Understanding multi-cloud concepts
This book aims to take you on a journey along the different major cloud platforms and will try to answer one crucial question: if my organization deploys IT systems on various cloud platforms, how do I keep control? We want to avoid cases where costs in multi-cloud environments grow over our heads, where we don’t have a clear overview of who’s managing the systems, and, most importantly, where system sprawl introduces severe security risks. But before we start our deep-dive, we need to agree on a common understanding of multi-cloud and multi-cloud concepts.
There are multiple definitions of multi-cloud, but we’re using the one stated at https://www.techopedia.com/definition/33511/multi-cloud-strategy:
Multi-cloud refers to the use of two or more cloud computing systems at the same time. The deployment might use public clouds, private clouds, or some combination of the two. Multi-cloud deployments aim to offer redundancy in case of hardware/software failures and avoid vendor lock-in.
Let’s focus on some topics in that definition. First of all, we need to realize where most organizations come from: traditional datacenters with physical and virtual systems, hosting a variety of functions and business applications. If you want to call this legacy, that’s OK. But do realize that the cutting edge of today is the legacy of tomorrow. Hence, in this book, we will refer to “traditional” IT when we’re discussing the traditional systems, typically hosted in physical, privately owned datacenters. And with that, we’ve already introduced the first problem in the definition that we just gave for multi-cloud.
A lot of enterprises call their virtualized environments private clouds, whether these are hosted in external datacenters or in self-owned, on-premises datacenters. What they usually mean is that these environments host several business units that get billed for consumption on a centrally managed platform. You can have long debates on whether this is really using the cloud, but the fact is that there is a broad description that sort of fits the concept of private clouds.
Of course, when talking about the cloud, most of us will think of the major public cloud offerings that we have today: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP. These are public clouds: providers that offer IT services on demand from centralized platforms using the public internet. They are centralized platforms that provide IT services such as compute, storage, and networking but distributed across datacenters around the globe. The cloud provider is responsible for managing these datacenters and, with that, the cloud. Companies “rent” the services, without the need to invest in datacenters themselves.
By another definition, multi-cloud is a best-of-breed solution from these different platforms, creating added value for the business in combination with this solution and/or service. So, using the cloud can mean either a combination of solutions and services in the public cloud or combined with private cloud solutions.
Maybe the best way to explain this is by using the analogy of the smartphone. Let’s assume you are buying a new phone. You take it out of the box and switch it on. Now, what can you do with that phone? First of all, if there’s no subscription with a telecom provider attached to the phone, you will discover that the functionality of the device is probably very limited. There will be no connection from the phone to the outside world, at least not on a mobile network. An option would be to connect it through a Wi-Fi device, if Wi-Fi is available. In short, one of the first actions, in order to actually use the phone, would be making sure that it has connectivity.
Now you have a brand-new smartphone set to its factory defaults and you have it connected to the outside world. Ready to go? Probably not. You probably want to have all sorts of services delivered to your phone, usually through the use of apps, delivered through online catalogs such as an app store. The apps themselves come from different providers and companies, including banks and retailers, and might even be coded in different languages. Yet, they will work on different phones with different versions of mobile operating systems such as iOS or Android.
You will also very likely want to configure these apps according to your personal needs and wishes. Lastly, you need to be able to access the data on your phone. All in all, the phone has turned into a landing platform for all sorts of personalized services and data.
The best part is that in principle, you, the user of the phone, don’t have to worry about updates. Every now and then the operating system will automatically be updated and most of the installed apps will still work perfectly. It might take a day or two for some apps to adapt to the new settings, but in the end, they will work. And the data that is stored on the phone or accessed via some cloud directory will also still be available. The whole ecosystem around that smartphone is designed in such a way that from the end user’s perspective, the technology is completely transparent:
Figure 1.1: Analogy of the smartphone—a true multi-cloud concept
Well, this mirrors the concept of the cloud, where the smartphone in our analogy is the actual integrated landing zone, where literally everything comes together, providing a seamless user experience.
How is this an analogy for multi-cloud? The first time we enter a portal for any public cloud, we will notice that there’s not much to see. We have a platform—the cloud itself—and we probably also have connectivity through the internet, so we can reach the portal. But we don’t want everyone to be able to see our applications and data on this platform, so we need to configure it for our specific usage. After we’ve done that, we can load our applications and the data on to the platform. Only authorized people can access those applications and that data. However, just like the user of a smartphone, a company might choose to have applications and data on other platforms. They will be able to connect to applications on a different platform.
The company might even decide to migrate applications to a different platform. Think of the possibility of having Facebook on both an iPhone and an Android phone; with just one Facebook account, the user will see the same data, even when the platforms—the phones—use different operating systems.