Adopting a multi-cloud strategy has become increasingly crucial for organizations seeking to optimize their IT infrastructure, enhance flexibility, and mitigate risks. By leveraging multiple cloud platforms and services, companies can design a robust architecture that addresses their unique requirements in areas such as management, security, networking, storage, and migration, ultimately enabling them to stay competitive in today’s dynamic digital landscape.

Multi-cloud is a cloud computing model that combines cloud resources and services from two or more cloud vendors. It provides the flexibility to choose the best-suited environment for each workload. Most large organizations that move to the cloud adopt a multi-cloud architecture.

Dgtl Infra provides a comprehensive explanation of multi-cloud, including its definition, advantages, and disadvantages. We also compare multi cloud to other cloud models such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Furthermore, we explore the architecture of multi-cloud and the strategies behind its implementation. Lastly, Dgtl Infra offers an overview of multi cloud platforms and services delivered by leading cloud vendors, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, VMware, and Dell.

What is Multi-Cloud?

Cloud computing has become an integral part of an organization’s IT strategy, primarily because it allows them to provision and de-provision resources on-demand on a pay-per-use basis. However, some of the major concerns with public clouds are reliability and extreme reliance: What happens if the cloud goes down? What if organizations become too dependent on a single cloud provider?

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Because of such concerns, organizations – especially large enterprises – prefer a multi-cloud architecture in which they utilize cloud services (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) from several cloud service providers (CSPs) instead of only using a single public CSP. Multi cloud allows individuals and businesses to match their applications with the most suitable technology stacks and pricing models to run them.

In a multi-cloud deployment, an organization can simply select different providers for different applications and services. For instance, a company may use Oracle ERP, Webex by Cisco, and Google Workspace. Alternatively, a company may distribute data and workloads between different public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, for redundancy or load balancing. Predominantly, the term “multi-cloud” is used to describe the latter.

How Does Multi-Cloud Work?

A multi-cloud architecture operates on three major pillars, making it quite complex:

  1. Self-Service and Automation: Allows for choosing the optimal environment for deploying applications, data, and services, and enables dynamic resource provisioning
  2. Single Management and Control Plane: Provides cloud consumption visibility across clouds to implement control and manage costs
  3. Central Security Platform: Enables the implementation of policies consistently across clouds and manages security and data governance requirements for regulatory compliance
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Fundamentally, a multi-cloud architecture is just a mix of offerings or infrastructure from different vendors, which do not necessarily have to be tightly integrated, as in a hybrid cloud.

Modern applications are based on standard cloud-native principles, such as virtualization, containerization, and microservices. Additionally, these applications utilize open-source technologies, such as Kubernetes or OpenStack, which are already supported by most cloud service providers (CSPs) and vendors.

With increasing multi-cloud deployments, cloud vendors are also gradually enabling more interoperability between their applications, tools, and services. In addition, organizations can choose from many multi cloud management tools for tracking costs and resource consumption and enforcing access and control policies across multiple clouds.

Comparison of Multi-Cloud with Other Cloud Models

Comparing Multi-Cloud with the Three Types Public Private Hybrid Cloud Models for Infrastructure

1. Multi-Cloud vs Public Cloud and Private Cloud

A public cloud is a multi-tenant IT environment in which organizations utilize computing resources, applications, and services provisioned by a third-party cloud provider. The underlying infrastructure in a public cloud is shared by many individuals and businesses.

A private cloud, on the other hand, is a single-tenant IT environment in which the underlying infrastructure and resources are owned by or dedicated exclusively to a single organization.

READ MORE: Private Cloud – What is it? and How Does it Work?

A multi-cloud is when organizations rely on more than one public cloud. A multi cloud deployment may or may not include a private cloud. If it does, it is called a hybrid multi-cloud.

2. Multi-Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud is an integration of both public and private clouds. Essentially, a hybrid cloud integrates two or more deployment types (legacy data center, on-premise private cloud, hosted private cloud, and/or public cloud), whereas a multi-cloud simply strings together services from multiple cloud vendors, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

Multi-cloud may or may not include a private cloud and it does not provide interoperability and integration between the constituent cloud environments.

Hybrid and multi-cloud approaches complement each other well. Many organizations, especially large enterprises, end up adopting a hybrid multi-cloud to meet their needs.

READ MORE: Hybrid Cloud – What is it? and How Does it Work?

3. Multi-Cloud vs On-Premise

On-premise deployment refers to organizations hosting a data center within their organization’s premises. This can be an in-house private cloud deployment or a legacy data center, however, it is mostly used to refer to the latter.

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A multi-cloud allows organizations to lease infrastructure and services from multiple cloud vendors and access them over a public or private network connection. With multi cloud, organizations may not have any on-premise infrastructure at all.

READ MORE: On-Premise to Cloud Migration – A Comprehensive Overview

Example of a Multi-Cloud

A multi-cloud example is an organization using Microsoft Azure for data storage and Google Cloud as a failover for disaster recovery. The same organization could also be using IBM Cloud Foundry for application development and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine Learning (ML) services.

