A 2017 RightScale survey* reported that 85% of enterprises have embraced a multi-cloud strategy. However, depending on whom you ask, multi-cloud is either an essential enterprise strategy or a nonsense buzzword.
Part of the reason for such opposing views is that we lack a complete definition of multi-cloud.
What is multi-cloud? There is little controversy in stating that multi-cloud is “the simultaneous use of multiple cloud vendors,” but to what end, exactly? Many articles superficially claim that multi-cloud is a strategy for avoiding vendor lock-in, for implementing high availability, for allowing teams to deploy the best platform for their app, and the list goes on.
But where can teams really derive the most benefit from a multi-cloud strategy? Without any substance to these claims, it can be difficult to determine if multi-cloud can live past its 15 minutes of fame.
Is multi-cloud a strategy for avoiding vendor lock-in?
Of the many benefits associated with multi-cloud, avoiding vendor lock-in is probably the most cited reason for a multi-cloud strategy. In a recent Stratoscale survey, more than 80% of enterprises reported moderate to high levels of concern about being locked into a single public cloud platform.
more than 80% of enterprises reported moderate to high levels of concern about being locked in to a single public cloud platform.
How you see vendor lock-in depends on your organization’s goals. For some companies, avoiding vendor lock-in is a core business requirement or a way to achieve greater portability for their applications. With such portability, teams can more easily move applications to another framework or platform. For others, being able to take advantage of vendor-specific features that save time on initial development is an acceptable trade-off for portability. Regardless of your point of view, a strategy that avoids vendor lock-in at all costs does mean that you will have to give up some unique vendor functionality.
In most cases, teams can still avoid vendor lock-in even without using multiple cloud providers. But how?
The key to staying flexible even within a single platform is about the choices you make. Building in degrees of tolerance and applying disciplined design decisions as a matter of strategy can ensure flexibility and portability down the road.
With this in mind, teams can work to abstract away vendor-specific functionality. Here are two simple examples:
- Code level: Accessing functionality such as blob storage through an interface that could be implemented using any storage back-end (local storage, S3, Azure Storage, Google Cloud Storage, among other options). In addition to the flexibility this provides during testing, this tactic makes it easier for developers to port to a new platform if needed.
- Containers: Containers and their orchestration tools are additional abstraction layers that can make workloads more flexible and portable.
Any technology decision represents some degree of lock-in, so organizations must weigh the pros and cons of depending too heavily on any single platform or tools.
So, is multi-cloud a really an effective strategy for avoiding vendor lock-in?
The bottom line is this: A multi-cloud strategy can help you avoid vendor lock-in, but it isn’t a requirement.
Implementing high availability and pursuing a best-fit technology approach are also frequently cited as a benefit of a multi-cloud strategy. But how do these hold up when it comes to real deployments and actual business cases?
This is just one of the questions that we’ll answer in our new whitepaper, Separating Multi-Cloud Strategy from Hype: An Objective Analysis of Arguments in Favor of Multi-Cloud.
You will learn:
- The reality vs. hype of multi-cloud deployments
- How to achieve high availability while avoiding vendor lock-in
- The advantages of a best-fit technology approach
- The arguments that should be driving your multi-cloud strategy