Multi Cloud and Hybrid Cloud: Transforming IT operations

The ever-increasing buzz about cloud often creates confusion to the layman on what they really are. And, unfortunately, marketers do exploit such confusion and try to pitch in different concepts as one and same. The case with Multi-cloud and Hybrid Cloud is somewhat similar.

I have been writing last few weeks on what is multi-cloud, why to go for it, the various tools and platforms etc. Today I felt compelled to talk about hybrid cloud, is multi-cloud just another way of saying hybrid cloud? Is this just an IT rendition of: “You say potato, I say poe-tah-toe”? Not exactly. Although multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are closely related, they are certainly not one and same.

In Multi cloud, you match offerings from different cloud service providers mostly to meet specific workload needs, avoid vendor lock-in, reduce failure risks and more, but they are pretty much disconnected or non-orchestrated among them. It is more of a way of cloud implementation and management.

On the other hand, Hybrid cloud mixes a third-party Public cloud and an on-premises Private cloud with tight orchestration between the two. It focuses more on the underlying technology stack and product portfolio.

Few significant pointers that I would like to highlight primarily to bring out the differences between the two deployments are,

  • Multi-cloud involves two or more public clouds whereas hybrid cloud combines public cloud with private cloud.
  • While in multi-cloud deployment data is fixed within a public cloud, data is stored in both public and private clouds in hybrid cloud implementation.
  • A multi-cloud environment has global security approaches common to various public clouds. On the other hand, security implementations for hybrid cloud is very different with the private and public clouds used.
  • Multi-cloud focuses on third-party cost management and usage monitoring tools, whereas hybrid cloud relies mostly (although cloud providers are working on such platforms and some of them have released as well) on native cloud usage and cost management software.

I am sure you must be wondering if they are so different then how are they related? Well, every hybrid cloud is a multi-cloud, but every multi-cloud is not a hybrid cloud. The fact of being made up of more than one cloud makes a hybrid cloud a multi-cloud by default. But not all multi-clouds have at least one private cloud, and hence cannot be referred as a hybrid cloud. So, the key difference is “private cloud”.

Although close to 85% of the enterprises are using cloud in some form, still CIOs are not comfortable to move to public cloud for various reasons – sensitive regulatory requirements, existing infrastructure investments, mere hassle of moving workloads, low latency requirements etc. The CIOs are trying to optimise their investment, protect their data and choose the best of breed cloud platforms for different workloads. Hence it’s not a surprise that according to Rightscale 2019 state of the cloud report , hybrid cloud has grown to 58% in 2019 and on an average organisations use around 5 different clouds. The demand for hybrid and multi cloud is ever increasing and I am convinced that is going to be the strategy moving forward. 

Now what does that mean for the cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google?

Well looks like everyone is waking up to the fact that Hybrid cloud is the way to go and if they have to keep their large enterprise customers happy, they have to have hybrid cloud offerings. Look at the recent announcements from these companies.

  • Amazon’s AWS Outposts. It brings native AWS services, infrastructure, and operating models to virtually any datacenter, co-location space, or on-premises facility.
  • Microsoft released Azure Arc, which claims to simplify complex and distributed environments across on-premises, edge and multi cloud. It enables deployment of Azure services anywhere and extends management to any public cloud infrastructure.
  • Google released Anthos. It is an open application modernisation platform that enables you to modernise your existing applications, build new ones, and run them anywhere. Built on open source technologies —including Kubernetes, Istio, and Knative—Anthos enables consistency between on-premises and cloud environments.

This also makes the software engineer’s job more interesting, as they release applications ever faster to stay competitive. They have to, design new or re-factor existing applications to account for interoperability between these different clouds and more importantly leverage the specific features of each cloud. Similarly, the IT operations teams are challenged to manage assets, metrics, services from hybrid cloud environment. Their greatest challenge is to find a cohesive platform to process multi-cloud environment, something that I discussed in my last article.

One thing is clear, multi cloud has certainly transformed the way the applications are developed and the IT infrastructure is managed!