Multi-Cloud: Today’s Preference, Tomorrow’s Necessity

    The hybrid cloud has emerged as the preferred way for the enterprise to manage applications and workloads across distributed infrastructure. But even though the kinks are still being worked out linking local resources to a single cloud, the IT industry is already looking toward multi-cloud architectures.

    By and large, the same challenges exist with one or many clouds, although the scale and orchestration are certainly greater with the latter. But ultimately, the need for a distributed, redundant data ecosystem is growing due to the increasing dependence on digital services by core business processes. So not only will the multi-cloud architecture need to be reliable, it must operate with low latency and in a near seamless fashion to provide optimal support for critical applications.

    In a way, the multi-cloud is emerging for the same reasons that earlier JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) and more recent JBOF (Just a Bunch of Flash) arose in legacy infrastructure, says Lance L. Smith, CEO of Primary Data. With JBOC (Just a Bunch of Clouds), you get broad scalability and system redundancy without locking yourself into a single-vendor solution. This adds some complexity on the management side, which will require in-house expertise and an ongoing integration and optimization program, but in the end it should emerge as the least expensive way to manage scale while still preserving visibility and control in your service environment.

    Growing interest in edge computing, which is essential for the Internet of Things, is also helping overcome any hesitation about multi-cloud environments, according to Craig McLuckie, CEO of container management firm Heptio Inc. To achieve this layer of infrastructure, organizations will require a great deal of heterogeneity, while still maintaining centralized control and a high degree of agility to capitalize on data-driven opportunities as they arise. Through open source virtual- and container-based architectures, organizations can build what they need, where and when they need it, across a multi-cloud footprint.

    One of the best ways to mask diversity in infrastructure is to create unity on the management layer. Companies like Veritas Technologies are working with top cloud providers like Google, IBM and Microsoft to provide broad visibility into diversified clouds and the bi-direction migration capabilities that need to exist between providers. The company’s new Information Map S3 Connector provides a real-time, interactive view of unstructured data assets within S3-enabled repositories, while its CloudMobility module provides single-click movement of workloads between clouds or to/from the data center. At the same time, the CloudPoint system provides snapshot-based data protection across multiple clouds for improved data recovery and consistent policy enforcement.

    But can’t all of these problems be addressed with just a single cloud as long as it provides the scale and features they need? Perhaps, says Scality president Erwan Menard, but not every cloud is suited for every task, and just like in the data center, it’s never good to place all your eggs in one basket. Plus, organizations that are subject to data sovereignty and other regulations may find themselves relying on multiple clouds by necessity.

    The fact that the enterprise is now contemplating not just one cloud but several is evidence that much of the fear, uncertainty and doubt over third-party infrastructure has subsided. With virtually all data loads becoming mission-critical in the rapidly evolving digital economy, few organizations will be able to fully support their own data infrastructure much longer.

    Multiple clouds may require a little more work up front, and on the management side, but it’s worth it to know that, barring a truly catastrophic event, there should always be resources available when you need them.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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