Why Use Multi-Cloud?

Organizations use multi-cloud for numerous reasons, such as to: i) avoid vendor lock-in, ii) meet data residency and other regulatory compliance requirements, iii) distribute applications and services to the edge, closer to end users, and iv) ensure business continuity.

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of deploying a multi-cloud environment:

Advantages of Multi-Cloud

Advantages of Multi-Cloud Digital Representations of Networks with Infrastructure Connections
  • Flexibility: Organizations can deploy applications in the most suitable and cost-effective cloud environment. They can choose the optimal environment based on technology stack, performance, compliance requirements, and geographical location of the cloud provider
  • Disaster Recovery: In the event of expected or unexpected outages, organizations using multi cloud deployments will still have some or all services running in other clouds
  • Reduced Shadow IT: Developers and users may not need to use cloud services from unsanctioned providers when they already have a large portfolio of services and technologies to choose from, as compared to a single cloud strategy
  • Access to Innovation: Organizations can pick and choose services from multiple cloud providers to enjoy “best-of-breed” and “cutting-edge” technologies
  • Avoiding Vendor Lock-in: Organizations do not rely solely on a single cloud provider, which puts them in a better negotiating position. It is also easier to migrate to other cloud platforms, if and when needed

Disadvantages of Multi-Cloud

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  • Compatibility Issues: Cloud services communicate through application programming interfaces (APIs). In a multi-cloud environment, APIs from different cloud providers may have different structures or languages, requiring complex customizations. Similarly, data storage services also need to use the same data structures to be compatible with other clouds
  • Complexity: Visibility, monitoring, and management across multiple cloud platforms is more complex than managing a single cloud
  • Inconsistent Policies: Defining security policies and enforcing controls across multi-cloud environments is challenging. Multi-clouds are prone to configuration errors and vulnerabilities without an efficient multi cloud management platform

What is Multi-Cloud Architecture?

Multi-cloud architecture depends on the organization’s application and services portfolio as well as how they are deployed in a multi cloud set-up.

Multi-Cloud Architecture Future Circuit Board with Luminous Data Storage Infrastructure

Organizations can choose either one or a combination of the following multi-cloud deployments:

  • Distributed Deployment: Each application runs in the most suitable cloud environment
  • Redundant Deployment: Same data, applications, and workloads run in each of the multiple cloud environments for load balancing or redundancy

Organizations must design their multi-cloud architectures based on their own requirements, application portfolio, and deployment types. However, all multi cloud architectures will have the following four basic components:

  1. Cloud Core: Provides connectivity and a unified data plane across all clouds. This is where most traffic routing decisions are made
  2. Cloud Access: This is how end users, branch users, partners, and customers, connect to and access different clouds. This component can be implemented via any type of network connection – the internet, VPN, Ethernet, or MPLS
  3. Cloud Operations: Deals with consistent practices and tools to decrease complexity and enable visibility, management, and orchestration across multi-cloud environments
  4. Cloud Security: Includes processes and technologies for securing the entire environment – cloud core, access, and operations

What is Multi-Cloud Networking?

Instead of traditional network architecture in which all traffic must be backhauled to on-premises locations before going to the cloud, multi-cloud networking allows multiple clouds to connect directly. This reduces latency and improves customer experience.

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However, each cloud may have its own unique networking, security, and operational features. That is why businesses tend to choose multi-cloud networking platforms and tools, which abstract each cloud platform’s underlying services and technologies to provide consistent networking capabilities across all clouds in a multi cloud set-up. Major providers like Cisco and VMware offer multi-cloud networking solutions.

READ MORE: Cloud Networking – Next-Generation Data Center Networks

Is Multi-Cloud Secure?

Multi-cloud architectures are not inherently more or less secure than other cloud deployment models. However, enforcing consistent access control and security policies across multiple cloud platforms is a common multi cloud security risk. With each new cloud platform that enterprises add, they increase complexity and, thereby, the attack surface, potentially creating new vulnerabilities.

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Still, multi-cloud deployments can be as secure as any other cloud model, if not more, with the right architecture design and security technologies. Independent authentication and authorization, automated patching, component hardening, single-pane-of-glass visibility and management, and multi cloud data loss prevention (DLP) solutions are some key elements of multi-cloud security.

What is a Multi-Cloud Strategy?

A multi-cloud strategy defines how an organization plans to deploy and design a multi cloud architecture. It involves establishing goals, evaluating workload requirements, designing network architecture, and choosing cloud providers and multi-cloud management tools and platforms.

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Why is a Multi-Cloud Strategy Important?

Most organizations end up adopting a multi-cloud architecture unintentionally. By devising and implementing a multi cloud strategy, organizations can choose the right approach and deploy an environment that serves business goals, minimizes risks, and optimizes return on investment (ROI).

How to Create a Multi-Cloud Strategy?

Creating a Multi Cloud Strategy Digital Computing Network with Connections and Communications Links

Organizations can create a multi-cloud strategy following the best practices mentioned below:

  1. Define business goals
  2. Establish application and workload dependencies
  3. Evaluate cloud platforms
  4. Break down costs
  5. Keep disaster recovery and redundancy in mind
  6. Choose a multi-cloud management platform

What are Multi-Cloud Management Tools and Platforms?

