These days, companies are adopting a multi-cloud strategy to avoid vendor lock-in, reduce costs, and choose the best cloud for each workload. The problem is, between managing different providers and juggling multiple APIs, tools, billing systems and compliance requirements, multi-cloud can feel like a hot mess.
At Zeet, more than 53% of our customers are using 2 or more clouds. A recent VMWare study showed 64% of enterprises are using multiple clouds. The same study reported 70% of enterprises currently struggle with multi-cloud complexity. Multi-cloud is only growing so we wanted to discuss the challenges of multi-cloud and ways to overcome them. With the right strategy and a multi-cloud management tool designed specifically for the multi-cloud world, you can be well on your way to multi-cloud bliss.
Follow the tips in this guide and you’ll be benefiting from multiple clouds in no time, optimizing your infrastructure and budget along the way.
The Business Case for Multi-Cloud Adoption
So why go multi-cloud in the first place? There are some compelling benefits to spreading your digital eggs across multiple baskets. For starters, it helps avoid vendor lock-in. When you rely on a single cloud provider, it can be difficult to move workloads or data to another platform. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy from the get-go, you keep your options open and can choose the cloud that suits each workload best.
Multi-cloud also improves resilience. If one cloud service experiences an outage, your resources in other clouds will stay up and running. This is especially important for mission-critical workloads. And speaking of choosing the right cloud for the job, multi-cloud gives you the flexibility to do just that. Some workloads are better suited for the scale of AWS while others run more cost-effectively on a specialized cloud like CoreWeave. And in some cases, a workload may need to span multiple clouds. Multi-cloud gives you the flexibility to deploy resources wherever it makes the most sense. You can select the cloud platform that offers the ideal performance, security, availability or cost-efficiency for each application.
Of course, cost is a big one. By deploying workloads in the cloud that offers the lowest cost for your needs, you can significantly reduce your overall spend. And in some cases, you can even negotiate lower rates with cloud providers by leveraging your multi-cloud environment. Cloud bursting is another way to optimize costs, by scaling up resources in a low-cost cloud only when you need extra capacity.
Multi-cloud is also useful when you need to deploy resources in multiple regions for low latency, data sovereignty or disaster recovery reasons. By distributing workloads across clouds, you get a global infrastructure without being locked into a single provider. You can also move resources between clouds to take advantage of discounts and optimize your spending over time as needs change. Some companies deploy a “cloud-bursting” model where they handle base workloads in a private cloud or data center but burst into public clouds during peak demand to avoid overprovisioning resources.
While multi-cloud does present some challenges, for many organizations the benefits far outweigh the added complexity. With the right management strategy and tools, you can build a highly efficient multi-cloud environment tailored to your needs.
The Challenges of Managing Multiple Clouds
Managing a multi-cloud environment can get messy fast if you're not prepared. Some of the biggest challenges companies face include:
With resources and services spread across multiple clouds, it's easy to lose track of what you're spending and where. Simply consolidating billing for each cloud is a headache, let alone trying to optimize costs across them. You'll need tools to gain visibility into resource utilization, spending, and potential waste so you can cut costs where possible.
Every cloud has its own set of tools, APIs, and compliance standards. Establishing consistent governance, security policies, and access controls across different platforms is challenging but critical. You'll need to determine which policies can be standardized and which may need to differ based on the cloud.
Choosing the right cloud for each workload is key to a successful multi-cloud strategy. But identifying requirements, assessing options, and deploying/managing workloads across clouds requires careful planning. Some workloads may span multiple clouds, adding to the complexity.
With resources distributed across clouds, it's difficult to gain a unified view of your security posture and vulnerabilities. You'll need to implement strong identity and access management, encryption, monitoring, and other controls for each cloud...but also find a way to consolidate reporting and policies across them.
Ultimately, managing multiple clouds from different providers with different tools, APIs, data formats and more creates layers of complexity. There's no common multi-cloud dashboard or way to view resources, so you're left jumping between portals and struggling to gain a big-picture view of your infrastructure. Multi-cloud management platforms are designed to solve this challenge, but integrating with multiple clouds is still quite complex.
