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Spreading the risk: using multicloud to make data storage safer

With distributed denial of service cyber attacks on the increase, and more outages occurring at cloud providers, many companies are adopting a multicloud strategy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 9:02am

Putting all your eggs into one basket is never a good idea, and the same could be said about companies using cloud providers to store data.

A case in point was the outage at Microsoft’s Azure cloud management system on February 29, 2012, affecting users in parts of the US and Europe for several hours.

On February 28 this year, an outage at the Amazon Web Services S3 cloud storage service panicked IT departments, with websites and services - such as Imgur, Medium and the Docker Registry Hub - going offline and losing images.

The lesson here might be for companies to reduce their dependence on a single provider. After all, enterprises have a lot to lose when their site goes down.

In the search for higher “fault tolerance”, few firms rely on a single cloud provider. According to a recent study by Microsoft and 451 Research, nearly a third of organisations work with four or more cloud vendors.

By using multiple cloud services, enterprises increase their agility and automation. More and more companies are now re-strategising and adopting a multicloud system.

“In computing, redundancy is a good thing,” says Mart van de Ven, director and consultant at Droste, a data consultancy. “If one provider is ‘nuked’, our services would not be affected because [as a company using multiple providers] we are also running our services on another provider.”

A study conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) last year found that 86 per cent of enterprises predict they will require a multicloud strategy to support their business goals within the next two years.

A recent example of a company adopting a multicloud strategy is Snap, the company behind the popular Snapchat messaging and photo-sharing app. It has agreed to buy US$1 billion worth of Amazon cloud services over the next five years, according to its filing to the SEC in February. This comes just days after Snap revealed in another document related to its planned IPO that it has committed to buying US$2 billion worth of Google Cloud services over the same five-year timeframe.

Other than serving as a back-up plan, the multicloud strategy means that different clouds from different providers can be used for separate tasks. It also enables companies to avoid vendor lock-in, so they can take advantage of price fluctuations and new offerings.

Lack of expertise in multiple clouds makes data management a challenge that businesses face as they grow in size and go global.

Last year, a survey of IT managers in Hong Kong, India and Singapore, by IDG, Connect and Rackspace, showed that over half of overall survey respondents found monitoring and managing multiple and/or complex workloads their biggest multicloud challenge.

Choosing cloud vendors with global networks and strong cloud security capability has become essential for companies when they adopt different cloud vendors. For example, many multinational companies with businesses in China are using services from Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, to help manage their global IT infrastructure from one single account, and to gain full-fledged anti-distributed denial-of-service (anti-DDoS) support, with the company’s server on premises or on cloud.

“Companies are adopting multicloud by necessity,” van de Ven says.

Both the number of companies using multiple clouds and the number of clouds they’re using are growing. Finding the right expertise to manage clouds is a key concern, according to the 1,002 IT professionals surveyed by RightScale, a cloud management platform.

No wonder multicloud management is already a fast-growing market.

According to global market research and consulting company MarketsandMarkets, the multicloud management market size is expected to grow from US$939.3 million last year to US$3.4 billion by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate  of 29.6 per cent.