Cloud adoption amongst organisations in the UK reached 88 per cent in 2017, a huge increase from just over half of UK businesses in 2012, showing how far we’ve come in just the last five years. While today’s popularity and uses of cloud technology may have seemed farfetched half a decade ago, businesses are now not only adopting the cloud, but utilising several cloud services at a time, something that will increase exponentially over the next 12 months. With Gartner predicting that multi-cloud will be the common strategy for 70 per cent of enterprises by 2019, it’s fair to say 2018 will be the year that multi-cloud goes mainstream.
Defining the ‘multi’ in ‘multi-cloud’
The term ‘multi-cloud’, applies to any digital environment where applications are deployed across two or more cloud platforms. It is broader in its scope, and can include any combination of public clouds (such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services or OpenStack); private clouds (whether powered by OpenStack, Kubernetes, Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware); or dedicated servers.
The growth of multi-cloud is driving the potential of the cloud forward in ways we couldn’t have imagined five years ago. The key now is for businesses to gain an understanding of what each cloud can do for them, and harness each’s respective benefits.
Building the case for multiple clouds
With several cloud providers in the market, competing for attention from businesses, they have had to cultivate different strengths and ‘USPs’. Consequently, these clouds appeal to businesses for different reasons, depending on particular needs. Aside from gaining access to individual cloud’s strengths, there are other business advantages to adopting a multi-cloud approach, including:
- Best-of-breed services – Instead of being constrained by one cloud framework, a multi-cloud strategy gives the flexibility of being able to select the best-suited cloud service for each department’s workload. In turn, this enables the business to meet the unique requirements for each specific use case.
- Not locked in by one vendor – If using a single vendor, businesses risk being exposed to price increases and unrequested changes in service. By investing in multiple cloud providers, a business has more choice as to where they run their cloud workloads, giving them leverage to minimise these risks.
- Added geographical data flexibility – The leading cloud providers all have data centres across the globe, however some companies may require that data for specific workloads resides within certain national boundaries. A multi-cloud strategy means businesses can easily meet those requirements, while still engaging with a global cloud platform.
- Disaster mitigation – If a business properly utilises multiple clouds, they can minimise the risk of widespread data loss or application downtime due to a localised failure.
As these benefits continue to drive multi-cloud adoption in 2018, we’re also set to see clouds being used according to their specific capabilities. Businesses will start reaping rewards from the ability to broker cloud services ‘on-demand’, where and when they want them.
Over the next 12 months, service providers need to begin leveraging and marketing elements of their clouds and match this demand to suit individual business needs. We’ve already seen the beginnings of this appear in 2017 – Microsoft Azure increased its support for blockchain applications, while AWS launched a Kubernetes service to compete with Google, who have dominated the delivery of Kubernetes in the cloud. If organisations can learn to harness the power and benefits of each cloud available to them, they will be in a much better position to drive their business forward.
Aside from the growing number of firms adopting multi-cloud, 2018 will bring two other major cloud industry trends:
1. Multi-cloud arrives as a service
As more businesses evaluate the strengths of each cloud provider, many IT decision makers and CIOs will struggle to understand how best to adopt, govern and secure multiple clouds at once. How do they make consumption seamless, while ensuring they are fully optimised, cost efficient and meeting the needs of the business and the users? This is where ‘multi-cloud as a service’ comes into its own. Working hand in hand with cloud providers to tailor their services to individual business needs, CIOs are going to look for easy ways to integrate these into their organisations. This practice will require service management and application integration, multi-cloud security, and governance and application modernisation – all bundled together in a single service, across multiple clouds.
2. Adding Security
2017 was the year that cybercrime became famous, establishing itself as a credible threat, thanks to devastating cyberattacks such as WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya and a number of misconfigured cloud services leaking data. As a multi-cloud approach continues to become the preferred strategy for most organisations, the need to have complete control and oversight of all layers of data is vital to ensure data security. With GDPR coming into effect in just a few months’ time, businesses could be liable to huge financial penalties if they fail to protect the data they hold in their cloud, coupled with damages to their own reputation.
Consequently, new technologies such as serverless computing and machine learning are going to grow in popularity thanks to the security benefits they bring to the cloud. Serverless computing enables cloud instances to be scaled and patched instantly, reducing cyber-risk. Machine learning meanwhile will help servers identify patterns of malicious behaviour and respond faster than human administrators can.
The multi-cloud strategy is going to gather momentum in 2018 and alongside this there will be an increase in the technologies which help businesses manage, secure and use these cloud services. As the game changes, businesses and users must keep pace in order to remain relevant in this brave new and exciting multi-cloud world!
Lee James, Chief Technology Officer, Rackspace EMEA
Image source: Shutterstock/Omelchenko