A few years ago, businesses were asking themselves the question ‘’is this the right time to make a move to the cloud?’’. Today, the conversation has moved on, and the question is now ‘’what cloud strategy should we take?’’.
For lots of reasons using the public cloud is now very much commonplace. Many businesses will be using some form of cloud service or application, whether that’s for data storage or simply the use of Office 365 for their key business applications.
The rapid progress of the cloud has seen the creation of new terms to describe different approaches, and initially these were devised to categorise the two different types of cloud – public (off-premises) and private (predominantly on-premises). While the clamour has been for public cloud, it’s important that private cloud and the role it plays is not neglected. Therefore, as strategies around the use of cloud have evolved, so have the terms used to describe them; in particular the use of hybrid and multi-cloud.
Although hybrid and multi-cloud are often used interchangeably and to the confusion of many, there is actually a distinct difference between the two. Properly understanding what each term means and the benefits of each strategy is key when it comes to informing your own approach to cloud.
Perhaps the oldest (relatively!) and more well recognised term of the two, hybrid cloud sees a combination of cloud resources come together to create an IT environment. This typically involves the combination of a service offering from a public cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and private cloud resources built using on-premises infrastructure in the data centre.
By combining both public and private cloud environments, a business can selectively chose where to deploy its applications and data. Decisions on where to host these services often boil down to security, latency or specialist know-how. It means a business can retain tighter control of some services on-premises if needed, while not missing out on the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud for others.
Importantly, using a hybrid environment doesn’t create individual silos of data. You can leverage the capabilities of the entire cloud environment to ensure the best data and application access and performance available.
Hybrid strategies are particularly appealing to two types of organisation. Either those who are looking to step back out of an existing all-public-cloud strategy and regain control over workloads on-premises, or those who are yet to migrate to the cloud but are keen to take some initial steps.
It’s also an attractive option for those who want to enjoy the benefits of the public cloud but have certain data sets that need to remain on-premises, either for security reasons or because they are simply too large to migrate.
As the name suggests, a multi-cloud strategy is one that sees organisations leverage multiple public cloud services, often in addition to their own private cloud.
The decision to choose a multi-cloud strategy is often driven by a need to support multiple datasets with different requirements which perhaps cannot be achieved by a single provider. An alternative cloud provider might be identified to ensure the security of a specific workload or to deploy the cloud environment to align more precisely with the requirements for different departments. For example, you might choose to host your marketing and sales applications and data within an Azure environment, but host your accounts applications and data in AWS because this platform is better suited to those particular workloads.
One significant benefit of multi-cloud is that it avoids lock-in with one specific vendor. Although you’re still tied in as per the terms of your agreement with each of the individual cloud services you choose to deploy, by using multiple providers you can more precisely match workloads to individual clouds.
You can also ensure that specific workloads are kept secure as they are separate to any other workloads held in different cloud services. So if, for example, you encountered an issue with AWS, all of the data held within Azure would be unaffected. You’d also have the opportunity to potentially lift and shift from one service to another should you need to.
In short, yes they can. Although they differ, the two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive.
It is entirely possible to build an appropriate multi-cloud strategy that includes a hybridised element. This would essentially see an infrastructure that leverages multiple cloud services for different workloads, one of which is also combined with a private cloud to create a hybrid environment.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong approach. It’s about identifying your own needs and aligning this with a strategy that best supports the requirements of your business, your users and the applications they use every day.
Our own approach to the cloud starts with your data – who is creating it, who is analysing it and who needs to access it. From this starting point we can then design and implement your ideal solution as a part of a unique cloud journey.
To discuss your journey to the cloud, and how you can create your own hybrid or multi-cloud environment, get in touch with a member of the team.