With more organizations moving their operations into the cloud, and the need to scale safely and effectively grows, companies are increasingly looking to multiple cloud solutions. Using multiple cloud platforms helps manage and accommodate different types of data loads, and increases optimization of IT operations. For many enterprises, the question is not whether they need a solution involving more than one cloud – but rather, which one would work best for their needs.
By using different cloud providers for different workloads, organizations can optimize their resource usage and reduce costs. Having several cloud providers also helps organizations avoid being boxed into unwanted service limitations, or other issues that may arise from vendor-specific changes or policies.
The two types of multiple cloud solutions are multi-cloud and hybrid cloud. And while the solutions are similar and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinct platforms with their own benefits and challenges.
The use of both types of architectures is on the rise:
To understand the architectures of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions, it’s helpful to look at how cloud computing works. Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, data governance, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.
That’s why the growth of cloud computing has exploded globally, especially in enterprises looking for a secure way to scale and optimize their operations. In fact, enterprise IT spending on cloud computing in high-growth verticals will overtake spending on traditional IT in 2025, according to Gartner. These key markets are application software, infrastructure software, business process services, and system infrastructure.
By 2025, 51% of IT spending in these four categories will have shifted from traditional on-premises solutions to the public cloud, compared to 41% in 2022, according to Gartner. Almost two-thirds (65.9%) of spending on application software will be for cloud technologies in 2025, up from 57.7% in 2022.
That means that more and more enterprises will continue to look for ways to optimize, scale, and secure their IT operations, using either multi-cloud or hybrid cloud computing. This blog post will explore the benefits and challenges of each type.
Enterprises often decide to expand beyond their own data centers to use public and private clouds to handle different tasks, like data storage and more. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud computing, although they may handle similar tasks, are not the same thing. Here are brief definitions of each type.
Multi-cloud involves the use of multiple public cloud computing services from different cloud providers to meet specific business needs and customer demands. Public clouds include Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and more.
Different cloud providers may offer different areas of expertise and performance, like data analysis and storage, enhanced security, and support for a variety of apps. It’s common for companies to employ two or more public cloud companies – multi-cloud computing – so they can get the most out of the public offerings.
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 a hybrid cloud scenario, companies keep some of their data in their own legacy data centers or private cloud, integrating that data with public clouds.
Many enterprises choose to turn over the management of their applications and data to public clouds, like Microsoft Azure or AWS. They want to rely on the scalability, diverse capabilities, and security in these public clouds.
Multi-cloud definition: 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. It enables organizations to choose the best services and features offered by public cloud services to enhance digital experiences, while improving business continuity and operational stability and safety. Being able to use more than one public cloud vendor greatly expands the capabilities available to organizations.
Note: Hybrid cloud is technically a “subset” of types of multi-cloud solutions, because hybrid cloud solutions use more than one cloud. But in general, “multi-cloud” refers to using several public clouds, while “hybrid cloud” refers to the integration of one or more public clouds with a company’s private cloud or private data center.
Multi-cloud example/scenario: Organizations that work with a variety of industries and customers in different regions can rely on public clouds’ ability to address the security and compliance aspects of doing business in different verticals or countries. For example, there are data privacy requirements for companies doing business in the European Union; data governance must align with the General Data Regulation and Protection rules of privacy. The same is true for companies working with healthcare organizations (HIPAA requirements), or varying levels of security with governments. Multi-cloud solutions help enable this important security flexibility.
Multi-cloud approach: A successful multi-cloud approach requires a holistic strategy that encompasses technology, governance, and operations. It should include 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.
There are many upsides to using a multi-cloud solution. Here are some of them:
Even with its many potential benefits for scalability and capacity tailored to a company’s needs, multi-cloud can carry some challenges too. Following are common drawbacks that some companies using multi-cloud solutions may experience.
In a hybrid cloud solution, applications are run with a combination of computing, storage, and services in different environments—public clouds and private clouds, including on-premises data centers or “edge” locations.
