Multi-Cloud and the Challenge of Lock-In

multicloud

Multi-cloud is a nascent buzzword in IT, and yet not everyone understands what it is or why it matters, and so let’s explore it.

The concept of multi-cloud is really about diversification.  Historically customers have worried about standardizing on one vendor for hardware or software due to the lock-in that comes with it, but is the cloud any different?  Sure there are multiple large players, but the obvious question is “Are we at risk of trading hardware vendor lock-on for cloud vendor lock-in?” The answer is a clear maybe. 🙂  The concept of multi-cloud was created to answer this question.

A multi-cloud strategy is one where you rely upon multiple clouds for your workloads.  By spreading your cloud presence, you can benefit from the services and pricing options from multiple providers.  This strategy also enables “cloud arbitrage” to maximize the return on your cloud investment. (e.g. the ability to compare cloud vendor pricing and negotiate for the most favorable terms.)  However, an important element of multi-cloud is the ability to migrate between clouds.

On the surface, moving between clouds sounds straightforward; however, in practice in can be complex, and it brings an interesting dichotomy.  Cloud providers want end users to take advantage of their broad catalogue including products like analytics as a service or database as a service.  These offerings are positioned as providing simplified management, cost reductions and massive scalability, and yet they also bring a dark side — lock-in.  The more tied into a specific vendor’s ecosystem you are, the more difficult it becomes to move to an alternate provider. If multi-cloud is not your priority then this may be okay, but if you want to maintain the maximum flexibility, you need to think carefully about which services you adopt and why.

If you want to truly embrace multi-cloud, then you should look at infrastructure as a service.  All cloud vendors offer IaaS and the solution is consistent across clouds since virtual machines (VMs) are simply consuming compute, storage and networking.  Moving a VM between clouds often requires conversion, but there are multiple vendors (like Actifio) that can help and automate the entire process.

In summary, multi-cloud is an important concept that every company should understand.  While not everyone may have a multi-cloud strategy today, companies should be thinking about whether they might want one in the future.  Remember, the cloud choices that you make today can seriously impact your future in the future.

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