The key to overcoming these challenges is starting with a solid multi-cloud strategy, choosing management tools to provide visibility and control, and sticking to best practices, which I cover in more detail in the next section.
Building a Winning Multi-Cloud Strategy: Governance, Security, and Best Practices
So you've decided to go multi-cloud. Congrats, that's a big step! Now comes the fun part...actually managing the whole deal.
First things first, establish consistent governance policies across your clouds. That means standardizing things like user access controls, resource tagging, and compliance monitoring. Make sure you have visibility into resources and spending across all your clouds in one place. Set budgets, alerts and approval workflows to avoid surprise bills. Governance is the foundation for secure, cost-efficient multi-cloud.
Speaking of security, your multi-cloud environment presents a larger attack surface, so defense in depth is critical. Use tools that scan for vulnerabilities and monitor for threats across all your clouds. Require strong authentication like MFA for users and API access. Encrypt data both in transit and at rest. Keep security patches up to date across clouds to avoid vulnerabilities. And restrict access to only those who truly need it.
Next up, automate as much as possible. Multi-cloud automation tools can spin up resources, handle workload placement, shift data between clouds, and more. They help ensure resources are configured to your specifications every time. Automation also reduces errors from manual processes and frees up your SRE teams to focus on more strategic work.
A few other best practices:
- Start small and expand as you gain experience. Don't go all-in on multi-cloud at once.
- Choose management tools that provide a single pane of glass across your clouds. You'll thank me later.
- Standardize resources like VM types, storage options and networking configs across clouds where possible. It makes management way easier.
- Evaluate each new workload to determine the best cloud based on requirements like cost, security, availability and scalability. One size does not fit all!
- Monitor resources and spending closely, especially when you're first getting started. Make sure there are no surprises in your multi-cloud bills.
- Consider consulting services to help you design a solid multi-cloud architecture and strategy. Their experience can help you avoid pitfalls.
Ultimately, managing multiple clouds is an ongoing effort – be prepared to monitor, optimize and improve over time as your needs change. The end result will be well worth the effort!
Multi-Cloud Management Tools and Solutions Overview
There are a variety of tools available to help tame your multi-cloud environment. The major types are:
Cloud management platforms
These platforms provide a single pane of glass to manage resources across multiple clouds. They handle governance, cost management, security, automation and more. Leaders here include VMware CloudHealth, Flexera, and Morpheus. These platforms are very robust but can be pricey, especially if you are a Fortune 500 company that needs to manage a large, complex multi-cloud infrastructure. For startups and growing enterprises, Zeet is a better fit in terms of cost, feature set, and ease of getting started.
Solutions like Datadog, New Relic, and Dynatrace provide monitoring and metrics across clouds. They give you visibility into resource usage, performance, and availability so you can optimize your infrastructure. These tools are more lightweight than full management platforms but focus specifically on monitoring and observability.
Cost management tools
Tools such as Cloudability, VMWare CloudHealth, and ParkMyCloud help track cloud spending across providers and look for ways to reduce costs. They provide budgeting, chargeback reports, and recommendations to cut waste. These are great if cost is your biggest concern in a multi-cloud environment.
Governance and security tools
Solutions like CloudKnox, Oso, and Fugue establish consistent governance, access control, and security policies across clouds. They help avoid “shadow IT” and ensure compliance with regulations like GDPR. If security and governance are top priorities, these targeted tools can help, though cloud management platforms also typically offer governance features.
Automation and orchestration tools
Tools like Terraform and Ansible automate the provisioning and management of cloud resources across providers. They use infrastructure as code to spin up and configure resources quickly and consistently. These tools require more technical expertise but can be very powerful for automating deployments across clouds.
There are a variety of multi-cloud management solutions and the key is figuring out where your biggest pain points are, then choosing tools that directly target your needs. And of course, some tools can help you with your needs across categories. For example, Zeet is a multi-cloud management platform that also makes orchestration tools, like Terraform, easy to use and integrates with monitoring tools, like Datadog. The more tools, the merrier...and a multi-cloud management platform will help you avoid drowning in a sea of cloud management software.
