Multi-cloud: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

“The days of single cloud deployments are gone”, according to David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte and I couldn’t agree more: Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report states that 93% of businesses are already moving to a multi-cloud architecture.

If at first this number seems hard to believe, it’s important to take a step back and understand what multi-cloud actually means: Multi-cloud can consist of either several public clouds or a hybrid scenario that combines on-premises data centers with one or more public clouds. The often cited article “The Cost of Cloud, a Trillion Dollar Paradox” makes a strong case for the latter, arguing that while public clouds enable businesses to optimize for innovation, agility and growth, scaling over a longer period has a cost implication and is often underestimated when growth slows.

Take Dropbox, for example, which has reported savings of $75M over two years by repatriating parts of their workloads from public cloud back into their own hardware. This circumstance clearly shows that despite the huge potential of hybrid and multi-cloud, things are not as easy as they often appear at first glance and it’s a big mistake to look at your cloud strategy in a one-dimensional and simplistic way. In this blog post I’ll highlight the good, the bad and the ugly, to provide some guidance on how to build your multi-cloud strategy. Let’s take a look at the sunny side of multi-cloud first.

The Good: Making the Case for Multi-Cloud

The fact that others are doing it has never been a good reason to act. But in a world where your IT builds the backbone of business operations, multi-cloud yields a lot of must-have benefits including:

  • Best of Breed: Vendors release new updates and services every day and you have to be able to exploit the best of them. Multi-cloud gives you the opportunity to optimize services for specific business requirements.
  • Performance: Organizations can leverage high-speed infrastructure and proximity to maximize application deliverables. This in turn facilitates a better user experience and faster response times, with acceptable cost and performance metrics.
  • Resilience: Data storage resources are subject to outages, increasing many types of business risks. Multi-cloud improves security, offers more failover options and better disaster recovery plans. In addition, issues like latency, packet loss and jitter, which can occur when riding between servers and networks and affect performance, are minimized. Critical applications and data are protected by providing redundancy of your resources in a cloud located away from an affected area, to ensure reliability and security.
  • Innovation: Automation has resulted in a better organization of infrastructure, applications and data, that now exist in multiple cloud environments. By automating multi-cloud management, a wide variety of workloads can be aligned, hybrid workflows can be managed and DevOps can be integrated to deliver business services faster.
  • Cost Management: With multi-cloud you can optimize for cost, thanks to the availability of a variable infrastructure to achieve best use and scale. (However, the Dropbox example demonstrates that cost optimization is not always an easy thing to do).
  • Risk Management: Multi-cloud can help to realize a multi-layered approach to security by including vulnerability testing, API asset consolidation, and strong authentication mechanisms as components of independent, redundant systems, for maximum protection against attack events.

The Bad: Nothing Is Perfect

With all of these benefits, the value is huge. But from our experience with our customers, we see that many businesses are facing tremendous challenges that can not only eliminate those benefits, but in the worst case scenario even put business operations at risk. The most common of these that our team is encountering are:

  • Expertise: Efficient management of a multi-cloud environment to ensure high availability and security requires a level of knowledge and skills not available in most organizations.
  • Legacy Systems & Security: Most organizations must maintain some legacy systems due to the nature of their business or industry. Migrating to a multi-cloud scenario and integrating these older systems has potential security risks and requires proper assessment of all architectures to avoid trouble.
  • Privacy & Protection: While storing all data on-prem has its own challenges when it comes to cyber security, implementing a multi-cloud strategy can result in another level of complexity. Certainly, it’s important to make sure that access is seamless, but it’s just as critical to minimize privilege and maximize a strong architecture to support this. Ineffective management presents challenges and limitations that put data privacy and protection at risk.

The Ugly: Complexity Will Kill You

And here it is, the final boss in every multi-cloud deployment:

  • Operational Complexity: Databases, storage systems, compute platforms, security and governance systems…..with multi-cloud the number of entities that you need to deploy, manage and monitor simply explodes. And these will increase exponentially as you grow and continue to scale. It becomes quickly apparent that combining all of these will stretch proper management and control beyond the capabilities of your team, resulting in potentially critical issues. Operational complexity is clearly the #1 challenge to address right from the start.

Don’t Shoot Without a Clear Target

Looking at the tremendous impact that not succeeding on your multi-cloud strategy can have, it’s no surprise that the “The Cost of Cloud, a Trillion Dollar Paradox” article concludes that “the largest opportunity in infrastructure right now is sitting somewhere between cloud hardware and the unoptimized code running on it.” The truth is that only a central abstraction layer with a high degree of automation can remove the ever increasing operational complexity of multi-cloud environments. And while you want to make sure that such a platform spans all of your environments end-to-end, you also need to protect the existing systems you have in place. A target that clearly requires thorough planning.

At Kubermatic, we have always considered multi-cloud as a clear business imperative. That’s why we have designed Kubermatic Kubernetes Platform as the world’s most adaptable and autonomous software delivery platform: KKP makes it easy for you to provide a harmonized abstraction layer with one consistent set of tooling while protecting your existing systems. If you would like to discuss how we can help you build for multi-cloud success in more detail, feel free to reach out. We are happy to help you conquer the final boss and hit the target.

Sebastian Scheele

Sebastian Scheele

Co-founder and CEO