April 6, 2023
Cloud adoption is no longer an option now. Irrespective of the size or domain of operation, businesses all over the world are migrating to the cloud. While the new-age enterprises are already cloud-native, the older, established businesses are also embarking on their cloud migration journey. As is the case with technology perennially, even cloud computing is evolving at a break-neck speed. It is a booming industry which is always ready to exceed expectations by challenging the status quo and delivering new and improved solutions for business-critical problems. In fact, Fortune Business Insights predicts that the 2021-2028 period will make the global market for cloud storage worth more than $390 billion.
It is obvious that as the needs of enterprises evolve over time, they will prefer to have the ability to choose the cloud environment that is apt for their business needs. Enterprises, as of today, have more options in the cloud ecosystem. They are ready to make more investments in hybrid and multi cloud environments as it can provide them with greater flexibility and competitive advantage.
Let us then try and understand the origins of cloud computing, the different types of cloud available in the market, and the modifications and evolutions that have happened over a time period to suit the growing business needs of enterprises.
What began as a novel and innovative concept has, over the years, become a disruptive endeavour. Modern cloud computing infrastructure is believed to have been developed in the 1990s when VPNs or virtual private networks were being used by businesses. Then came the pioneer Salesforce which offered its Software-as-a-Service over the Internet, an endeavour made possible by cloud computing. This was followed by Amazon Web Services being created in 2006 and the subsequent release of their offering Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in the market, which enabled customers to use virtual machines on rent as infrastructure for their data and applications. Powered by cloud computing, innovative streaming media giant Netflix, launched its streaming services online in 2007. A lot has happened since then, with Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and OpenStack all coming up with their cloud divisions in 2010 to make cloud services available for the masses, and since then, there has been an exodus of enterprises to the cloud via transitions and migrations.
Cloud computing involves a broad spectrum of architecture models, classifications and types. Let us understand the four main categories of the cloud:
1. Public Cloud
2. Private Cloud
3. Hybrid Cloud
4. Multi Cloud
Public cloud is a type of computing service provided by vendors like Google, Amazon, Microsoft etc., which enables users to make use of the compute, storage, applications and deploy-and-develop environments to individual users or organizations on-demand over the public internet or through a dedicated connection for free or on a subscription / pay-per-use fee. The services include databases, firewalls, management tools, and different types of Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service offerings. It is an alternative deployment approach to traditional on-prem IT architectures. Once upon a time, Netflix used to have its own IT infrastructure, but as demand fluctuated at different times of the day, in order to cater to its subscribers’ demands, it has moved a large part of its data centre operations to the public cloud. They particularly faced an issue during the evening and especially at weekends when demand would spike. So they signed up for Amazon’s cloud services and would pay only for the peak timings when there would be high demand, and in this case, they would use the Amazon regional data centres nearest to the user.
Benefits of the public cloud include lower CAPEX investments as they do not have to set up and maintain on-premises infrastructure, high scalability to meet fluctuating demands, the flexibility of paying as per use and access to analytics for better business insights.
However, as public cloud resources run on a multi-tenant shared infrastructure that is available to users worldwide over the internet, they may be subjected to network bandwidth and connectivity issues. Along with it comes the issue of vendor lock-in, which can make migration between two cloud providers very difficult.
This is where private clouds come into play.
A private cloud is pretty much like a public cloud, offering the same set of services in computing, storage and networking and scalability. However, the difference is that it is based on a single-tenant architecture that runs on privately owned infrastructure. A private cloud can be hosted at the organization’s own data centre by building layers of virtualization and cloud service over it, at a third-party facility or via a private cloud provider who offers private cloud hosting services.
Some of the benefits of opting for private clouds over public clouds are a higher level of security as organizations have the same amount of control as they would have on their own on-premises infrastructure, greater reliability due to dedicated channels for that organization only, greater long term savings even though it does warrant initial investment as the organization already has the hardware and network in place, almost similar costs every month irrespective of the workloads and greater adherence to data privacy. For instance, it is mandatory, as per GDPR, that EU residents’ data should remain inside the EU only.
However, the challenges with private clouds are that they need a high initial investment, on-demand scalability could become an issue due to the lengthy procurement process and capacity management needs to be done, which compounds the work of internal cloud operations staff.
A hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private cloud services. It is maintained by external and internal cloud service providers and with orchestration between the two. It combines the best of both worlds, i.e. the scalability to accommodate demand spikes which is offered by public clouds, and the secure maintenance of sensitive and critical data and applications in a private cloud. A hybrid cloud offers multiple advantages, such as flexible deployment options, the ability to move between different cloud environments and greater control on the spends.
An example of a company using a Hybrid Cloud is Walmart, also known as the Triplet Model.
