The public domain is full of articles talking about the differences between ‘Multi Cloud’ and ‘Hybrid IT’ models, almost positioning these two terms as to architecturally distinct, and divergent, concepts. On the other hand, we will also find a number of opinion pieces which use these terms interchangeably. And then there are a few articles which use another term – the ‘Hybrid Multi-Cloud’!
Here are popular definitions of the two terms.
- Multi-Cloud: An IT environment that leveraged multiple cloud services from different vendors. Generally includes various cloud deployment models (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, private, virtual private).
- Hybrid IT: A combination of various IT deployment models – on-premise, hosted private cloud, virtual private cloud, public cloud, hosted servers, Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI), etc. Generally understood to be provided by a single vendor.
In reality, the hybrid IT construct becomes a part of the multi-cloud environment. As organizations start building multi-cloud strategies, they will need to evaluate multiple on-premise, colocated, hosted and cloudoptions for their applications, data, networks and servers. Depending on workload characteristics and business needs, they would also need to understand public, private and virtual private cloud services required to optimize their IT environment.
A comprehensive multi-cloud environment would have a clear mapping of workloads to infrastructure types, services, vendors and deployment models. The role of IT teams would extend beyond infrastructure management and now include service provisioning for specific business needs.
The following components are essential to a cohesive multi-cloud strategy that involves a Hybrid IT service deployment model.
- A Comprehensive Cloud Management Platform (CMP)
This allows IT teams to manage the entire multi-cloud / hybrid IT ecosystem from a unified interface. A mature Cloud Management Platform will offer extended features such as service design, provisioning, orchestration, auto-scaling, performance optimization and SLA management.
- A Well-Defined Integration Model
IT teams need to build sufficient integration and interoperability capabilities across on-premise and cloud applications. This can be done using standard (vendor provided) or custom (business need / user specific) APIs and available integration tools.
- Unified Security and Governance Policies
Typically, IT environments do not have uniform security and data governance policies due to multiple reasons, such as discrete systems, siloed operations and absence of an executive-backed GRC plan. A multi-cloud strategy often exposes enterprise data to external systems, and therefore a unified approach to security and data governance is imperative.
- Seamless Access by Business Users
For a multi cloud strategy to be effective, IT teams need to clearly understand critical use cases and business user expectations to build relevant interfaces and provide secure access.
It is clear that Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud (or Hybrid IT) are intertwined concepts with a common goal – of matching workloads with infrastructure, service types, service providers and deployment models. The benefits associated with both models are largely the same – optimize resources, improve performance, reduce risk, lower costs and build agility into IT environments. CIOs should not look at these as separate constructs, but work on a singular strategy that incorporates both.
By Nitin Mishra, SVP and Chief Product Officer, Netmagic (An NTT Communications Company)