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The Multi-Cloud Conundrum: Building a Digital Ecosystem Outside of the Internet

Multi-Cloud Conundrum 

Article Written by Bill Norton, Chief Scientist, Console Connect

Does the term "multi-cloud" mean anything to you? If it doesn't, it soon will. 

When we think of the cloud, platforms like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services are the first things that come to mind - those big-name, infrastructure-as-a-service public clouds that enterprises are increasingly using as their foundation for data storage, Web hosting and user accessibility. But, what about cloud-based SaaS providers like Box, Dropbox or Zendesk? They may not form the backbone of anyone's company, but they are business-critical cloud applications that are becoming essential to an enterprise's day-to-day operation.

So, when we talk about a multi-cloud approach, we're talking about a strategy that encompasses public and private clouds, IaaS and SaaS solutions, all under one umbrella.

Multi-Cloud Offers Versatility and Redundancy

Enterprises want to set up shop on one public cloud, but then find that particular services they like are exclusive to another cloud. For example, they'll sign up with AWS for Web hosting, but also sign up for Azure to use Office 365, or Google Cloud to share documents with certain partners/customers via Google Drive.

Since the enterprise isn't confined to a single cloud, they can mix and match when needed, becoming more versatile for daily operations or partner/customer interactions depending on each's own cloud preferences.

Deploying multiple cloud platforms also builds in layers of redundancy. If one vendor suffers an outage, it doesn't completely take you offline and disrupt business continuity, because you can still access email, document sharing, etc. on your other clouds. This ensures that business-critical services can continue in the event of downtime.

Complexity Pain Points

A multi-cloud approach may offer more flexibility, but it also adds new layers of complexity. Not only do you have to manage multiple clouds, each with their own levels of configuration, but a single error here or a slow network connection there can disrupt the entire cloud ecosystem that your company is working off of.

This doesn't just affect enterprises; the cloud and SaaS providers themselves have to deal with these same pain points. More and more, these companies are fielding complaints from customers about network performance, speed, connectivity, security. And, as clouds become more crowded with customers, and cyber threats targeting the cloud ramp up, these issues are only going to get worse.

For Enterprises: The Value of Interconnections in a Multi-Cloud World

Interconnections help to cut through all this noise and streamline the multi-cloud approach to data storage and security. Enterprises that store data across a range of clouds can bring them together into one cohesive digital ecosystem by deploying interconnections from a single centralized platform.

By providing direct connections between clouds, enterprises also remove the pain points of performance and security. In terms of performance, maintaining direct pipelines to each cloud - and in between clouds - ensures enterprises don't have to struggle with weak network performance or sluggish traffic speed. In terms of security, direct connections allow enterprises to bypass the public internet altogether.

The threats that can pose major stability and operational risks to other businesses - like DDoS attacks, data breaches, spear phishing - become a non-issue for enterprises directly connecting to, and in between, their clouds.

Cloud and SaaS Providers Love Interconnections, Too

Interconnections don't just benefit enterprises; they're a significant boon for SaaS and cloud providers, too. After all, these are the companies that have to take complaints from customers about connectivity, network performance and security issues.  

Vendors like Amazon and Microsoft offer their own direct connect services to mitigate these issues, but they are also generally encouraging of enterprises who want to deploy multiple interconnections between clouds from one central platform.

It may seem counter-intuitive at first - why would competing cloud vendors be okay with their customers being able to cross-connect over each other's platforms? The reality is that cloud and SaaS providers look at network providers as enablers. They're not looking for exclusive deals with customers; when you sign a deal to use Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, there's no fine print that says you can't use the other one too. Dropbox doesn't tell customers they can't also use Box, or vice versa.

Clouds are naturally open to allowing customers to mix and match platforms at their whim. Many offer their own direct connect services to ease security and performance pain points, but, for companies looking to collect their clouds into a bigger, unified ecosystem, these don't go far enough - nor do they address the issues of configuration complexity or cost.

A Single, Interconnected Future

Amazon and Google each have dozens of direct connect partners; Microsoft offers the same with their ExpressRoute service. Cloud vendors and both IaaS and SaaS providers are embracing a future of direct connections because it capitalizes on the strengths of a cloud platform while eliminating the risks that come with being on the public internet.

It's not a perfect system. Not yet. Because these same providers don't have the time, resources or patience to hold every customer's hand through the configuration set-up. It's a logistical headache that not only makes it hard for the cloud providers, but also discourages enterprises and other customers from seeking out direct connections in the first place.

Apathy is the real enemy of direct connections. Many may feel that since we have gotten along just fine on the public internet already, why rock the boat and take on the costs and frustrations that come with setting up a direct connect system? But, that kind of thinking can end up inviting disaster - in unreliable connections, slow network performance and, worst of all, major security risks.

The key to reaping the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy is to build your web of interconnections around a single, easy-to-use centralized platform. This allows enterprises to continue leveraging their business-critical cloud services without any of the complex configurations or public internet security risks that afflict and frustrate others.

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About the Author

Bill Norton is the Chief Scientist for Console Connect, Inc., where he researches cloud interconnection technologies. He has authored dozens of industry-leading white papers, including most recently "The Business Case for AWS Direct Connect" and "Cloud Interconnections." He is also a published author with his book The Internet Peering Playbook. 

Bill Norton 

Published Thursday, January 05, 2017 8:01 AM by David Marshall
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