How Public Cloud Providers Support Multi-Cloud
The major public cloud providers want your business, even if you're using multiple clouds. To attract multi-cloud customers, AWS, Azure and GCP offer tools and services to help manage resources across their platforms as well as support for third-party multi-cloud management tools. They realize you're not going to put all your eggs in one cloud basket, so they're doing their best to be as multi-cloud-friendly as possible.
AWS, for example, provides native tools like AWS Organizations for centralized governance across accounts and regions, AWS Cost Explorer for cost analysis, and AWS CloudFormation for infrastructure automation. They also offer a nice selection of AWS Partner Network multi-cloud management solutions in AWS marketplace. Azure and GCP also provide native tools for governance, cost management, monitoring and automation that work across their cloud platforms.
The cloud providers are also increasingly open to supporting third-party multi-cloud management tools. After all, the more you rely on their platforms, the more money you'll spend with them. VMware, Nutanix, Flexera, and other independent software vendors offer robust multi-cloud management solutions that work with AWS, Azure, and GCP. The cloud providers even partner with some of these vendors to better integrate their platforms.
At the end of the day, the major public clouds want to make it as easy as possible for you to adopt a multi-cloud architecture with them as part of the mix. While their native tools provide a good start, for the best multi-cloud management across platforms, independent software vendors still have the advantage. They remain platform-agnostic, allowing you to avoid lock-in and choose the right cloud for the job based on your needs alone. Still, you've got to appreciate the clouds' willingness to play nice in the multi-cloud sandbox. A little cooperation goes a long way.
Optimizing Multi-Cloud Costs and Governance
Managing costs and governance across multiple clouds requires diligence and the right tools. For costs, you'll want to closely monitor resource usage and spending in each cloud to avoid surprise bills. Some best practices:
- Enable billing alerts for when you hit a certain threshold. That way you can scale back resources if needed before overspending.
- Review bills regularly to spot any anomalies. With different billing systems for each cloud, it's easy to miss errors or instances that have been left running.
- Consider prepaying for resources or reserving instances to get a discount. But only do this for resources you know you'll use consistently.
- Use cost management tools that provide a single view of spend across all your clouds. These tools can analyze your usage, set budgets, and help you optimize costs.
For governance, you need to establish consistent policies across your clouds. Things like:
- User access controls - Use the same IAM policies and roles across clouds when possible. For controls that differ, document the differences.
- Compliance and security monitoring - Track compliance with regulations like HIPAA or PCI DSS across clouds. Monitor for security risks and apply fixes uniformly.
- Resource deployment - Follow the same procedures for deploying, configuring and deprovisioning resources in each cloud. Document any differences.
- Auditing - Conduct regular audits of configurations, access controls, and resources across clouds to ensure consistency and compliance.
- Automation - Automate as many governance-related tasks as possible, like ensuring security groups are configured properly or spinning up resources from approved templates. Automation reduces human error and enforces standards.
With consistent governance practices in place and costs closely monitored, a multi-cloud environment can be managed as efficiently as a single cloud.
Multi-Cloud Workload Considerations
Not all workloads are created equal in a multi-cloud world. We discussed earlier that some are well suited for spanning multiple clouds, while others are best kept in a single platform. So how do you determine the right home for each workload? Here are 5 factors to consider:
- Cost: If cost is a top priority, evaluate which cloud offers the best value for a given workload. Things like compute, storage, and networking prices can vary significantly between providers. For workloads with fluctuating demand, a "cloud bursting" model using multiple clouds may optimize costs. If you have GPU workloads, GPUCost.com is a tool to compare GPU costs and availability across providers.
- Security and compliance: For highly sensitive workloads, choose a cloud platform that offers advanced security controls and compliance with regulations like HIPAA or PCI. Some clouds specialize in security and compliance, while others are more general purpose.
- Scalability: Workloads that experience huge spikes in demand may require the scale of a hyperscale cloud like AWS or GCP. More specialized clouds, like CoreWeave, Vultr, and Linode, may provide better options for use-cases like video on the edge or high performance computing. A multi-cloud approach lets you scale up in one cloud, then scale back down when demand drops.
