According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 92% of enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud strategy. This should be of little surprise, given that both multi- and hybrid-cloud allow organisations to benefit from the best-of-breed in respective cloud services.
For example, a business might host its front-end web services with one public cloud provider, its email exchange with another vendor, and its document backup services on a third.
Multi-cloud also helps teams avoid the risk of lock-in to one particular vendor, and also get to dynamically run whatever workloads or store whatever data on the best cloud at a given moment. In principle, this means organisations benefit from best-of-breed services while also keeping operational expenditure minimal – a win-win in anyone’s book.
So, in short, multi-cloud improves an organisation’s performance, cost-effectiveness, and resilience to lock-in. But where to next? I think in 2022 and beyond, a big trend we’ll see is that enterprises will use a greater variety of cloud providers in their multi-cloud arrangements – here’s why.
The question of cost
The ‘hyperscaler’ public cloud providers, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, currently dominate the offerings available to organisations that want to go multi-cloud. However, the size of the hyperscalers has meant that working with them often means complexity – and often to the detriment of your company’s bottom line.
Take storage as an example: most hyperscalers typically offer various storage ‘tiers’, each with their own set of unique pricing and performance characteristics. These tiers are supposed to help companies choose between ‘hot’ storage (frequently accessed data), ‘cool’ storage (for infrequently accessed data), and archive storage (rarely accessed data).
As you might be able to guess, these tiers also mean different prices – hot storage usually implies your data will be stored on SSDs or SMR disks, whereas cool and archive often mean traditional hard disks. So the price per terabyte of hot data is normally higher than that per terabyte of cool data by default.
This model isn’t great for most companies. It’s very rare that a business will know exactly what the organisation’s hot/cool/archive storage ratio is going to look like for the financial year ahead. Trying to figure out a ratio and forcing the IT team to stick with it can make budgeting a nightmare and also put an artificial constraint on an organisation that may reduce its ability to flexibly respond to whatever issues arise over the course of regular business operations.
In addition, the hyperscalers often charge beyond the paper costs of their tiers, in the form of fees for data egress or making API calls. This can mean steep price rises for merely trying to request access to data, even if an organisation’s overarching storage requirements don’t change. This creates an additional forecasting nightmare for budgets, and another layer of arbitrary complexity for IT departments.
The role of challengers
Thankfully there are newer and smaller providers that can help teams escape this problem. In contrast to the hyperscalers, such challenger providers abandon tiers and data egress fees, and simply charge per gigabyte stored per month.
This means that rather than worrying about allocating storage for the coming year, a business can turn to a challenger provider to provide its ‘reserve’ capacity for the coming year. Additionally, the challenger can also serve as a place to store data that may straddle lines between hot and cold storage.
Storage is a good example, but the underlying principles behind this model are applicable to many parts of the multi-cloud environment. In contrast to the hyperscalers, challenger providers don’t need to offer complex and hyper-segmented products to accommodate the diversity of needs they serve: instead, challengers focus on doing one thing very well. That is, they serve a niche.
And such niche-serving is the way of the future for the multi-cloud. Rather than the oligopoly of hyperscalers, most businesses are going to gravitate towards a more varied constellation of vendors and partners to focus on servicing respective niches.
There’s no question that the hyperscalers are here to stay, but 2022 is going to see it become clear that they’ll not be the only players – just some of the bigger ones in an increasingly diverse pond