Understand the multicloud management trade-off

Tools that abstract away the complexity of running multiple clouds can also hide powerful cloud-native features

Understand the multicloud management trade-off
Brett Jordan (CC BY 2.0)

One of the trends I’ve been seeing for a while is the use of multiple clouds or multicloud. This typically means having two or three public clouds in the mix that are leveraged at the same time. Sometimes you’re mixing private clouds and traditional systems as well.

In some cases even applications and data span two or more public clouds, looking to mix and match cloud services. Why? Enterprises are seeking to leverage the best and most cost-effective cloud services, and sometimes that means picking and choosing from different cloud providers.

In order to make multicloud work best for an enterprise you need to place a multicloud management tool, such as a CMP (cloud management platform) or a CSB (cloud services broker) between you and the plural clouds. This spares you from having to deal with the complexities of the native cloud services from each cloud provider.

Instead you deal with an abstraction layer, sometimes called a “single pane of glass” where you are able to leverage a single user interface and sometimes a single set of APIs to perform common tasks among the cloud providers you’re leveraging. Tasks may include provisioning storage or compute, auto-scaling, data movement, etc.   

While many consider this a needed approach when dealing with complex multicloud solutions, there are some looming issues. The abstraction layers seem to have a trade-off when it comes to cloud service utilization. By not utilizing the native interfaces from each cloud provider you’re in essence not accessing the true power of the cloud provider, but instead just leveraging a subset of the services. 

Case in point: cloud storage. Say you’re provisioning storage through a CMP or CSB, and thus you’re leveraging an abstraction layer that has to use a least-common-denominator approach when managing the back-end cloud computing storage services. This means that you’re taking advantage of some storage services but not all. Although you do gain access to storage services that each cloud has in common, you may miss out on storage services that are specific to a cloud, such as advanced caching or systemic encryption.

The point here is that there is a trade-off. You can’t gain simplicity without sacrificing power. This may leave you with a much weaker solution than one that leverages all cloud-native features. No easy choices here.