Do Your Customers Need Multi-Cloud?

Have you ever gone shopping in a department store and couldn’t find what you wanted?

Then you go across the mall to another department store and hunt for that item. Still no luck. They just don’t seem to have what you want.

Finally, you try a third department store and there it is, the product you want! You snatch it up and head toward the cashier when you realize, oh snap, you don’t have an account with that store!! You do with the first store, which is why you went looking there first. But you don’t have an account here. What do you do?

You open an account.

Similar But Not the Same

At first glance you’d think clouds, especially the big three hyperscalers, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, are all the same. And to some extent they are similar. They all provide similar services, including infrastructure, software, and platform-as-a-service.

You can think of them being as similar as kitchens are. Every kitchen is meant to prepare food, but each has its own unique set of utensils, pots, pans, ovens, stoves, mixers, and more. Similar, but not the same.

The easiest way to “see” the differences between the big three is to examine the list of services each one offers. Were we to count them and report how many each has, our totals would be incorrect by the time this article posts because they change so much and so often.

Some services are offered by all three hyperscalers. Others only by one or two. In many cases all three have services with the same names. In most cases those names describe similar services, but not all. There’s no good reason to think that any service performs the same way across all three, or has the same parameters or settings.

It is safe to say that some services perform better on one platform than others, and perhaps have more features.

It’s also safe to say that prices for similar services vary, sometimes very widely!

Expanding Your Cloud Capabilities, Increasing Agility

The question of why a company would need multi-cloud is raised often. You’ve probably answered it many different ways. Here’s a few to consider:

  • Redundant redundancy could be a reason for some. Those who simply don’t trust any of the hyperscalers to successfully replicate data between their own data centers.
  • It is very possible that the cloud service a company uses as their primary simply doesn’t offer a service they really need. Similar to opening a new account at the department store, the easiest way to gain access to that service is to contract with that cloud service. Presto. Multi-cloud.
  • Each of the hyperscalers does different things better than the others. A company may easily select their hyperscaler based on how well it supports development and user testing. Then they are confronted with the need to process massive databases, which another hyperscaler is better for. Their choice is to use something other than best-of-breed or go multi-cloud.

A more generalized way to look at it is that companies choose multi-cloud to increase their agility, so each of these reasons and many more can all be defined back down to that. Want to benefit from price competition between the hyperscalers? Go multi-cloud. Want greater systems resilience? Go multi-cloud.

Want to avoid the ever-unpopular “vendor lock-in?” Go multi-cloud.

The Cost of Multi-Cloud

Multi-cloud doesn’t add cost above and beyond those incurred when subscribing to each of the cloud providers. In fact, shopping each service for best price can be said to reduce costs.

Beyond cost, there are the burdens encountered when going multi-cloud, the most prevalent of which is multi-cloud management. Why?:

  • Each cloud has its own procedures, its own controls.
  • Each cloud has its own security specifications. Many argue that multi-cloud is actually more secure than single cloud. That may be true, but only if each provider’s requirements are carefully fulfilled.
  • When data and processes cross between clouds, it may become very difficult to trouble-shoot should errors occur. Where did the problem actually occur? On which cloud?
  • System design becomes trickier. Where will each data asset reside? Especially those that are acted upon by more than one cloud provider.
  • Someone needs to spend a lot of time staying on top of changing prices. A sufficiently significant change may occasion a decision to change providers for a specific service.
  • Better today may be worse tomorrow. All the providers are constantly developing new improvements to existing services and introducing new ones. Someone needs to stay on top of these changes to identify those the company wants to take advantage of.
  • Context. The idea of a “single-pane-of-glass” management console for all clouds sounds great, but is difficult to achieve.

When the Cost is Justified, the Channel Opportunity is Enormous

If your team has the skills, every time a customer chooses to go multi-cloud becomes a huge opportunity. They need help designing the cooperation between the clouds, developing a management and security strategy, making everything seamless for users, and keeping on top of costs in a rapidly-shifting environment. Up for the challenge?

Howard M. Cohen
Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry who writes for and about the IT channel. He’s a frequent speaker at IT industry events, including Microsoft Inspire, Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon, and he frequently hosts and presents webinars for many vendors and publications.

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