“We always blaze our own trail at Walmart, and that includes building one of the largest hybrid clouds in existence. This “Triplet Model,” as we call it, is innovative and powerful, both by design and deployment. By pairing public clouds (Google and Microsoft) with our Walmart Private Clouds via a regional cloud model across the U.S. (West, Central and East), we’re enabling 10,000 edge cloud nodes at our facilities and bringing computational power and data closer to our customers and associates. ”
– Suresh Kumar, Executive Vice President, Global Chief Technology Officer and Chief Development Officer, Walmart Inc
According to the Wall Street Journal, this move by Walmart, wherein it has built powerful custom software that enables it to run its back-end operations across any cloud system, has helped it save thousands of dollars in revenue. By placing the workloads in the right place, they have ensured that the application performance is high and there is low latency across the locations. Additionally, the model offers greater scalability and flexibility to react to increased demands during peak hours, along with reducing the cloud cost by 10-18%. With increasing interoperability between public clouds, hybrid clouds will soon become the norm.
When an organization uses cloud computing services from at least two different cloud providers (could be two or more public clouds or two or more private clouds or a combination of both) to run their applications, it is said to be using multi cloud infrastructure. Multi-Cloud computing solutions are portable across multiple cloud providers’ cloud infrastructures. They are typically built on open-source, cloud-native technologies like Kubernetes, and as this technology is supported by all public cloud providers, enterprises using multi clouds have the flexibility & portability to migrate, build and optimize applications across multiple clouds and computing environments. Multi cloud environments are also compatible with DevOps practices and other cloud-native application technologies such as containers and microservices architecture that enable portability. Many enterprises are looking forward to implementing multi cloud strategies as it enables them to run applications wherever needed without adding to the complexity.
At the outset, Hybrid and Multi Cloud may look very similar and are sometimes used interchangeably, but they refer to two distinct concepts. Yes, they both make use of multiple cloud environments from multiple vendors, but what fundamentally separates them is the type of cloud infrastructure. By implementing a multi cloud strategy, enterprises can work on different workloads by making use of cloud computing services from two or more public cloud vendors. In the case of hybrid clouds, however, enterprises work on common workloads that are deployed across multiple computing environments.
While multi cloud deployments interconnect services from separate cloud environments for different purposes, they do not necessarily need to connect the clouds. Hybrid cloud deployments on the other hand, need to have an orchestration between the various cloud environments ( i.e. an on-premises or a private cloud and a public cloud) as they address the same workload.
Enterprises implementing Multi cloud architecture can reap multiple benefits, such as improving the flexibility and agility of the IT in the organization. Due to an increase in the number of players offering Cloud computing as a service, enterprises now have a wide array of options in the cloud ecosystem. Therefore, investment in multi-cloud is set to overtake legacy IT and private cloud spending in the next few years.
Here are some of the key benefits that can be achieved with multi cloud computing:
1. Avoid vendor lock-in: No more worrying about being at the mercy of one cloud provider. With multi cloud approach, enterprises can choose the solution that best meets their business requirements and the same time, reduce data, interoperability and cost issues, which often arise due to dependency on one cloud provider.
2. Best of each cloud: The idea of having a multi cloud approach is to reap the benefits offered by cloud providers without having to worry about speed, performance, reliability, geographical location, and security and compliance requirements.
3. Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): By implementing multi-cloud strategy, enterprises can minimize their IT spending and take advantage of an optimum combination of pricing and performance across different cloud providers, thereby lowering the total cost of ownership.
4. Greater reliability and redundancy: By reducing the risk of a single point of failure, multi cloud deployment adoption significantly mitigates unplanned downtime or outages. This is because an outage in one cloud will not affect the workloads running on other clouds.
5. Enhanced Security & Regulatory Compliance: Multi cloud strategy also ensures security policies and regulatory compliance is consistent across all workloads irrespective of the vendor, service or environment.
Even with all the benefits listed above, there can be quite a few daunting challenges with multi cloud strategy implementation. One of the major roadblocks is a significant increase in management complexity. Business needs, design and development drivers, and architecture constraints due to existing systems need to be considered when implementing a multi cloud strategy and this adds to the increased management complexity. Maintaining consistent security is also a hindrance because the same workload is running on different clouds. In addition, integrating software environments and difficulty with achieving consistent performance and reliability across clouds also add to the challenges of implementing a multi cloud strategy. Lastly, implementing multi cloud involves an initial investment that could be costly for enterprises. However, these costs balance out in the long run offering a lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
Let us now look at some of the use cases of multi cloud and that would explain why it is getting popular as a strategy:
As of today, many enterprises globally are transitioning from on-premises data centre to an option that incorporates cloud infrastructure. In these circumstances they must choose the service provider in accordance with their current and future business needs. Hughes Systique has been helping enterprises migrate their existing applications to the cloud and has experience in operating in public, private and multi cloud environments. Reach out to us if you are interested in utilizing the multitude of benefits that different cloud environments offer.