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Multicloud: The next evolution of cloud computing

These days, cloud is about more than access to cheap servers. The evolving world of multicloud is complex and requires a new approach to managing cloud — but it will also be a key enabler of innovation and digital transformation in the coming year.

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When cloud first came on the scene, we divvied it up into two categories: public and private. After a while, we started to see the benefit of pairing the two in a hybrid approach — public cloud for its low cost and ability to scale, and private cloud for its security and customization.

But cloud continues to evolve, and the latest iteration is multicloud. And while it’s one more jargony term to add to the IT lexicon, multicloud takes hybrid one step further — indeed, it’s considered the next evolution of cloud.

Enterprises have become more sophisticated; they shop around and get what they need from a variety of clouds and a variety of cloud providers. Private clouds, however, aren’t disappearing (in fact, Forrester predicts private cloud adoption and spending will grow even faster next year).

But in a multicloud approach, workloads are separated among various cloud providers; this could include private cloud, but also involves at least two or more public clouds.

The Holy Grail, however, is to be able to move these workloads across the cloud environment (to do so, containerization is essential, and Kubernetes is a rising star in this environment — but that’s a topic for another day).

Thanks to shadow IT, most organizations are using a multicloud approach, whether they realize it or not. But, when it’s part of your overall IT strategy, it means you can mix and match the cloud services (and providers) that work best for your business.

This approach helps to prevent vendor lock-in (and boost redundancy), but there is a downside: it can be harder to manage data spread across multiple clouds from competing vendors spanning multiple geographic locations.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid it; indeed, many industry analysts say cloud — and multicloud — will continue to expand in 2019. But it does mean we need a better approach to managing cloud.

“As firms prepare for 2019, we predict that the biggest cloud providers will get bigger, containers will reshape every cloud platform, and the combination of low-cost infrastructure plus high-value development services will firmly establish cloud as the new enterprise digital application platform,” according to Forrester’s 2019 cloud computing predictions.

The research firm says spending on cloud will surge — thanks to “emerging technologies being pioneered in the cloud,” from edge computing to the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence. And SaaS-based connected cloud ecosystems focused on specific industry verticals such as financial services or healthcare will “turbocharge innovation.”

This points to another trend we’re seeing: Cloud isn’t just about access to cheap servers; nowadays, it’s about innovation.

David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting, writes in an article for InfoWorld that everything is going multicloud, for good reason. “There is not much of a cost penalty for going multicloud, other than the added complexity management that will be needed. However, smart companies will get ahead of this quickly, including using advanced multicloud-oriented cloudops platforms.”

And, of course, the market has responded with new tools to address this challenge, such as multicloud management platforms that increase visibility, control and security across clouds.

Last month, for example, IBM launched its open source Multicloud Manager, designed to manage, move and integrate apps across different cloud infrastructures. And cloud management platforms (CMPs) such as Scalr, Pivotal and Morpheus can help to simplify management across multiple clouds (InfoWorld provides an overview of six of these tools).

Cloud is evolving, multicloud is becoming more pervasive, and these environments just got a lot more complicated. But multicloud is the “new normal,” according to an IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Cisco.

Obstacles to cloud maturity include “cost-prohibitive changes to network services and a lack of a consistent security model across all deployment types,” according to IDC. And integrating applications in a multicloud environment requires “sophisticated management and orchestration capabilities.”

But it’s also a key enabler of digital transformation and innovation, and those who embrace multicloud — and the management hassles that ensue — will, ultimately, “enjoy better business outcomes, including increased revenue and more strategic allocation of IT budget.”

Image: erhui1979/iStock

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