Expert Blog: Broader Horizons with a Multi-Cloud Strategy

Mike Maney
Mike Maney, Head of Corporate Communications, Linode

The global public cloud infrastructure market will expand by 35 percent to $120 billion in 2021, according to Forrester. The analyst firm found (PDF opens in new window) that ‘three US-based hyperscalers – AWS, Microsoft, and Google – are the primary public cloud vendors for 46 percent of respondents.’

Despite nearly half of the available cloud market being dominated by a select few large companies, 54 percent of this vast market remains open to alternatives beyond the Big Three. And it’s in this open space where companies are increasingly searching to find the best fit for their businesses. As AWS’ Matt Asay has commented, it’s not about carving out slices of pie; it’s about making the pie bigger for everyone. And who doesn’t like more pie?

Author: Mike Maney, Head of Corporate Communications, Linode.

Avoiding Cloud Lock-In

For many companies, the move to cloud computing is an opportunity to innovate or do things differently. Their hands may have been forced by COVID-19, or they may have sped up their plans due to the pandemic, but, ultimately, they want to use the cloud to innovate faster and support their business objectives.

Common is the experience of IT teams who made big software commitments and got locked into licensing contracts for years. As they move to the cloud, they want to avoid a repeat of that legacy lock-in model. As Wahl Network’s Chris Wahl said recently, “Migration pays off once. Mobility pays off forever.”

For cloud providers, lock-in is a challenge. While it might make short-term business sense to try and keep customers inside the walls of a single ecosystem, the reality today is that unhappy customers will lead to far more problems than any incremental revenue levels can justify. The reputation damage from lock-in can also be a risk, as stories about lock-in can affect potential customers and lead them to look elsewhere.

Rather than trying to keep customers by raising barriers to leaving, cloud providers should make it easier for them to move between providers, competing in areas like service, predictability, and trust, where many customers – especially individual developers and small businesses – often feel the most pain.

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Redundancy, Features and Costs

This is openness and ability to put workloads where they fit best, is known to many in the industry as multi cloud. And while it may be a third-rail topic among the most fervent clouderati, there is no argument that it is a reality for cloud infrastructure providers and their customers. As a strategy, multi-cloud offers redundancy and the ability to select various cloud services or features from different providers. This is an approach that many companies are adopting to reduce the risk of lock-in. Flexera’s State of the Cloud Report for 2020 found that upwards of 93 percent of organizations are implementing multi-cloud as part of their IT strategies. This is where the bigger pie for all comes into play and an opportunity analysts at 451 Research see a strong role for alternative cloud providers.

For smaller companies and for enterprises that want to reduce their costs, alternative cloud providers can deliver services like object storage, block storage, compute, global availability, and network services like load balancing at far better price-performance than their hyperscale counterparts. This provides individual developers and businesses choices over how to organize their approach over time.

Multiple Multi-Cloud Approaches

There are multiple approaches that companies can take around multi-cloud. They can adopt different cloud services for different aspects of their IT, picking and choosing the right provider based on price, service and availability. One example is how multi-cloud deployments can split deployments for production and testing environments to give internal developers more power at a reduced cost. Equally, you might choose one cloud provider for compute and storage, but go with another to provide data backups. This helps you optimize your approach around cost, while still keeping things simple and avoiding lock-in over time.

Alongside these approaches to using different cloud providers for different tasks, you can spread the same application across multiple cloud services at the same time. This ensures that the application can carry on running even if a cloud provider has problems (like a region going down), or if the cloud operator does not have a data center in a location near to your customers (increasingly important with growing legislation around data sovereignty). Running across multiple clouds is a technical decision that has its own benefits and trade-offs, so looking at this in advance can help you decide.

Multi-cloud environments are a reality for today’s modern businesses. And for, perhaps, the first time in the cloud’s evolution, customers have choices in the mix of providers they work with. Choices that can be a better fit, help manage costs, and provide more personal service in a multi cloud provider environment.