Ultimately, the benefit of a multi-cloud architecture will depend on optimal application and workload deployment and resource management across cloud platforms. This requires single-pane-of-glass visibility and management, which organizations can achieve through multi cloud management tools or more comprehensive multi-cloud platforms. Specifically, multi cloud platforms provide:

  • Unified visibility
  • A centralized management dashboard
  • Multi-cloud orchestration
  • Consistent security, control, and access policies
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery

Multi-Cloud Providers

Many organizations are turning to multi-cloud strategies to leverage the unique strengths of different cloud providers.

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Here are some of the leading multi-cloud providers and their offerings:

AWS Multi-Cloud Services

Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently launched multi-cloud versions of its managed containers and managed Kubernetes services, known as Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) Anywhere and Amazon EKS Anywhere. Organizations can use these services to manage workloads on any public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Azure Multi-Cloud Solutions

Microsoft Azure offers holistic solutions and services for deploying and managing multi cloud environments:

  • Azure Arc: Used for managing, governing, and securing servers, Kubernetes clusters, and applications through a single-pane-of-glass across multiple clouds
  • Azure Arc Services: Solutions such as Azure Arc-enabled Azure SQL Server and PostgreSQL Hyperscale can be deployed on any cloud or on-premise infrastructure

Google Multi-Cloud Solutions

Google Cloud provides complete flexibility to migrate, build, and optimize applications in multi-cloud environments with:

  • Anthos: Implemented for building, migrating, and managing applications in any cloud environment
  • BigQuery: Utilized for data management and governance and real-time data analytics across cloud environments
  • Managed Kubernetes and Serverless Platform: Deployed for building and deploying containerized and serverless applications that can run in any environment

VMware Multi-Cloud Services

VMware Cross-Cloud Services are VMware’s integrated software as a service (SaaS) solutions for building, running, managing, and securing enterprise applications across any cloud. They include:

  • VMware Tanzu: Used for building and deploying modern, cloud-agnostic applications
  • VMware Aria: Implemented for deploying, operating, and optimizing applications with unified visibility into application performance and costs across clouds

Dell Multi-Cloud Tools

Dell Technologies, whose solutions portfolio extends from traditional infrastructure to multi cloud environments, offers the following tools:

  • VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail: Utilized for running, managing, optimizing, and securing applications in multi-cloud environments
  • Dell APEX: Deployed for a consistent infrastructure and operations experience across all clouds

READ MORE: Top 10 Cloud Service Providers Globally

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does Using Two Clouds in Multicloud Compare to Using Just One?

Using two clouds in a multicloud architecture offers several advantages over using just one cloud provider. By distributing workloads and data across multiple clouds, organizations can avoid vendor lock-in, ensuring they are not entirely dependent on a single provider’s services and pricing. Additionally, multicloud setups can provide increased resilience and availability, as if one cloud experiences an outage, the other cloud can continue to serve users and keep applications running.

For example, a company might use AWS for its primary workloads but also have critical data backed up on Azure, so that if AWS goes down, the Azure backup can be quickly deployed to minimize downtime.

What is Multicloud Security?

Multicloud security refers to the strategies, policies, and tools used to secure applications, data, and infrastructure across multiple cloud computing platforms. It involves implementing consistent security measures and controls across different cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), to ensure the protection of sensitive information and resources.

For example, a company using multiple cloud providers might employ a centralized identity and access management system, encrypt data both in transit and at rest across all cloud environments, and monitor for potential threats or anomalies using a unified security dashboard.

What is Multicloud Storage?

Multicloud storage is a strategy that involves storing data across multiple cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), rather than relying on a single provider. This approach enables organizations to avoid vendor lock-in, improve data redundancy, and optimize costs by leveraging the strengths of different cloud storage solutions.

For example, a company might store its frequently accessed data on AWS S3 for its high performance, while using Google Cloud Storage for its long-term archival data due to its lower costs.

Is Multicloud Expensive?

Multicloud can be expensive, as it involves using multiple cloud providers, each with their own pricing models and costs associated with data transfer, storage, and compute resources. However, the cost of multicloud depends on factors such as the specific services used, the amount of data stored and transferred, and the ability to optimize resource utilization across different cloud platforms.

For example, a company using Amazon Web Services for compute, Google Cloud for big data analytics, and Microsoft Azure for backup and disaster recovery may incur higher costs compared to using a single cloud provider. Still, the benefits of increased flexibility, redundancy, and avoiding vendor lock-in could outweigh the additional expenses.

Which Company Uses Multicloud?

Walmart, a retailer which allows customers to shop in both physical stores and through eCommerce, uses a hybrid multi-cloud. Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has also split its cloud contract between Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Oracle Cloud, effectively adopting a multi cloud strategy.

Many companies already use multi-cloud and even more will ultimately adopt multi cloud because of its flexibility and extensive service catalog.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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