Back to Glossary

What is multi-cloud?

Multi-cloud is a strategy where an organization leverages two or more cloud computing platforms to perform various tasks. Organizations that do not want to depend on a single cloud provider may choose to use resources from several providers to get the best benefits from each unique service.

A multi-cloud solution may refer to the combination of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models. It may also refer to the use of several private and public cloud solutions. Generally, IT professionals use the term to describe a strategy that employs several public cloud offerings.

Multi-cloud strategy vs hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud is not a multi-cloud, though a multi-cloud may include hybridization. Essentially, a hybrid cloud refers to a pairing of a private cloud and public cloud. Organization's leverage this model when they want to maintain the security and privacy of sensitive data within an on-site cloud solution - or within a privately hosted cloud. A hybrid solution relies on a private data center, yet leverages the advanced computing resources of a public solution.

Multi-cloud strategy can include the use of a hybrid environment but relies on more than one public cloud. The strategy may reduce the need for cloud migration, as some data can remain on the enterprise's servers. An organization could choose to store user data on site, leveraging one provider for IaaS and another for SaaS. Some cloud environments may be tailored for specific use cases, which prompts IT stakeholders to select specific cloud service providers for various business functions.

Why do organizations adopt multi-cloud strategy?

Organizations choose multi-cloud strategies for a number of reasons. Some leaders want to avoid dependence on a single cloud provider, thereby reducing financial risk. Getting stuck with a single vendor could make it difficult for an organization to adopt a responsive strategy. Other organizations decide upon a multi-cloud strategy to mitigate the risk of a localized hardware failure. Such a failure in an on-site data center could push the entire enterprise offline. Multi-cloud greatly reduces the risk of catastrophic failure.

Multi-cloud can be an effective strategy for combating shadow IT. Shadow IT is technology used by individuals or groups within an organization that is not managed by the organization's IT department. This problem tends to arise when policy-compliant IT does not fully meet the needs of the organization. A multi-cloud environment allows groups to comply with IT policy while benefiting from a specific cloud technology.

IT stakeholders can manage a multi-cloud environment with tools offered by the cloud service providers or abstract away from the complexity by leveraging a cloud management platform. There is no singular best practice guideline for managing multi-cloud because each organization's use case will be unique.

Benefits of multi-cloud

A multi-cloud strategy brings choices to an organization. With more options comes the ability to invest in digital transformation without getting locked into a single service or putting down a huge outlay of capital. Specific benefits of multi-cloud include:

ROI optimization

A multi-cloud strategy allows stakeholders to pick and choose the specific solutions that work best for their organization. As diverse business needs arise, change and become more complex, the business can allocate resources for specific uses, maximize those resources and pay for only what they use.

Advanced security

As with hybrid cloud, multi-cloud empowers organizations by maintaining strict security compliance while optimizing computing resources. Multi-cloud also reduces the risk that a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack could take mission-critical applications offline. When even a single hour of downtime can cost an organization thousands, advanced security protocols pay for themselves.

Freedom of choice

A single cloud provider may not be able to provide an organization with all of the computing services it requires. Many financial stakeholders may be wary of vendor lock-in, as well. If the business finds a better deal with another provider, it may prove difficult to move away from an architecture that is designed from the ground up for another provider's cloud environment.

Reliable architecture

Utilizing multiple cloud solutions creates redundancies that reduce the risk of a single point of failure. Multi-cloud reduces the likelihood that a single service failure will take the entire enterprise offline. Adding hybridization adds another level of security by keeping sensitive data within a secure, local network.

Better disaster preparedness

The likelihood of concurrent downtime across multiple cloud vendors is extremely low. Service providers such as Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have impressive service level agreements that protect their clients against downtime. By leveraging two or more of these services, risk of disaster decreases significantly.

Additional Resources