Rise of public cloud
It was not a long time ago (around 5 years back), when some organizations had adopted public cloud whereas many others were still thinking whether to adopt public cloud or not. They were still stuck with ‘WHY’ to adopt public cloud. However, within last few years, situation has completely changed. There is hardly any organization, which is still thinking ‘WHY’ cloud. Most organizations are thinking ‘HOW’ and ‘WHAT’ all to move to the cloud.
It is not quite surprising that such a significant shift in the industry has happened in just last few years, when you look at history of major clouds. Other than Amazon Web Services (AWS), two major public clouds, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), launched their key offering ‘Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)’ around 8 years back (in 2012).
Multi-cloud adoption at a transition point
‘Multi-cloud’ today is at a similar transition point, where organizations are moving from ‘WHY’ multi-cloud to ‘HOW’ and ‘WHAT’. Multi-cloud can be defined in multiple ways depending on scope of its adoption: an organization, a team or an application. However, for the sake of this article, I will keep definition simple: “Multi-cloud is the use of multiple cloud providers (two or more) in a single scope”
Based on a survey conducted in the first quarter of 2020, the “Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report“, it is found that 93 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, out of which, 87 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy. Interestingly, a survey done by O’Reilly around same time last year (2019) found that “48% of respondents rely on a multi-cloud strategy that involves two or more vendors, helping organizations avoid lock-in to any one cloud provider and providing access to proprietary features that each of the major cloud vendors provide.” While there can be difference between how multi-cloud is defined in two surveys, still there’s huge jump (almost 100%) in number of organizations having multi-cloud strategy in just 1 year.
Even major cloud providers have recognized this trend. This has led to new market opportunities to expand their services and support multi-cloud capabilities. Some notable examples include: Azure Arc (reference), Azure Cost Management (reference), Azure Pipelines (reference), Google Anthos (reference), IBM multi-cloud management solutions (reference), VMware multi-cloud operations (reference). At the same time, multi-cloud is opening up new kind of strategic partnerships between competitors: Azure + Red Hat: Expanding hybrid management and data services for easier innovation anywhere, Multi-cloud features make Anthos on AWS possible
Business case for multi-cloud
So far, top reasons for organizations to adopt multi-cloud strategy have been requirements like these: avoiding vendor lock-in, getting access to cloud specific proprietary features (or best-of-breed features), or building business continuity planning (BCP) etc. There have been instances where an outage in a cloud impacted multiple regions and multiple services e.g. Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 outage in 2017 (The great Amazon S3 outage of 2017) or Azure DNS outage in 2019 (Major Azure Outage Due to DNS Migration Issue). Having all our applications, including mission-critical applications running on a single provider poses a significant business risk to any organization. Hence, BCP has been one important need of organizations adopting multiple clouds.
Implementing a multi-cloud strategy is generally expected to increase cloud costs because of different reasons such as managing additional complexity, developing/hiring new skills and re-engineering applications to support multiple clouds. However, if you compare that to potential losses (financial as well as trust related) caused by an outage in mission-critical applications, this additional cost may be only a fraction of those losses. That is why many business continuity related costs are considered as insurance costs. At the same time, if you add the cost of opportunities lost to competitors because of not having access to other cloud providers (because of their specialized service or cost benefits with cross-cloud solutions), the multi-cloud strategy can help in reducing overall cloud costs.
Impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has further accelerated adoption of public cloud environment and services. As governments around the world emphasized social distancing and work from home, the cloud services that support these scenarios such as audio/video conferencing services, virtual desktop infrastructure have seen unprecedented growth. For example, Microsoft announced that it saw 775 percent increase in Teams’ calling and meeting monthly users in a one-month period in Italy. Cloud providers have been put under load. As stated in this article, global cloud leaders (including AWS, Azure, GCP) are stress-testing their infrastructure and activating pandemic-specific resiliency testing procedures, research from Forrester indicates.
As organizations rely more on public clouds, the risk of a business disruption because of non-availability of a cloud is all time high now. Generally (though not true), public clouds are considered as having unlimited capacity, at least for one customer’s requirements. However, this unprecedented demand unearthed new kind of risk: public clouds running out of capacity. For example, Microsoft implemented a few temporary restrictions and placed limits on free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers. As such global scale events and situations cannot be predicted, organizations would mitigate risks by diversifying their applications and solutions to multiple clouds. This would fast-track the multi-cloud adoption even higher.
Originally Published at LinkedIn