Using multiple cloud providers can reduce cost and risk for an enterprise.
Some industry pundits are saying that Apple’s reported plan to shift a portion of its cloud workloads from AWS to Google's Cloud Platform (GCP) could reveal a chink in Amazon’s cloud armor. But lost behind the recent headlines lurks what I think is the real story: Multi-cloud consumption is fast becoming the new normal.
According to ESG research, nearly half of businesses consuming cloud today utilize cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from several different cloud providers. So in light of these findings, Apple’s decision to bring Google into its multi-cloud fold could just be reflective of a broader industry trend.
So what’s driving the demand for multi-cloud? There are typically three big drivers:
1. Cost reduction. With 62% of IT budgets going towards just keeping the lights on, IT planners are looking for ways to reduce costs. What better way to achieve and continuously realize ongoing cost savings than by making multiple cloud providers compete for your business? And if your cloud provider gives you insight into where to best place your workloads across multiple cloud providers, even better. For example, IBM’s acquisition of Gravitant is designed to enable SoftLayer cloud customers to see at a glance where they can economically place their workloads across multiple public clouds based on service levels and price.
Likewise, as I wrote in a recent blog post, Cisco’s recent acquisition of CliQr will enable Cisco customers to run real-time price/performance modeling for their cloud workloads. Spreading the wealth can be a powerful way to keep your cloud providers honest. I expect to see more cloud providers come to market with these capabilities so that their customers don’t feel locked in.
2. Increased choice. Many end users, application developers and lines of business owners have bypassed their IT organizations to consume cloud services, aka shadow IT. The reality is that IT needs to provide choice to various end-user constituencies to stay relevant. This means providing easy access to multiple cloud providers. In fact, many IT planners I’ve spoken with said that everything is in play -- from the local VAR down the street that sells backup-as-a-service to the hyper-scale cloud providers like AWS, Google and Microsoft.
3. Risk mitigation - Most financial advisors preach diversification when it comes to investing. This is practical for several reasons. First, if your workloads are spread across several providers instead of one, you mitigate risk when service outages occur, not to mention if a provider goes belly up -- remember Nirvanix? Second, diversification gives you leverage. The more control you give to one vendor, the less incented it is to do the right thing.
In perhaps what may be a sign of this new multi-cloud reality, an executive from Equinix, host of 500 cloud providers globally, recently stated that cloud-to-cloud traffic is now significantly higher than traffic flows between cloud providers and customer data centers. Of course, businesses will still need ways to maintain visibility to efficiently manage their application workloads across multiple cloud environments. Check back for my next blog for more on that.