- Availability: If high availability is critical for a workload, deploying it across multiple regions in a single cloud or spanning multiple clouds altogether reduces downtime risk. That way if one region or cloud has an outage, the workload stays up and running.
- Location: For workloads that require low latency connectivity to users in a specific geographic region, choose a cloud platform with a strong presence in that region or a provider that has strong edge capabilities, like Akamai Linode. Or deploy the workload across multiple regional clouds for the best performance globally.
As you can see, there are good reasons to go multi-cloud for some workloads, while others may be perfectly happy living in a single cloud. The key is understanding workload requirements up front so you can choose the right home(s) for each application, database, and service in your infrastructure. While a multi-cloud strategy does introduce some added complexity, the flexibility to optimize for cost, scalability, performance or other factors can make it worthwhile for the workloads that would benefit. For the rest, if it ain't broke in a single cloud, don't fix it! Your multi-cloud environment will be that much easier to manage if you only go multi-cloud when needed.
Zeet: A Leader in Multi-Cloud Management Solutions
In today's multi-cloud landscape, Zeet stands out in simplifying cloud operations and improving engineering efficiency. Zeet ensures seamless deployment across multiple cloud platforms, making it seamless for DevOps to manage infrastructure and providing control and flexibility in deploying services.
Zeet provides a SaaS-based multi-cloud control plane to give you visibility across all your services, infrastructure, and applications in your clouds - in one place. If you're looking to extend your workloads to multiple public clouds, Zeet is a great way to do it while maintaining control and consistency.
Zeet takes a platform-agnostic approach to multi-cloud management, with 8 cloud providers integrated, including AWS, GCP, Azure, CoreWeave, Vultr, Digital Ocean, Akamai Linode, and APLD. Zeet customers have reported significant time savings and team velocity increases by implementing Zeet for multi-cloud infrastructure management.
A shining customer example is LiveKit, a live video and audio streaming company. With a team of 15 developers, LiveKit leverages Zeet's platform for effective cloud infrastructure management and deployment, doing it all with just 2 infrastructure engineers. Zeet is allowing LiveKit team to efficiently handle deployments across three cloud platforms, 30+ Kubernetes clusters, and dozens of data centers worldwide.
"Using Zeet allows us to quickly deploy and run on different clouds simultaneously, it's seamless and helps us avoid downtime." - LiveKit's CTO David Zhao
My top takeaways from LiveKit:
- 300% increase in deployments
- 50% increase in deployments per engineer
- 50% time reduction to MVP for LiveKit
For companies navigating multi-cloud environments, Zeet offers advanced functionality like:
- A single dashboard to view resources across multiple clouds
- Zeet Blueprints, so that teams can run off the shelf software quickly and ability to transfer services across clouds
- CI/CD to speed deployments and reduce errors for multi cluster infrastructure
- Auto-scaling can be configured in Zeet to work across cloud providers
- Monitoring and observability for performance, availability, and security across clouds
- Audit Logs, allowing you to track changes to your clouds, clusters, custom IaC Packages, and applications.
- Infrastructure Metrics Tracking with Prometheus so you can quickly view your infra's resource consumption and usage
- Built-in Integrations with providers, like Datadog, Slack, Github, Gitlab, Discord, so you can integrate your APM and set up notifications around any of your cloud operations.
- Log Forwarding so all logs from applications, services, and infra can be sent to a central location.
With Zeet, you get the benefits of a robust multi-cloud management platform to make the process easy.
Multi-Cloud : Is it Worth the Work?
Managing a multi-cloud environment is no easy feat, but for many companies the benefits make the effort worthwhile. By following best practices, choosing specialized tools, and accepting the journey may be bumpy at times, you can build a multi-cloud architecture that optimizes costs, team efficiencies, and workloads. Start with a solid strategy, focus on wins along the way, and maintain a sense of humor when facing the challenges mentioned.
If you're struggling to manage multiple clouds or just starting your multi-cloud adventure, consider discussing your needs with us. There is a diverse ecosystem of open source and cloud tools to manage, and we can help you realize the full benefits of multi-cloud.
Try Zeet free for up to 3 services deployed on your cloud or reach out to discuss the right approach for you. Happy shipping!