Welcome to the era of the multicloud

Cloud computing seemingly appeared out of nowhere one day at Amazon, but it has quickly taken enterprise IT by storm. Of course, it was not easily accepted in many tech circles. There were plenty of concerns such as whether or not mission-critical data would be safe in cloud storage and if the public Internet was fast enough to support real-time work environments. Furthermore, it was common for business leaders to question the long-term viability of this new solution to scale and flexibility problems.

Now, the table has almost completely turned, and anyone would be hard pressed to find an organization that doesn't leverage at least one cloud service. A recent report from CompTIA, detailing this year's trends in cloud computing, indicated that over 90 percent of U.S. firms use some form of cloud computing and more than 60 percent of those businesses stated that at least a third of their IT architecture is built in or relies on the cloud.

Everyone is doing it
The CompTIA report also found an interesting discovery in regard to those old cloud challenges: Replacing security, cost and functionality concerns is the barrier faced when migrating between clouds, from public to private, private to public and most notably public to public. This is becoming more common as organizations try to find the best multicloud approach in regard to their industry, workflows, dataflows, current hardware and many other factors.

"I have not talked to a single company that is not doing multicloud in some form or another," said Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research, told TechTarget.

"Multicloud environments are an expected component in modern enterprise IT."

Brooks detailed an example for the source that explained how some organizations might move away from Amazon Web Services to a recently deployed private cloud to reduce some compute costs in the short term. However, companies tend to leave those on-premise environments connected to AWS, as they leverage front-end services including Elastic Load Balancer, CloudFront CDN and Route 53 DNS, Brooks pointed out.

Alternatively, multicloud environments are just expected in modern enterprise IT, as employees continue to access cloud-based applications, infrastructure and platforms from their desktops, smartphones, tablets and eventually smart watches. Mindy Cancila, an analyst with Gartner, told TechTarget that organizations are using resources from multiple cloud providers, "whether they realize it yet or not." She explained that the multicloud movement has only just begun.

A specific multicloud for everyone
Of course, besides experimentation and pure coincidence, there are plenty of reasons for leveraging multiple cloud environments at once. For example, CompTIA indicated that 44 percent of companies migrated to a new cloud environment to take advantage of tools and features that one provider might tout over another. Look no further than Amazon's recent announcement for proof that AWS offers different functionalities and price points for an array of services.

Business Insider reported that Amazon introduced two new storage plans: One that costs $11.99 per year and allows users to store as many photos as they want along with 5GB of other data, and the other storage solution is $59.99 for a whole year of infinite cloud storage capacity. This move was clearly made in direct opposition to Microsoft and Dropbox as they offer 1TB of space for around $100 per year.

Businesses need to test the cloud waters, taking their time using each providers services before settling on their environment.Businesses need to test the cloud waters, taking their time using each providers services before settling on their environment.

Multicloud systems are also growing in popularity because different infrastructures and environments play a certain role depending on what businesses are using cloud services for. The government is taking advantage of a more private version of AWS, while many organizations that have used Microsoft Active Directory in the past are more likely to leverage Azure AD due to compatibility and general familiarity. Obviously Azure will be the perfect choice for Windows-centric app development, but right now, AWS is a popular pick for developers and Azure is typically the public cloud option for running applications.

Uncharted waters
It's completely possible to use a multicloud environment for a brand new experience, as well. eWEEK reported that multiple clouds are paving the way for additional markets and innovative technologies, such as predictive analytics for big data, the Internet of Things and "the industrial Internet." Efficiency can be discovered in mundane tasks once every benefit of the cloud is squeezed dry.

Healthcare IT News reported on Primex Wireless, an organization that used Amazon architecture to monitor the temperature of refrigerated assets as well as leverage the public cloud space for real-time access to data across the company. Brian Balboni, president of Primex Wireless, told the source that by sending that data to the Internet rather than keeping it internal, LAN bandwidth can be used for more valuable, business-critical reasons.

"Managing and migrating are the two biggest multicloud challenges."

"[We] don't have to support an appliance on premises - it's more efficient for us to manage," Balboni explained, according to the source. "We're not just hosting on Amazon - we're built into the infrastructure. We take care of all the security and operating system updates. We're doing things with Amazon you can't do anywhere else."

Looking ahead
Of course, the multicloud is not without its challenges. Migrating workloads itself is a large undertaking, and CompTIA noted that organizations often face more difficulties with a secondary move, discovering that these processes require a lot of effort. The good news is that businesses are recognizing these troubles and slowly overcoming them as they uncover their multicloud demands.

Still, migrating is not as common as management, and that is very difficult right now without a tool that can provide IT professionals with a single API. This will ease movements, allow IT teams to mitigate inefficiencies and ultimately improve their multicloud environments. TechTarget reported that the best solutions will enable monitoring, bottleneck decomposing and bill tracking, be "mostly" automated and provide opportunities for manual input. There are some tools currently on the market, but one fitting that exact description has yet to be developed.

In the meantime, organizations should start to experiment with the multicloud, a variety of cloud services and a wealth of visibility tools and optimization solutions. And at the end of the day, businesses will demand more bandwidth and better Quality of Service, so it can't hurt to take advantage of direct connections to public resources whenever possible.

John Grady is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at XO Communications, which is responsible for marketing the XO Cloud and XO Connect product portfolios. John has been responsible for launching a number of products at XO Communications, including 100G service, new cloud products and XO's Intelligent WAN solution.