A hybrid cloud solution can offer the best of both cloud worlds – the hands-on control of the internal data center or private cloud, and the flexibility and capacity of public clouds. Using a hybrid cloud can also be an important first step for an organization’s move to a total public cloud solution.
Determining where data will be stored and how it will be accessed is an important element to consider while implementing a hybrid cloud environment. One of the most common data storage strategies in a hybrid cloud environment is to use the public cloud to store less frequently accessed data, as well as for use as backup, disaster recovery, and archival purposes.
Organizations often choose to store frequently accessed or sensitive data on a private cloud or in on-premises storage to ensure greater control and security, though this may require more upfront investment in infrastructure.
There are many advantages to using a hybrid cloud model. Here are some of the most important ones:
There are multiple ways to configure hybrid cloud environments to address specific computing needs and circumstances.
Hybrid cloud comes with challenges, especially with the initial integration of public and private clouds. That integration can also create gaps or risk. Following are some common challenges.
Configuration challenges: Configuration errors with the integration of the private and public clouds are common, and may take time to work out. Integration is not always seamless between a private cloud and public ones, which can result in costly delays.
Deployment issues: Data flows between public and private clouds create vulnerabilities that may lead to eavesdropping or cyberattacks. Supply-chain vulnerabilities can also leave data exposed upon launch.
Management challenges: According to the Cisco Systems 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report, 33% of respondents said that increased operational complexity is a prominent challenge in deploying a hybrid cloud environment. With workloads running on different hardware across all environments, organizations must find a comprehensive way of managing workloads regardless of where they reside.
Security concerns: Hybrid cloud environments are more complex than traditional IT infrastructures. Integrating and managing different cloud platforms, on-premises infrastructure, and third-party services require specialized skills and expertise. And in addition to gaining visibility across all environments, security teams need to consider managing access control, encryption, and identity management across all compute surfaces, including all cloud environments.
Organizations must also ensure that their cloud infrastructure complies with industry regulations, and coordinate threat remediation for vulnerabilities that may impact both on-premises and cloud environments.
Many of these potential issues can be addressed by using a strong, reliable distributed cloud network connect platform, which can help boost integration, scalability, and security.
Here are some of the key ways that multi-cloud and hybrid clouds differ.
Multi-cloud – integrates several public cloud platforms and can easily scale and adapt with little interruption to a company’s operations.
Hybrid cloud – uses company’s data center/on-premises private cloud, which must be maintained by the company or a third-party platform manager, and integrates with one or more public clouds.
Multi-cloud – can become more cost effective over time, as the public cloud provider manages updates and enhancements, while the company must manage and update its own private cloud. The upfront cost, however, may be higher.
Hybrid cloud – is less expensive up front because fewer public cloud services are used. However, over time, the management of the private cloud platform and data needs to be managed more granularly by the organization, which can cost more.
Multi-cloud – typically has more up time, since if one public cloud were to have an availability issue, the other or others could be quickly deployed to take on its data and functions.
Hybrid cloud – may be more hampered by the limits of a private data center, with updates needing to be manually overseen, security risks manually addressed, and so forth.
Multi-cloud – usually offers the potential for much more storage, which can be purchased in tiered subscriptions, expanding as your business needs and data grow.
Hybrid cloud – can have potential for expanded storage, especially in the public cloud or clouds in the solution; the storage needs of a private cloud or data center are specific to that cloud, and can be increased but need to be monitored manually onsite.
Multi-cloud – with a greater compute surface comes potentially greater risk, which applies to both multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions. Depending on the public cloud, there may be optimal, predictive security measures in place. There are additional ways to simplify multi-cloud security.
Hybrid cloud – can allow on-premises management of critical or sensitive data that an organization wants to manage itself. However, integrating that data with that in the public cloud can also introduce risk. The right set of platforms and APIs can help keep a hybrid cloud more secure.
Multi-cloud – provides more flexibility, by 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.
