Multi Cloud Strategies

Multi-cloud strategies help to overcome risks of the cloud

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | Dan Blacharski

One of the benefits of cloud computing is that, assuming virtualization is implemented in the cloud farm, that layer of abstraction affords some measure of protection against loss or downtime in the event of a single hardware failure. And of course, utilizing a cloud platform adds innumerable other benefits, not the least of which is the ability to access data and applications from any location, and protection against downtime from an in-house data centre failure.

Cloud Providers Failing?

Cloud providers themselves may fail too, so for the greatest measure of protection possible, an enterprise may wish to embark upon a multi-cloud strategy. In fact, most mid-size to larger companies that have a cloud strategy, will be using multiple cloud providers—there may for example, be multiple providers on the software side alone, delivering a wide variety of desktop productivity and enterprise-class applications. Yet another cloud provider may enter into the mix to provide data storage, backup and disaster preparedness, and still another may be providing web hosting services. In short, there are dozens of solutions available for solving specific problems, although to date, little attention has been paid to distributing the cloud risk, and managing multiple clouds from a single technology platform.

We do tend to think of the cloud as being open, accessible and interoperable, but such is not the case unless it has been designed as such. If your company does have a multi-cloud strategy, it is necessary to pay attention to data portability, or the ability to move data between clouds easily, and correspondingly, a low data transfer cost. Some clouds may have proprietary implementations, which makes for potential problems not only in transferring information in a useful format, but also can cause problems should that cloud provider go out of business at some time in the future. In the real world, tying your enterprise to a single vendor is widely seen and generally accepted as a poor strategy and unacceptable risk, and that philosophy also applies to the cloud—a single cloud provider, or even a single region within EC2, is unacceptable.

In fact, multi-cloud strategies are on the rise, as it becomes evident that multiple clouds, including public, private, and hybrid, can be used successfully to meet a variety of needs that include availability, business continuity and disaster recovery. Naturally, this does introduce an extra layer of complexity, which can be vexing, especially given that one of the purported benefits of the cloud is simplicity. But tools from vendors such as RightScale for example, are becoming more common and indeed essential in implementing a successful cloud strategy. Others such as vCider offer platform-independent solutions that make those multi-cloud strategies easier to implement and largely automated.

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