The pandemic certainly caused a paradigm shift in how organizations manage their IT infrastructure. However, the rapid adoption of multi-cloud strategies begs the question. Why are companies choosing to invite complexity into their IT strategy? According to a new study from 451 Research and commissioned by Oracle, companies have excellent reasons to choose the path of more resistance. Here are some of the insights the report revealed.
Multi-cloud is the norm for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) users
The survey looked specifically at the activity of IaaS and PaaS users. A full two-thirds of the 1500 respondents stated that they were using services from two to three different cloud providers. 31% use more than four. Only two percent of respondents kept activity to a single cloud.
So why is this? Post-pandemic, companies needed to make fast changes to move workers remotely with minimal disruption to their operations. Nearly all those surveyed cited the pandemic as a significant driver for multi-cloud adoptions. As the survey also points out, more than half of organizations taking the multi-cloud approach have done so by design. Depending on the type of IaaS or PaaS, companies may have leveraged multi-cloud to avoid compatibility issues and to make transformation more efficient.
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Data sovereignty and cost optimization: Two key drivers for multi-cloud
Even though multi-cloud might introduce its own challenges, there are two key reasons companies still choose this strategy: cost and sovereignty. 41% of respondents cited data sovereignty as a significant factor in the multi-cloud decision, while 40% cited cost optimization. Both of these allow companies to exert some control over cloud operations.
Many companies are wary of vendor lock-in. This phenomenon would see them losing some control over their data and/or strategy decisions based on their chosen service provider. By leveraging a multi-cloud approach, companies can expand potential integrations.
Organizations can store and process data in regions adhering to specific data protection laws and regulations applicable to their business. This approach reduces the risk of non-compliance and helps maintain data privacy. It also mitigates the potential impact of data breaches or service outages by diversifying the storage and processing infrastructure across multiple providers and regions.
In terms of cost, utilizing multiple cloud providers enables organizations to take advantage of the best pricing options for various services, allowing them to choose the most cost-effective solutions for their specific needs. They’re also better able to negotiate because they aren’t locked into a certain vendor with no other options. Companies can also minimize the impact of service outages or data loss, ultimately reducing the costs associated with downtime and recovery efforts. Even though just 21% of respondents cited this reason, it remains a powerful benefit of choosing a multi-cloud strategy.
Surprisingly, avoiding vendor lock-in was only explicitly cited in 25% of responses. However, the underlying reasoning is there. By distributing workloads, companies can better avoid the rigidity of a single cloud provider.
What factors are still holding companies back from this strategy?
Many companies (34% of respondents) cited cloud provider management as a significant barrier to adoption, which isn’t surprising. Managing multiple cloud providers increases the complexity of the overall IT infrastructure, as each provider has its own set of tools, services, APIs, and management interfaces. This can create difficulties in monitoring, provisioning, and orchestrating resources across different platforms.
Additionally, 30% of respondents cited interconnectivity issues, which certainly relates to the first response. Integrating data and applications across multiple cloud providers can be challenging due to potential inconsistencies in APIs, data formats, and networking configurations. Ensuring seamless interoperability between providers can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.
Despite these challenges and more, many organizations still choose to adopt multi-cloud strategies to benefit from increased flexibility, cost optimization, and reduced vendor lock-in. To mitigate these management hurdles, companies can leverage multi-cloud management platforms, third-party tools, and expert services to streamline and simplify their multi-cloud operations.
What does a successful multi-cloud strategy actually look like?
As multi-cloud becomes common, CIOs will face the challenge of selecting and managing the most suitable approach for their organizations. According to the survey, companies believe a successful multi-cloud approach happens through cost optimization, with around a third of respondents citing this metric. Other responses include integration with on-premises infrastructure and a common security/governance policy across clouds, both at 27%.
Organizations want to run interdependent processes and choose how to distribute these processes. Companies hope that multi-cloud will provide more agility than traditional (on-premises) strategies or even single-provider cloud strategies. The element of choice seems to be a significant contributing factor to the decision to move to a multi-cloud approach, even if it might introduce complexity in the beginning.
Organizations are likely to continue embracing multi-cloud strategies, driven by the need for flexibility, cost optimization, and reduced vendor lock-in. However, as multi-cloud environments become more prevalent, we can expect advancements in management tools and platforms. This will simplify integration, orchestration, monitoring, and cost optimization across multiple cloud providers. If providers can manage to abstract this complexity, we could see even greater adoption.
Elizabeth Wallace is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for data science and AI and a background in linguistics. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain – clearly – what it is they do.