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Most enterprises are struggling to catch up with the pace of digital transformation happening today. Legacy infrastructure and processes are increasingly proving unproductive to accommodate and adapt to the rapidly changing market demands with advancement in technologies, while IT departments have to face frequent investment decision-making in upgrading their networks and equipment.

As a solution to this problem, cloud technology has now been included in many businesses as third-party cloud networks allow the business to focus on core business elements minus the hassle about maintenance or the computer infrastructure. Moreover, a hybrid cloud strategy can provide a leaner and flexible solution to such IT woes by utilizing the public cloud to stretch the capacity and capabilities. By adding one or more cloud deployments to existing infrastructure, businesses can preserve existing investments, and also save themselves from single-IT vendor commitments. Additionally, by using a hybrid strategy, they can modernize applications and processes accordingly.

Distinction between hybrid cloud and multi-cloud

Hybrid cloud and multi-cloud are often used interchangeably; however, there is a prominent difference between the two terms. A multi-cloud setup uses multiple public cloud services such as AWS or Microsoft and is used for different purposes for specific services based on the providers' offerings. Hybrid cloud includes private cloud infrastructure such as an enterprise’s own data center along with one or more public cloud services, usually working in combination to achieve business goals and managed as one entity. Since workloads, infrastructure, and processes are unique to each enterprise, each hybrid or multi-cloud strategy is best suited to adapt to specific needs.

As cloud technology has matured, hybrid and multi-cloud approaches have become commonplace for leveraging the elastic scale and economics of the cloud. These networks support distributed enterprise workloads across clouds (IaaS clouds, private clouds and industry clouds) and enable quick troubleshooting and remediation of network issues that affect application availability and facilitates a more proactive and cost-efficient approach to cloud-centric network operations. Hybrid and multi-cloud networking should deliver operational agility and efficiency through visibility and actionable insights.

Why use hybrid and multi-cloud setups?

Along with cloud computing’s promise of flexibility and scalability of computing requirements for businesses, there are some issues and challenges that need consideration. For instance, security issues, including safety mechanisms, cloud server monitoring, data confidentiality, malicious operations in cloud computing have been flagged by many researchers. Another issue facing cloud computing is high latency as a result of the various nodes in the cloud communicating with each other during data transfers. Also, the issue of the problem of vendor lock-in is a prevalent one in cloud computing whereby the client has to depend on the provider of every issue and making changes very expensive, coupled with legal issues emanating from incompatibility issues. Thus, a multi-cloud setup allows businesses to utilize different cloud services for different applications and are well suited to make data transfer and utilization of apps across the clouds in a more streamlined and cohesive manner. Meanwhile, hybrid clouds allow businesses to share some of their data across various user types and at the same time keep certain parts of it confidential. Multi-cloud computing addresses some key issues mentioned above; however, it is important to note that these issues are both shared and specific to the parties involved. Here are some of its pluses:

  • Allowing on-demand service/resource requests during peak hours
  • Costs efficiency and improving quality of services
  • Following constraints such as new locations or laws
  • Bypassing single external provider dependency
  • Cybersecurity and availability of backups to deal with disasters or scheduled inactivity
  • Developing and modernizing own cloud service/resources offers

Tailwinds for hybrid and multi-cloud computing

There are several other applications for multi-cloud computing networks. However, the two major areas currently being explored are big data and machine learning.

Managing big data: The explosion of hyper-connectivity generated by the implementation of IoT technology will see the generation of big data at an enormous scale. This data management will be especially crucial in the sectors such as health care and finance where the privacy of individual data is of utmost importance. As a solution to the problem of big data storage, the idea of ‘rain cloud’, a multi-cloud model has been proposed where each member cloud works under service level agreement (SLA) with other member clouds to collaborate when data gets too large for any single cloud to handle. Similarly, hybrid clouds can facilitate big data management by communicating with private and public cloud deployment for confidentiality when different parties require unequal levels of access to the available data.  

Machine learning: Used in conjunction with cloud computing, machine learning comes with its unique challenges. The machine learning algorithm can process huge amounts of data stored in the cloud. Moreover, techniques such as virtual machine optimisation for healthcare services are being tested. In the oil and gas industry, data extraction and analysis of unstructured technical documents are also being proposed via a machine-learning-enabled platform, consisting of a selected sequence of algorithms, developed as a hybrid cloud container that automatically reads and analyses the documents with minimal human supervision. Users can upload raw data to the platform stored on a private local server. Structured data can be generated as output, which is pushed through to a search engine that is accessible to the user via the cloud. Furthermore, machine learning and multi-cloud computing research are focusing on the wide-scale adoption of auto-tuners, especially for the SaaS layer of the cloud.

According to Gartner, companies that have adopted all-cloud have not returned to traditional on-premises data centers, with even large companies embracing third-party cloud infrastructure.

Despite, headwinds such as vendor lock-in and cyber security for the cloud computing technology, hybrid, and multi-clouds setups can address some of these issues by providing users with alternatives in scheduled maintenance, breaches, or shut-downs albeit with its pros and cons; however, enterprises should not dilly dally in developing roadmaps along with their CSPs for their overall cloud strategy on the long run.

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