There’s a lot of talk about multi-cloud architecture – and apparently, a lot of disagreement about whether there is actually any logical use case to use multiple public clouds.
How many use multi-cloud already?
First question: are companies actually using a multi-cloud architecture?
According to a recent survey by IDG: yes. More than half (55%) of respondents use multiple public clouds: 34% use two, 10% use three, and 11% use more than three. IDG did not provide a term definition for multi-cloud. Given the limited list of major public clouds, the “more than three set” might be counting smaller providers. Or, respondents could be counting combinations such as AWS EC2 and Google G-Suite or Microsoft 365.
There certainly are some using multiple major providers – as one example, ParkMyCloud has at least one customer using compute infrastructure in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud concurrently. In our observation, this is frequently manifested as separate applications architected on separate cloud providers by separate teams within the greater organization.
Why do organizations (say they) prefer multi-cloud?
With more than half of IDG’s respondents reporting a multi-cloud architecture, now we wonder: why? Or at least – since we humans are poor judges of our own behavior – why do they say they use multiple clouds? On survey, public cloud users indicated they adopted a multi-cloud approach to get best-of-breed platform and service options, while other goals included cost savings, risk mitigation, and flexibility.
Are these good reasons to use multiple clouds? Maybe. The idea of mixing service options from different clouds within a single application is more a dream than reality. Even with Kubernetes. (Stay tuned for a rant post on this soon).
Cloud economist Corey Quinn discussed this on a recent livestream with ParkMyCloud customer Rob Weaver. He asked Rob why his team at Workfront hadn’t yet completed a full Kubernetes architecture.
Rob said, “we had everything in a datacenter, and we decided, we’re going to AWS. We’re going there as fast as we can because it’s going to make us more flexible. Once we’re there, we’ll figure out how to make it save us money. We did basically lift and shift. …. Then, all of the sudden, we had an enormous deal come up, and we had to go into another cloud. Had we taken the approach of writing our own Lambdas to park this stuff, now GCP comes along. We would have to have written a completely different language, a completely different architecture to do the same thing. The idea of software-as-a-service and making things modular where I don’t really care what the implementation is has a lot of value.”
Corey chimed in, “I tend to give a lot of talks, podcasts, blog posts, screaming at people in the street, etc. about the idea that multi-cloud as a best practice is nuts and you shouldn’t be doing it. Whenever I do that, I always make it a point to caveat that, ‘unless you have a business reason to do it.’ You just gave the perfect example of a business reason that makes sense – you have a customer who requires it for a variety of reasons. When you have a strategic reason to go multi-cloud, you go multi-cloud. It makes sense. But designing that from day one doesn’t always make a lot of sense.”
So, Corey would say: Rob’s situation is the one use case where a multi-cloud architecture actually makes sense. Do you agree?