The benefits of the cloud are, by now, well-known to CIOs and IT managers – cost effectiveness, scalability, dynamic operations, quick-to-deploy systems, agility, flexibility and more. Of course, the paradox of the cloud is that while it offers so many advantages to companies, its very nature also enables vendors to achieve a level of lock-in that is at odds with this, making things rather turbulent.

This is because certain vendors streamline the process of migrating workloads to their cloud, which makes it a tantalising proposition to the customer. However, they then proceed to tie customer data and applications to their infrastructure in a manner that makes it complex and expensive for companies to leave.

Is it any wonder then that forward-thinking companies are beginning to adopt a multi-cloud infrastructure strategy?

Such a strategy empowers companies to mix and match platforms, accessing the specific differentiated benefits delivered by each vendor to obtain the biggest bang for their buck, while at the same time mitigating the risks associated with individual cloud environments. You can still spin up whatever cloud resources are on offer, but without having to compromise your choices. Multi-cloud infrastructure offers a far richer set of cloud options, enabling a business to solve its most rigorous needs across a diverse range of computing and business functions. In this way, companies can optimise the returns on cloud investments.

The principle of ‘multi-cloud’ is strategically focused, in that companies select the best cloud services to meet the requirements of a particular application or workload. For example, Google Cloud may be strong in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) area, while Microsoft Azure leads in the collaboration and productivity space, and Amazon might be known for its general compute and price.

For global companies, there is another benefit to adopting a multi-cloud infrastructure, namely that the data centre closest to their customers can more rapidly serve the requested data with less WAN\Internet traversal. This approach is ideal to serve corporate data across geographically disparate locations, while still maintaining a unified end-user experience.

Moreover, it should also be noted that a multi-cloud model also provides a level of redundancy that vastly reduces the risk of downtime. This is becoming ever-more important, most notably as companies place increasing emphasis on migrating their more mission-critical workloads to the cloud.

Obviously, the more mission-critical workloads are in the cloud, the more damage will be done to a company’s business and reputation by an outage or even significant performance degradation – these are things that can severely damage operations and are thus a fantastic reason for increasing a company’s redundancy levels.

Of course, adopting a multi-cloud strategy does not come without its own challenges, since any company that is managing multiple applications and transferring data across different platforms with various infrastructure and compatibilities, inevitably creates greater scope for conflict to occur.

Such an approach can also quite easily create serious networking challenges. Think about it: when using a single cloud provider, you will likely only need to manage the connection between the on-site network and the specific cloud platform. And you only need to understand one vendor’s networking constructs. When you choose to go multi-cloud, you must coordinate connections between multiple platforms and your on-site network, as well as – potentially – between the different cloud platforms themselves while using disparate networking tools.

Nonetheless, multi-cloud infrastructure gives life to the old proverb, ‘never put all your eggs in one basket’.  After all, if you are using a single cloud natively, you are potentially closing off a host of future avenues for your business.

Success with a multi-cloud strategy ultimately depends on the partner you choose to assist in implementing it. The right partner must have proven methodologies that form the basis of best practice for their operations. Moreover, they must bring the necessary tools to assist you with not only balancing your various cloud workloads and managing complex networks, but also in understanding issues such as the governance and data sovereignty rules of the country you are operating in.

Multi-cloud is certainly taking off and appears to be the next go-to strategy for large companies. After all, it not only delivers the agility, flexibility and cost effectiveness expected of the cloud, but enables you to access best-of-breed technologies from multiple cloud providers. For those who recognise the benefits of such a strategy early, this has the potential to be the silver lining to your cloud strategy.

  • Patrick Assheton-Smith is CEO at Symbiosys IT, a technology solutions provider with its head office located in the Western Cape in South Africa, and its European office in London in the United Kingdom
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