The multi-cloud environment is not going away, with most large enterprises favoring this approach. Multi-cloud allows enterprises to select different cloud services from multiple providers because some are better for certain tasks than others, along with other factors. While there are valid points to be made both for and against multi-cloud in this ongoing debate, the question remains: Are enterprises making this choice based on strategy or confusion? Let’s look at this issue closer.
The technology industry has never solved the question of best-of-breed versus bundled/all-in consumption. Many enterprises prefer to use technologies consumed from different vendors, while others prefer to have primary providers with additional supplier support. Our research suggests 90% of large enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud strategy.
The definition of multi-cloud has changed over the years. In the SaaS landscape, enterprise IT has always been multi-cloud as it needed Salesforce.com to run customer experience, Workday to run Human Resources, SAP to run finance, Oracle to run supply chain, and ServiceNow to run service delivery. The advent of infrastructure platform players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has reinvigorated this best of breed versus all-in cloud debate that results in multi-cloud or single-cloud adoption.
In a true multi-cloud world, parts of workloads were expected to run on different clouds seamlessly. But increasingly, interoperability is becoming the core discussion in multi-cloud. Therefore, it is not about splitting workloads and working across the cloud, but ensuring one cloud workload can be ported to another cloud. While debating a pedantic definition of multi-cloud is moot, it is important to acknowledge it as the way forward.
Most cloud vendors now realize multi-cloud is here to stay. However, behind closed doors, the push to go all-in is very apparent across the three large vendors. Let’s examine the following pro and anti-multi-cloud arguments:
Both the pro and anti-multi-cloud proponents have strong arguments, and in addition to the above points, there are many others on each side. But the truth is increasing numbers of enterprises are adopting multi-cloud. So, when an enterprise proactively adopts a multi-cloud strategy, does that mean it’s a strategic choice or strategic confusion about cloud and its role as well as the other factors outlined above?
This is a hard question to answer, and each enterprise will have to carve its cloud strategy. However, enterprises should realize this strategy will change in the future. No enterprise will be “forever single cloud,” but most will be “forever multi-cloud.” Therefore, once they embark on a multi-cloud strategy, it will be extremely rare for enterprises to go back, but they can change their single cloud strategy more easily.
In enterprises with significant regional or business autonomy, multi-cloud adoption will grow. Enterprises may adopt various cloud vendors for different regions due to their requirements for workloads, regulations, vendor relationships, etc. Instances will continue to exist where some senior leaders support certain cloud vendors, and, as a result, this preference may also lead to multi-cloud adoption.
On many occasions, enterprises may adopt multi-cloud for specific workloads rather than as part of their strategy. They may want data-centric workloads to run on a cloud but may not want to leverage the cloud for other capabilities. Many cloud vendors may play “loss leaders” to get strategic enterprise workloads (e.g., SAP, mainframe) onto their platform to create sticky relationships with clients.
Many software vendors are launching newer offerings proclaiming they work best with client’s multi-cloud environments. As an ecosystem is built around multi-cloud, it will be hard to change. In addition to AWS, GCP, and MS Azure, other cloud vendors are upping their offerings, as we covered earlier in Cloud Wars Chapter 5: Alibaba, IBM, and Oracle Versus Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Is There Even a Fight?.
Given multi-cloud drives “commoditization” of underlying cloud platforms, large cloud vendors are skeptical of it. Integration layers that provide value accretion on abstract platforms rather than core cloud services is an additional vendor concern. However, eventually, a layer on top of these cloud vendor platforms will enable different cloud offerings to work together seamlessly. It will be interesting to see whether cloud platform providers or other vendors end up building such a layer.
We believe system integrators have a good opportunity of owning this “meta integration” of multi-cloud to create seamless platforms. However, most of these system integrators are afraid of upsetting the large cloud vendors by even proactively bringing this up with them, let alone creating such a service. This reluctance may harm the cloud industry in the long run.
What are your thoughts about multi-cloud as a strategy or a confusion? Please write to me at [email protected].