Hybrid multi cloud architecture

Hybrid multi cloud architecture is indisputably the most challenging form of cloud architecture to implement, but if you get it right you really can have the best modern information technology has to offer.

Hybrid multi cloud architecture is basically about quality over quantity

What hybrid multi cloud architecture actually means

Before you decide whether or not hybrid multi cloud architecture is right for you, you ought to keep in mind that there are a couple of clear downsides to it.  The first one is its obvious complexity.  The second one is that you are going to reduce your options for volume discounts.  For both of these reasons, hybrid multi cloud architecture is only likely to make sense for larger SMBs who have solid, in-house IT resources.

Hybrid clouds combine private and public clouds.  Multi clouds are exactly that, multiple public cloud environments.  Hybrid multi cloud architecture therefore, combine a private cloud with multiple public cloud environments, all working together as one whole.  Let’s break this up.

A private cloud is a cloud platform which is only used by one tenant.  It has very high security, but also tends to have higher costs and may lack flexibility. 

A public cloud is a cloud platform which is shared between unrelated tenants.  This fact means that it cannot meet the same security standards as private clouds (although it can be a whole lot better than in-house systems run by SMBs which don’t really understand what they’re doing), but they’re plenty secure enough for most purposes, flexible, scalable and very cost effective (at least if you manage your cost optimization properly).

Multi cloud environments are simply instances where implement cloud deployments over multiple cloud vendors.  This may be done for various reasons such as to avoid vendor lock in and/or to ensure business continuity.

Why use a hybrid cloud?

There are two main reasons why businesses opt for hybrid cloud architecture.  The first is so that they can keep sensitive data (often personal data) in a private cloud while using the public cloud for everything else.  The second is because they want to move to the cloud computing environment in stages and need to maintain their own infrastructure until the move is complete.  Even though hybrid clouds are more complex than just using a private cloud or just using a public cloud they can still be vastly preferable to trying to implement a “big bang” migration.

What makes a successful hybrid cloud?

A successful hybrid multi cloud cloud architecture will have both private and public areas working together, for example it will have a centralized identity infrastructure.  Network architecture will ensure that the public cloud functions as an extension of the private cloud and, in particular, that the connection between them works at a decent speed.  Last but definitely by no means least, there absolutely must be unified and cohesive management of both private and public clouds.

Why use a multi cloud environment?

That is actually a more interesting question and there are two main answers to it, which, ironically enough, largely contradict each other.

Answer one – to reduce risk

To use a cliche, you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.  For example, you don’t just accept the reality of duplication, you embrace it as a way to provide redundancy and hence to increase your chances of being able to maintain 100% business continuity.  Similarly, you accept the extra cost of working with multiple vendors (because you will be giving each lower volume) as the price of avoiding vendor lock in.

Answer two – to increase agility

In this situation, your aim is to grab the “best in breed” functions on different platforms and accept that you’re going to pay a premium for doing so.  For example, you might choose Microsoft Azure to migrate Microsoft workloads, because, understandably, it makes the cloud migration about as easy as it can possibly be.  Then you might choose AWS and/or Google Cloud for other functions.

In this scenario, you’re not worrying about vendor lock-in or even business continuity, you’re just looking to cherry-pick the best resources for any given situation.

Neither approach is right or wrong but given the complexity and expense of running multi cloud environments, it’s strongly recommended to think carefully through all the implications before deciding whether or not a multi cloud approach is really right for you. 

For example, the idea of having redundancy sounds good in theory, but the best cloud vendors will have close to 100% uptime, so realistically just how much redundancy will you need?  Is it really worth the hassle and cost of managing multiple cloud environments? 

Similarly good cloud vendors will have a reasonable approach to assisting customers who wish to leave and this can be investigated prior to signing up with them.  Some cloud vendors may offer better terms if you agree to stay for a certain period, it’s up to each organization to decide if that’s worthwhile.

What makes a successful multi cloud environment?

Basically the same comments apply as for a successful hybrid cloud.