Hybrid cloud – provides more flexibility than a private cloud alone, and the tradeoff for wanting control or certain types of data management on premises may be worth it to some organizations. What a hybrid cloud does enable is more agility to scale up and down with the demands on the private cloud working with the public ones.
Literally speaking, yes. Multi-cloud means more than one cloud solution, and in a hybrid solution, the private cloud and the public cloud or clouds used together make it a subset of multi-cloud.
But most IT professional refer to a multi-cloud when there are multiple public clouds being used together. Hybrid cloud typically means that a private cloud or data center is being used with a public cloud or clouds.
Following are some considerations that can help you decide between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud.
Multi-cloud deployments may be the right solution for you if:
You need greater resilience and 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.
You want to optimize costs over time. 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.
You want to boost 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.
Your organization has varying demands for speed, demand, or traffic. Depending on your needs, you can scale a multi-cloud system up or down. A hybrid-cloud system might be more challenging.
Your users (employees and customers) are globally distributed. Having a geographically spread-out work force or customer base means that a multi-cloud solution spread over several regions could be more effective.
Example of a company successfully using a multi-cloud solution: Trintech
Trintech, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, found that working with several cloud service providers turned out to be a smart move. According to Fortune, the company has been able to enter markets at a lower price point or scale at a better price point by picking the best provider for specific needs. The company, which helps enterprise and mid-market companies to automate and improve efficiency, discovered the advantages of public clouds’ flexibility and operational cost.
Hybrid cloud solutions may work better for you if:
You want to focus on agility: he primary advantage of a hybrid cloud is agility: Organizations can scale compute resources up and down according to need, and choose where workloads are processed based on requirements for data security or workload sensitivity. Organizations can migrate and manage workloads between cloud environments to optimize processing flexibility, cost, and control based on specific business or regulatory requirements.
You need to meet 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.
Your organization wants more control over frequently used or sensitive data. Organizations often choose to store frequently accessed or sensitive data on a private cloud or in on-premises storage to ensure greater control and security, though this may require more upfront investment in infrastructure. Less frequently accessed data can be stored on the public cloud.
Your company requires near-real-time information exchange. Although multi-cloud deployments can achieve very low latency to meet the demands of most workloads.
Example of a company successfully using a hybrid cloud: Hulu
Hulu uses a hybrid cloud model to store and manage its library of video content and handle spikes in viewing demand. It uses a public cloud provider to organize its content catalog and to track users, their preferences, what they watch, and what they click on. However, to reduce latency and ensure high-quality streaming, and to manage its on-demand and pay-per-view features, it also uses a private cloud.
Adopting a hybrid or multi-cloud approach can be a transformative step for businesses, providing them with the flexibility and agility they need to thrive in today's rapidly changing business environment. By carefully planning and executing their hybrid cloud strategy, organizations can position themselves for success in the years ahead.
To help simplify your hybrid or multi-cloud cloud strategy, F5 offers a comprehensive set of security and management tools that remain consistent across clouds and protect data and applications across multiple IT environments.
Multi-cloud management solutions, so you can deploy any app, in any cloud, and get the security and availability you need.
Distributed Cloud Network Connect, a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that connects your multiple clouds to provide automated provisioning, integrated service stack, and end-to-end visibility.
F5 works with leading technology partners to help you ensure consistency across cloud platforms and support every app, anywhere.
Using multiple clouds is increasingly the path for organizations seeking to easily scale their operations and manage their data in an ever-more-complex world. A company can choose to use a multi-cloud solution, and move all its data and operations to public clouds. Or it may decide that a hybrid cloud solution, which uses one or more public clouds along with a company’s own private cloud or data center. Both solutions add flexibility, availability, and scalability to operations; a company just needs to decide which one best suits their business and data security needs.
Multi-cloud management solutions, which works across any type of multiple cloud scenario
Distributed Cloud Network Connect, an integrated set of tools to connect and manage multiple clouds.