Organizations across a range of industries have been shifting their IT infrastructure to the cloud for the last decade, and the trend only looks to accelerate going forward. Gartner predicts that by 2021, more than half of global enterprises using the cloud today will have shifted to an “all-in” cloud strategy.
Although some cloud terminology has become common knowledge, there are a few distinctions that remain a bit confusing within the industry. One of these is the difference between hybrid and multi-cloud arrangements. The terms seem similar and are often used interchangeably, but they refer to very different strategies for integrating cloud services into a company’s IT infrastructure. As organizations develop their cloud strategy, they need to make sure they’re choosing the right option for their business.
A hybrid cloud consists of two distinct environments: a public cloud provided and maintained by a third party, and a private cloud maintained by a business. This private cloud could be located in on-premises servers, equipment colocated in a data center, or in a virtualized environment as part of a data center’s cloud services (a virtual private cloud, or VPC).
The key distinguishing feature of a hybrid cloud model is the interconnectivity between the two cloud environments. They are typically configured to work together, intermingling processes and some data. For example, applications running in a hybrid cloud environment can use the compute resources from the public cloud to run resource intensive analytics processing using data that’s stored in a more secure private cloud.
While a hybrid cloud always consists of a public and private cloud, a multi-cloud environment is a bit more varied on a case-to-case basis. In this arrangement, an organization’s IT infrastructure consists of multiple public clouds from multiple providers. A private cloud could certainly be part of a multi-cloud architecture, but it is usually more isolated from its public cloud counterparts.
The purpose of a multi-cloud model is versatility and specialization. In enterprise-level organizations, for example, not every department has the same cloud needs. A marketing department, for instance, needs different cloud-based tools than a research or human resources department. Rather than trying to create a one-size-fits-all solution, companies can pick and choose from existing public cloud providers to ensure that each department has a solution catered to their specific needs.
Multi-cloud models also offer reassurance because they don’t leave organizations dependent upon a single cloud provider. This can decrease costs and increase flexibility in the long run while also avoiding the problem of vendor lock-in. When combined with private cloud assets, multi-cloud deployments allow organizations to accomplish multiple goals at one time without having to radically expand or rethink their existing infrastructure.
As with most questions facing important IT infrastructure issues, it depends.
The key differentiator to keep in mind is that multi-cloud models involve using separate cloud environments to perform separate tasks. If an organization needs its IT infrastructure to be able to accommodate the conflicting demands of different departments, then it probably needs to pursue a multi-cloud deployment. The sales team may need the CRM features offered by a specific cloud provider, while software programmers may favor a different cloud environment that offers superior computing and processing capacity.
Large organizations with divisions existing in separate “silos” will typically find that multi-cloud solutions address more of their business needs. At the executive level, CIOs will find the cost efficiencies and versatility of multi-cloud strategies appealing because it gives them the power to leverage providers against one another to drive down costs. It also helps them maintain a level of independence that protects them against any sudden changes a cloud vendor may spring on them once the organization is already locked into and dependent upon a single platform.
On the other hand, hybrid cloud models offer a lot of advantages. Since they only involve the interconnections between two environments, they are easier to set up and scale. By using the private cloud to locate sensitive data and running front-end applications in the public cloud, organizations can reduce their exposure to potential security threats and keep a closer watch over activity within their cloud ecosystem. Since public cloud computing services can be offered on “pay for what you use” model, hybrid clouds can reduce overall IT spend while still allowing companies to scale up processing power when they need it.
Since a hybrid cloud model is more custom built to cater to the specific needs of an organization, it gives IT decision makers more control over their deployments. This level of customization can be tremendously valuable for smaller companies that have a very clear idea of what they need from their infrastructure and it should be optimized to deliver superior services.
Of course, for many organizations, the choice between a hybrid cloud model and a multi-cloud model is a false dichotomy. There’s no reason why a multi-cloud environment can’t incorporate the features of a hybrid cloud. While this is necessarily a more complex solution that requires careful implementation and security considerations, private cloud environments can be integrated into multiple public clouds to allow different users across an organization to access both the data and cloud services they need to do their work more effectively.Multi-tenant, carrier-neutral data centers make it easy for companies to construct network solutions that address their specific needs. With a wide range of cloud providers and infrastructure options to choose from, data centers are the idea partners for organizations looking to migrate their business to the clou