More than just a list of cloud vendors your company uses, multi-cloud is a strategy. Roughly 86% of enterprises are invested in that strategy today, according to a recent Forrester survey, and it plots out exactly how an enterprise uses multiple cloud providers to make business happen. In this blog we take a look at the possibilities - and warnings - of connected public clouds.
It’s a multi-cloud world
Motivations to go multi-cloud are plenty. Some companies want to balance risk against putting all their workload eggs in one basket. If one cloud provider goes down, redundancy with another can help a business avoid the threat of downtime. Other businesses, still, embrace multi-cloud for spot-on use cases and specific services offered by different platforms.
But that’s where things can get complicated — and expensive. The more cloud services a company taps into, the more complex it becomes to manage. Poor multi-cloud management is notorious for wasting money and creating silos.
What’s more: each cloud service provider has its own configuration nuances and interfaces. Integration across clouds requires depth and breadth of expertise you don’t often find within a single human being. So, multi-cloud companies are left with two options: find the elusive cloud unicorn or grow your team with already hard-to-find cloud computing talent.
How much does a cloud weigh on enterprises?
Frustrated with the heft of figuring out the right multi-cloud approach, some companies have started moving workloads from public cloud back to on-premises storage or on-site/private-cloud hybrid models. Cloud repatriation (as it’s known), however, isn’t interrupting the $214.3B cloud market.
But it’s a sign that enterprises are eager to find easier ways to navigate their clouds. Good news for them: the top cloud service providers are listening.
In early 2019, Google announced Anthos, a single managed service that enables enterprises to deploy, manage and run workloads using a common user interface across on-premises servers and third-party clouds, including AWS and Microsoft Azure (a.k.a. Google Cloud’s biggest competitors).
Anthos enables applications to run across clouds, unmodified — which means admins and developers don’t need to become experts at every cloud environment (that helps mitigate the talent-side sticking point of multi-cloud strategy).
The value in creating an environment that lets businesses move workloads and run applications from cloud to cloud isn’t simply about convenience. Interoperability is ripe with opportunity.
Microsoft made its overture to meet cloud clients where they are a few months later, announcing an interconnectivity alliance. Microsoft Azure and Oracle connected their clouds over a direct network connection.
Joint customers can migrate applications and data seamlessly between the two public clouds without rearchitecting what they’ve already built nor posting losses against their existing cloud investments. Interoperability between these two cloud giants means enterprises can run databases on Azure or Oracle Cloud infrastructure, and connect services, like Azure analytics and Oracle autonomous database, without rethinking their multi-cloud strategy.
The shapes of connected clouds to come
Innovations and partnerships, like Google, Microsoft and Oracle, aren’t simply taking the pain out of “lift and shift.” The potential in connected-cloud alliances is changing the way enterprises and providers think about the purpose of public cloud.
Beyond pure cloud logistics, interconnectivity could change the way enterprises plot their multi-cloud strategies. Forget planning and parsing which environment supports each use case. Interconnectivity can transform the way enterprises use cloud with technologies like service mesh, portability and microservices.
Could the dream of simple portability in the cloud come true with increased interconnectivity? Portability (which implies that you can move workloads and run applications cloud to cloud, like from an AWS environment to Microsoft Azure) seems to be front-and-center with this year’s rising cloud projects.
Alongside its Oracle alliance, Microsoft is also pursuing the portability dream with other partners. Microsoft, SAP and Adobe joined forces in 2019 to start the Open Data Initiative, a partnership to create a single data model for customer data that’s portable between platforms.
By standardizing the data structure and improving portability, the initiative could make it easier for enterprises to do much more with customer data, like activate machine learning and AI. Locked into a CRM vendor, like Salesforce, enterprises are often stuck with the capabilities of their provider. (Although Salesforce hasn’t exactly been a slouch in the acquisition market.)
Still, keep your eye on the dark clouds
Portability isn’t without its price. With any connected services, especially when data changes hands, security will always be a risk. The Open Data Initiative is still young, but will need to get clear on who’s responsible for protecting that data, too.
The idea of connected clouds isn’t without its security biases, either. Enterprises still struggle with getting cloud initiatives off the ground due to internal security biases — with cloud or specific providers. Despite opportunities inherent in connected clouds and services, the connected companies will need to create a foundation of strong security practices to get over the existing stigma of business data floating in the clouds.
As we imagine public clouds coming together, it’s important to wonder, too: what happens if all public clouds are interconnected?
Alliances, like Microsoft and Oracle, provide interoperability for joint customers and promise a level of portability multi-cloud users dream of. Consider what happens if those alliances become mergers and acquisitions, and a race to own a greater share of the worldwide market — and its data. Who would own what, and how could anyone else ever compete? Only the future in the cloud will tell.