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What is Multi-cloud?

Multi-cloud leverages two or more cloud services from more than one cloud provider. In the enterprise, multi-cloud typically refers to running enterprise applications on platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from multiple cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), IBM cloud and Microsoft Azure. Various trends are driving enterprises to adopt multiple clouds, such as deploying apps on a cloud environment that suits an application’s needs, accelerating app modernization, ensuring enterprise sovereignty, and securing the distributed workforce.

The three major types of cloud services are as follows:

  1. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): With IaaS, the cloud provider hosts the infrastructure components traditionally present in an on-premises data center, including servers, storage and networking hardware, as well as the virtualization or hypervisor layer.
  2. PaaS (Platform as a Service): PaaS is a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud that is leveraged for application development.
  3. SaaS (Software as a Service):SaaS is a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the internet.

What’s the difference between hybrid cloud vs. multi-cloud?

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are two different types of cloud deployment strategies that involve using more than one cloud service. Hybrid cloud is the use of both public cloud and private cloud environments, with management, orchestration and portability between them that enables an organization to use them as a single, unified, optimized IT infrastructure. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are not mutually exclusive. Most enterprise hybrid clouds are hybrid multi-clouds, in that they include public or private cloud services from at least two cloud service providers.
However, there are some key differences to consider before choosing one for your business needs. Here are some of the main differences between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud.

Hybrid cloud vs. multi-cloud

Hybrid cloud Multi-cloud
Types of clouds Deploys both public and private clouds. Private cloud can be either on-premises or hosted by a third-party vendor. Uses multiple public clouds from different providers, such as AWS, Azure and GCP.
Integration and orchestration To share data and resources, a hybrid cloud requires integration and orchestration between the public and private clouds. Does not necessarily require integration and orchestration between the different clouds, as each cloud can be used for a specific purpose or task.
Architecture A mixture of private and public cloud services, hosted in-house, in on-premises data centers, or on dedicated servers in third-party data centers. Includes two or more public cloud services.
Data Storage Allows for data to be stored in a location owned and managed by the enterprise. Infinite storage space, backups, and disaster recovery possibilities.
Security Relies on both on-premises and public cloud security measures. Relies on the security measures of the individual public clouds.

Multi-cloud challenges

Multi-cloud is the use of multiple public cloud services from different providers, such as AWS, Azure and GCP. While adopting multi-cloud environments can offer many benefits for an organization, such as avoiding vendor lock-in, enhancing business continuity and maximizing flexibility for development teams, multi-cloud management can also be complicated. It requires careful orchestration as well as close attention to security and governance issues. Here are some common challenges in a multi-cloud environment:

  • Misconfigured cloud configurations: When companies migrate workloads to the cloud, they may misconfigure security or privacy settings. Misconfigurations in multi-cloud environments can be complicated and it can be tough to detect and manually remediate mistakes.
  • Differing infrastructure, APIs, database, network and security constructs: Each cloud provider has its own way of defining and delivering cloud services, which can create compatibility and integration issues.
  • Cost and time of refactoring applications for a new public cloud environment: Moving applications from one cloud to another can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if the applications are not designed to be cloud-native or cloud-agnostic.
  • Risks related to security, data, and privacy issues associated with regional data regulations: Each cloud provider has its own security policies and practices, which may not align with the customer’s compliance requirements or the data sovereignty laws of different regions.
  • Increased complexity from specialized tools: Each cloud provider offers its own set of specialized tools and features, which can be tempting to use but can also increase the complexity and dependency on each cloud.

Multi-cloud benefits

The overarching value of multi-cloud to the enterprise is that it prevents ‘vendor lock-in’, performance problems, limited options, or unnecessary costs resulting from using only one cloud vendor. Some of the benefits of using a multi-cloud solution are:

  1. Avoid vendor lock-in: Multi-cloud is flexible and stops your applications from relying heavily on one single cloud vendor.
  2. Meeting compliance and governance: Multi-cloud helps mitigating risks and industry-specific compliance standards as well as cloud compliance requirements.
  3. Freedom to choose the best cloud-native service provider: Multi-cloud enables you to choose the cloud service provider that is the most suitable for your specific needs and goals, such as pricing, performance, security, compliance, location, and more.
  4. Reduce overhead operational costs:  Minimize your IT spending by managing infrastructure with existing toolsets across multiple clouds. Multi-cloud uses different tools and platforms that leverage consistent and unified interfaces and management of the multi-cloud environment such as cloud brokers, cloud orchestration and cloud monitoring.
  5. Enhance risk management and resilience: Diversify the cloud infrastructure and avoid single points of failure to improve risk management. Multi-cloud reduces the vulnerability to outages and unplanned downtime by ensuring high-speed and low-latency access to cloud resources.

Learn more about multi-cloud:

  1. 6 Essential Steps for Identity Security in Multi-Cloud Environments
  2. Securing Non-human Identities and Managing Secrets in Multi-cloud Environments
  3. AWS Cloud Playbook: Identity Security and Cloud Compliance
  4. Secure Identities for a Secure Cloud with CyberArk and AWS