What is Multicloud?

Definition

Every cloud provider excels in certain aspects, and a multicloud environment lets businesses choose the best solutions across multiple cloud platforms. A multicloud environment prevents a single point of failure and can also be used as a failover to reduce downtime. If resources fail unexpectedly, an alternative configured cloud provider can be used to keep the business running while the main platform recovers.

Why Use a Multicloud Strategy?

Corporations use a multicloud strategy for a variety of reasons, many of which are based on unique business requirements. Every cloud provider offers dozens of solutions, so it might be confusing why administrators would choose to keep subscriptions across multiple platforms rather than just integrate one cloud platform. A multicloud environment offers many advantages, but it also adds complexity to IT infrastructure.

One key feature of a multicloud environment is flexibility. By using only one solution, the organization is limited to only the infrastructure and software offered by the host. If these resources perform poorly or don’t fit in well with on-premise infrastructure, the only two choices are to deal with the poor performance or eliminate its use. A multicloud lets administrators choose the best solution out of several cloud providers and integrate it with other solutions. This flexibility also lets administrators test each solution across several providers to find the right one.

Cloud providers use data centers where all network equipment is located. Capable cloud providers have data centers across several geolocations. Data transfers are fast, but performance is lost if the data center is too far away from the organization’s location. Services hosted by the cloud and made available to customers may also suffer from performance degradation if the data center hosting applications are too far from customers. With a multicloud environment, administrators can host services at data centers near customers and business offices. This strategy will improve performance in data transfers for all users that work with company applications.

A big reason for working with a multicloud strategy is failover. With IT infrastructure, there should never be a single point of failure. Resources should always have failover that takes over when the main resource fails. A business's single cloud provider guarantees a single point of failure should the cloud provider fail. Although most providers have 100% uptime, they occasionally suffer from failures. In 2017, a mistake during regular maintenance caused Amazon Web Services (AWS) to fail for many customers. Should this failure happen again, a corporation with a multicloud environment could use the second cloud provider to support customers and employees while the original primary service recovers.

What is the Difference between Multicloud and a Hybrid Cloud?

While shopping around for providers, administrators will come across the term “hybrid cloud” often. A multicloud environment is the use of two or more providers that work in collaboration to support the business. For instance, a multicloud environment could use AWS cloud storage but use Microsoft Azure virtual machines to run web applications.

In a hybrid cloud environment, the business incorporates a private and public cloud into one network solution. Any resources used in the public cloud are not available when the provider fails or when connectivity between the cloud and the on-premise network is cut off. An organization can use a multicloud to build a hybrid cloud, but a hybrid cloud does not mean the organization is leveraging multiple cloud providers.

Managing and Automating Multicloud Environments

Although a multicloud environment has several advantages, especially for an enterprise business, it adds overhead and challenges to IT staff. These challenges include creating the right model that integrates well with current solutions, establishes secure connections between the cloud and the local premises, and works with limited security tools that likely only work with one provider.

Orchestration tools can help with automation and deployment of resources. Multicloud environments are popular with developers due to container management advantages. Kubernetes, for example, can be used to help automate container deployments to reduce IT and developer overhead.

DevOps is another reason multicloud environments are popular with developers. DevOps aims to automate many IT tasks and use technology to improve productivity. With a multicloud environment, DevOps can find the right solution across several providers and deploy automation scripts that run in the cloud. These scripts can perform numerous tasks that would otherwise need to be done manually. Scripts can also synchronize data between the cloud and the local network. For instance, DevOps scripts can automate user account creation and deactivation across different platforms.

Examples of cloud providers that offer multicloud integration:

  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Rackspace
  • OpenStack
  • IBM Cloud

Multicloud Security

One of the most challenging aspects of a multicloud configuration is ensuring that every setting is secure. Cloud misconfigurations are the number-one reason for vulnerabilities in the cloud. Cloud providers offer their own cybersecurity tools, but what works with one provider will not work with the other providers in the environment. This adds complexity to your network solution that can be difficult to manage. Complexity often leads to oversight, which then leads to unforeseen vulnerabilities and data breaches.

Cybersecurity in a multicloud environment should be a priority. The challenge is finding skilled professionals who know how to properly configure tools that work with a multicloud environment. Some businesses opt for a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to help with setup, configurations, and maintenance.

How corporations can help reduce their attack surface and configure cloud resources for data protection:

  • Synchronize security settings across all platforms: This can be done using automation scripts to ensure that settings are always in sync. For instance, disable user accounts on all systems after they leave the organization. An administrator can disable an account, and employ scripts to ensure that the account is disabled across the network.
  • Create security policies for each platform: For instance, if you use cloud storage on AWS, security policies should be created on AWS to protect data. Then, create security policies for other resources on other platforms.
  • Automate tasks that could lead to a data breach: Use scripts to deploy resources and then add appropriate settings to secure them.
  • Choose security tools carefully: Always choose security tools that fit the business, including compliance regulations. These can be tools offered by the cloud provider or third-party tools. Tools should be customizable across all platforms if you choose a third-party provider.
  • Ensure the setup is compliant: Cloud providers have their own security compliance requirements. Before using a provider, ensure that the environment is compliant with any regulatory standards affecting the business.
  • Set up efficient monitoring: Every cloud platform has monitoring tools, and many compliance regulations require it. Monitoring can mitigate a data breach and reduce the amount of time an attacker has access to the system.
  • Regularly review security settings: A security expert can help a business find unsecured settings and help IT staff properly set up security tools. Just one incorrect setting can leave sensitive data exposed to the public and attackers.
  • Audit cloud resources to ensure that no lost or forgotten resources exist: These resources slip through the cracks and become unmaintained, leaving unpatched infrastructure. Unpatched and unmaintained resources can lead to vulnerabilities.