Network.
Maintaining visibility into a single cloud is hard enough. When you have more than one cloud in the mix, monitoring all of the services and configurations at play becomes a truly monumental task.
Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tools that are designed to support multi-cloud environments can help somewhat with this task. But they will only take you so far. They’ll alert you when a problem seems to be occurring with one of your applications, but it will be up to you to figure out which cloud or clouds are causing the problem, then use the tooling associated with each affected cloud to solve it.
Alternatively, consider abstracting your workloads from the underlying clouds so that you can monitor just one “logical cloud” and one set of deployment tools. This approach reduces the number of moving parts you need to contend with in order to maintain visibility into your applications and infrastructure.
Managing application deployments in a multi-cloud architecture is inherently difficult. Although various types of automation tools can help to streamline tasks like provisioning, deployment, and monitoring, they don’t entirely eliminate the need for manual effort.
Instead of trying to solve your multi-cloud deployment challenges with various tools, a better approach is to change the way you design your multi-cloud architecture itself. By turning to solutions like VoltMesh and VoltConsole, you can deploy and connect applications across multiple clouds in a consistent, centralized way, while also taking advantage of Volterra’s global Application Delivery Network to optimize workload performance and security.