/ What Is Multicloud?

What Is Multicloud?

Multicloud is a strategy in which an organization uses two or more cloud service providers or services for cloud storage, cloud computing, security, application support, and more. By adopting a multicloud strategy as a part of a greater digital transformation, you can run public clouds and private clouds. However, IT professionals generally use the term to describe using multiple clouds from different cloud providers.

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How Does a Multicloud Architecture Work?

As organizations embrace cloud computing, they’re increasingly adopting multicloud environments due to the rise in remote work and the growing demand to have access to cloud services from anywhere, anytime, off the corporate network.

A multicloud approach doesn’t mean cloud-only, though. Some organizations opt to keep certain functions in their on-premises data centers or a private cloud while utilizing multiple cloud service providers for other purposes.

Most often, organizations adopt multicloud solutions that comprise different software, platform, and infrastructure as a service (respectively SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) providers. Additionally, a multicloud deployment is often an organization’s means of modernizing its ecosystem as it shifts toward a serverless architecture.

Multicloud Service Providers

Multicloud apps are all around us, coming from some of the biggest names in the tech world. Some of the most popular public cloud providers include:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • ServiceNow
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • IBM Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud
  • Alibaba Cloud

In addition to the public cloud, there are a number of private cloud providers including: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, Dell, Oracle, and IBM/Red Hat.

Multicloud Use Cases

Beyond the flexibility of using multiple vendors, multicloud architectures offer high availability to support a wide variety of cloud-enabled technologies, such as:

  • APIs
  • Containers such as Kubernetes
  • Disaster recovery (DR)
  • Open source development
  • Microservices
  • DevOps

Adopting multicloud infrastructure can give organizations the agility to innovate far more quickly than with a single public cloud service or provider. High performance and availability mean reduced downtime, and increased data management capacity opens the door for artificial intelligence and machine learning adoption, as well.

What’s the Difference Between Hybrid Cloud and Multicloud?

Where a hybrid cloud makes use of public and private cloud services, a multicloud architecture uses services from multiple public cloud providers at the same time. A hybrid cloud is suited for organizations that operate under strict compliance regulations and/or handle large amounts of sensitive data, such as public sector agencies, financial services, and law firms.

This is because private clouds are controlled by the organizations that deploy them (usually on the basis of satisfying specific data protection requirements), and therefore aren’t subject to a shared responsibility model. The organizations themselves bear the brunt of responsibility in the event of a cyberattack.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Multicloud Strategy?

Employing a multicloud strategy can bring a host of benefits, including:

  • Reduced cost: Having options from different vendors lets you compare prices and choose the best option for you. Plus, a multicloud strategy eliminates the need for setup and maintenance of physical data centers.
  • Lower risks: Having a distributed cloud infrastructure reduces your reliance on a single cloud provider, which enhances business continuity and reduces risks. Having clouds across different locations reduces the danger that an outage in one will bring work grinding to a halt.
  • Compliance: A multicloud strategy allows for increased compliance with policy and regulatory standards because each cloud infrastructure provider can monitor compliance individually.
  • Scalability: A multicloud strategy allows data and applications to reside in multiple locations worldwide, which in turn allows for exponential scalability as business needs grow and change.
  • Improved user experience: Having distributed locations through a multicloud strategy means they are closer to the user, reducing latency and improving user experience. Because you avoid single vendor lock-in, you have more choice and flexibility.

However, multicloud environments can also come with some challenges, such as:

  • Various rule sets and systems: Multiple cloud providers often means multiple management tools, different responsibility models, and so on. For your IT team, getting familiar with using and monitoring all these distinct environments can take significant time and effort.
  • Risk of misconfiguration: Complexity in multicloud environments can increase rates of human error. Authorities such as Gartner and the US National Security Agency agree these are a top cause of breaches, with Gartner famously asserting: “Through 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.”
  • Interoperability and portability issues: Today, many providers have worked to ensure their clouds can easily communicate with others and facilitate moving of cloud resources (by sharing APIs, containers, etc.) However, cloud environments often change more quickly than compatibility fixes can be put in place.
  • Exposed attack surface and risk of lateral movement: Hoping to improve interoperability and simplify visibility and troubleshooting, most multicloud networking solutions build abstraction layers above the unique components of each cloud provider. However, they too often rely on traditional firewalls and VPNs that extend the corporate WAN to the public cloud, expanding the potential area for an attacker to gain a foothold.

In the face of these challenges, organizations adopting multicloud solutions will need to find effective ways—and reliable partners—to help manage and solve them. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do.

How to Manage Multicloud Environments

Your organization’s unique needs depend on many factors, such as team size, business goals, and budget, and you have options when it comes to the management and optimization of a multicloud environment.

  1. Allow the separate cloud service providers to manage and monitor each cloud independently, with internal teams working with each separate cloud vendor and platform.

  2. Adopt a multicloud management platform for security and connectivity to help you mitigate the business risks posed by separate solutions with heterogeneous controls that may not integrate with each other.

On top of this, you need to ensure secure connections for all your users and workflows. Traditional network-centric security wasn’t built to secure the new, agile world of the cloud, which is why Gartner recommends embracing zero trust network access (ZTNA) technologies.

ZTNA provides secure access to private applications across hybrid and multicloud environments, enabling secure cloud adoption. Many vendors claim to offer comprehensive ZTNA solutions, but only one has built a ZTNA platform in the cloud, for the cloud, to give your multicloud environment the degree of security it needs and deserves—that vendor is Zscaler.

Check out the video below for some C-level perspective on Zscaler approach to zero trust and multicloud environments.

Secure Your Multicloud Environments with Zscaler

Zscaler Cloud Protection (ZCP), a key component of Zscaler Private Access™ (ZPA™), leverages intelligent automation to secure workloads in multicloud environments, including on-premises data centers. ZCP improves workload posture and ensures secure workload communications with capabilities including:

ZCP protects all workload traffic—north-south and east-west—to prevent the spread of malware across your cloud infrastructure. As a unified, cloud native solution that provides orchestration across all major cloud providers, it offers both consistent security and simpler operations.

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Explore how you can securely enable multicloud solutions in your organization with Zscaler Private Access.

Suggested Resources

Simplifying Multicloud Connectivity with Zero Trust
Leveraging Zero Trust for Multicloud Networking
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The Growing Importance of Multicloud Networking
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To Thrive in a Multicloud World, Look to Zero Trust and SSE
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