Frequently, I receive questions about multi-cloud strategies and approaches. Business leaders have hailed multi-cloud strategies as the solution to many cloud computing problems. Among the perceived benefits of multi-cloud are vendor lock-in prevention, cost savings, and increased resilience. As with any technology, multi-cloud also has misconceptions. I will discuss the top 5 misconceptions surrounding multi-cloud benefits and why it is not always the best solution.
Let’s get to it!
Myth 1: Multi-Cloud Solves Single Vendor Lock-In
A common belief is that multi-cloud prevents single vendor lock-in. Businesses can avoid becoming dependent on a single cloud service provider by using multiple providers. However, based on my experience, this is not often the case. Even though you have another cloud provider’s services within your multi-cloud service catalogue, that does not eliminate the fact that you’ve leveraged services that are native to a specific cloud provider within an application, and thus you’re pretty much locked into that cloud platform. These native services are difficult to port over to another cloud provider and will require expensive and costly refactoring (meaning recoding) to move an application to another public cloud.
A related misconception is the use of third-party abstraction layers to avoid lock-in into native services. In order to allow application portability, organisations will have to give up most of the cloud providers’ native services and invest time, effort, and money into ensuring portability between multiple cloud providers (configuring different load balancers, networking, security, databases, monitoring, backup, automation, etc) while their competitors will go all in with a single cloud provider’s native service to get the most business value of their native cloud services while gaining higher cost efficiencies. Also, third-party abstractions technologies represent a new vendor lock-in and an additional cost (licensing, training, and hiring experienced staff).
Myth 2: Multi-Cloud is Cheaper than a Single Cloud Deployment
Another common misconception I often hear is that multi-cloud is cheaper than single-cloud deployment. This is often not true. In most multi-cloud deployments, I have seen, the cost of deploying and operating a single public cloud is often significantly more than a single public cloud deployment. The reason for this is that you’re paying for the complexity of multi-cloud, which is going to expand the talent and expertise requirements and the types of operational tools that you need. Additionally, you’ll need to leverage cross-cloud security, management and cost optimisation solutions and other abstraction layer technologies that make multi-cloud more costly to deploy and operate.
Adding to the misconception that the cloud is cheaper; many believe workloads can be moved from one cloud provider to another based on daily price fluctuations. The switch from one cloud to another based solely on daily pricing is not a logical approach for several reasons. To begin with, daily costs are only one aspect of the overall cost of cloud computing, which does not include the costs of data transfer can quickly add up and offset any savings from price fluctuations on a daily basis. It is easier and cheaper to move compute to data than data to compute!
Moreover, cloud providers often offer discounts or reserved instances that can significantly reduce the cost of running certain workloads. Discounts or reserved instances are usually based on long-term commitments and cannot be changed on a daily basis.
In addition to technical complexity, there is an increased resource overhead associated with requirements for skilled talent in multiple cloud platforms. Finding a subject matter expert in one cloud provider technology is a challenge and costly in this market, finding talent for multiple clouds can be very costly. Finally, doing things the cloud service provider way (the AWS, Azure, GCP way) will provide a higher cost efficiency (Database as a service vs running as a Virtual Machine).
Myth 3: Multi-Cloud is More Resilient
The most persistent misconception I hear about multi-cloud computing is that it is inherently more resilient than a single cloud. The notion is not only misguided but can also lead organisations down a dangerous path with potential risks and downtime.
The idea behind this misconception is that companies can minimize their risk of downtime or data loss by using multiple clouds. However, this is not true. The complexity of managing multiple clouds can increase downtime risks and introduce new risks.
For example, data and resource integration between different cloud providers is a challenge that organisations struggle with. Increasing latency and data consistency can negatively impact the performance of critical applications. Also, in a multi-cloud environment, organizations must also manage security and compliance, which can be complex and time-consuming.
Additionally, you’ll need to customize the application and data to maintain full portability between multi-providers, which places a massive burden on application developers. Also, the additional cost needed for 3rd party tools to monitor and manage multi-cloud environments combined with the cost of additional supporting talent needed diminishes the value of moving to multi-cloud-based platforms for increased resiliency reasons.
Myth 4: Multi-Cloud is More Secure than a Single Cloud
Many organisations believe that utilizing multiple clouds provides greater security than using a single cloud provider. There is, however, a flaw in this notion. Using multiple clouds can increase security risks.
Cloud providers lack standardization, which poses a major challenge. Different cloud providers use different security protocols and technologies, making it difficult to maintain consistent security measures. Consequently, security gaps can occur and timely responses to security incidents can be impeded.
Moreover, businesses need to manage security across multiple environments when they use multiple clouds, increasing the complexity, cost, and workload of security management. Security breaches in one cloud environment can spread to other cloud environments, putting sensitive data and applications at risk.
Myth 5: Multi-Cloud Provides Negotiating Leverage for Better Pricing
There is another misconception regarding multi-cloud adoption: businesses can negotiate better pricing with cloud vendors by leveraging competition between them. Theoretically, this is possible, but in my experience, it rarely happens. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are similar to airlines. With airlines, the more you spend with them, the more miles you acquire, the more discounts you get, and earning you a higher VIP status in the process. Like airlines, CSPs offer volume discounts based on how much you spend with them. Reducing the spending in half will significantly reduce the spend base used to negotiate.
For example, spending £6 million on one cloud provider will provide more negotiating leverage than spending £2 million on three cloud providers.
The Abilene Paradox
An Abilene Paradox occurs when a group of people collectively decide to do something that is not in their best interests. Often this is due to pressure on members to conform to the majority’s decisions.
Multi-Cloud strategies may also result in businesses using multiple cloud providers, despite the fact that it may not be the best choice for them. Businesses can fall into this trap when they feel pressured to conform to industry trends. Nearly 90% of businesses are adopting a multi-cloud strategy according to a recent Flexera report. The high number of multi-cloud adopters can pressure organisations into following the “mainstream”.
Many of the common misconceptions about multi-cloud are due to the mountains of data available. Many organizations base their decisions on large amounts of data that is often conflicting. Making sense of that conflicting data can be a challenge. Some experts recommend a single cloud strategy while others insist multi-cloud is the only strategy. Many will recommend two primary multi-clouds, while others will recommend primary and secondary. While some will favour use of native tooling, others will insist on third-party tooling. Opinions conflict endlessly. How do you decide which recommendations best fit your strategy?
I help clients make sense of data and filter what is relevant to them. It is imperative to evaluate the multi-cloud benefits (or lack thereof). A smooth and safe multi-cloud journey requires validated relevant architectural patterns, workload placement strategies, tooling selection strategies and a multi-cloud operational team structure. Significant work is needed before the benefits of multi-cloud can be recognised.
Thank you for reading and sharing.