This content is part of the Essential Guide: Effective multi-cloud storage strategies and management techniques

Get multi-cloud storage off on the right foot

See the questions to ask and the various players to query as you get started with your multi-cloud strategy. Success is all about gathering the right information upfront.

If you haven't considered a multi-cloud storage strategy, it's time. There are numerous reasons to use more than one cloud service provider today. It's a particularly good approach if you want to control costs, protect data privacy and ensure availability. Key to a successful multi-cloud deployment is asking a lot of questions and gathering as much information as possible upfront. But you can't focus only on the cloud services under consideration; you also must consider the workloads and systems that will feed into the multi-cloud environment.

One place to start with assessing your organization's need for multi-cloud storage is making sure it's the right approach for your business. Are the performance, cost and business continuity (BC) advantages worth the management headaches and other complications multiple clouds can cause? Would a hybrid cloud approach serve you better?

Talk to your storage vendors, too. They're well-aware that their customers are grappling with multi-cloud challenges. They're helping out by making their products easier to integrate and use with these environments. Management and monitoring tools are also available to minimize multi-cloud challenges.

Also, ask lots of questions around the systems you already have in place that will need to connect into the multi-cloud setup. Edge storage is one area in particular that will require extensive analysis to ensure seamless integration with whatever multi-cloud approach you go with.

multi-cloud management market growth

Read on for more questions to ask about using multiple clouds for storage as you prepare your multi-cloud move.

Why consider a multi-cloud strategy?

Flexibility is a key reason to go multi-cloud. Having access to services from multiple providers gives organizations the opportunity to pick and choose the best options from each. One provider might have more experience with object storage, while another might offer better directory services. With a multi-cloud strategy, there's no reason to get stuck with a second-best cloud service.

Nor is there any reason to have to live with underperforming or overpriced cloud services. With a multi-cloud approach, organizations can weigh performance, cost or whatever considerations they deem most important as they select which providers' services to incorporate.

Key to a successful multi-cloud deployment is asking a lot of questions and gathering as much information as possible.

And that's not all. Other multi-cloud advantages include being able to distribute data and business resources globally to ensure BC in the face of a regional disaster or a problem with an individual cloud provider. Data privacy is also enhanced when erasure coding is used to distribute data across multiple clouds so that no one service provider has a complete copy of protected data.

What about the hybrid cloud vs. multi-cloud storage debate?

A multi-cloud approach isn't going to be right for every organization or every circumstance. There may be instances where a hybrid cloud, in particular, makes more sense. A hybrid cloud combines private and public clouds so workloads can move between them as computing needs and costs change. A multi-cloud, on the other hand, is about using multiple public IaaS providers.

An enterprise might use a hybrid cloud for cloud bursting a specific task that can run in-house most of the time, but when demand spikes, it may need the added capacity of a public cloud. Other circumstances where a hybrid cloud might be preferred include organizations such as financial institutions that have significant infrastructure investments and regulatory and compliance obligations. In those cases, the hybrid cloud approach might provide more effective governance and make better use of existing investments.

Comparing cloud options

When it comes to costs, multi-cloud is generally the better option because public cloud services are typically charged as they're used and have fewer or no upfront costs. A hybrid approach has the upfront costs associated with maintaining a private cloud. But cost alone won't be the deciding factor; it's important to assess all aspects of the hybrid vs. multi-cloud debate before making a decision.

What are storage vendors doing to facilitate multi-cloud?

Are you ready to go multi-cloud? Storage providers are doing more to make their products work better in a multi-cloud environment. They know their customers care about storage, but ultimately, it's all about the data being stored. Vendors are making it easier to use that data and move it where it's needed and most effective.

For instance, they're using next-generation distributed file systems that support a single namespace, enabling access to data in any cloud. They're going open source to prevent cloud lock-in. They're also providing common management strategies and policies across different clouds and on premises as well. It's all about managing, protecting and using the data effectively, wherever it resides.

How can multi-cloud challenges be managed?

Migrating workloads within a multi-cloud environment can pose problems if the interfaces used by the various clouds aren't compatible. Cloud standards enable clouds to talk to one another, making workload migration easier. It's important to compare upfront the standards and file formats cloud providers are using because they aren't always compatible, and that could become an issue later.

Each cloud provider has its own management portal, and managing all of them can become overwhelming. Using a single management tool to consolidate them will simplify the management challenge and help control the application and virtual machine sprawl that often plagues a multi-cloud environment.

Monitoring outcomes is another of the multi-cloud storage challenges to pay attention to. Don't count on the monitoring tools each cloud service provides to track results in a multi-cloud environment. You'll need an independent monitoring tool designed for multiple clouds to give you the big picture of how your setup is performing.

Can edge storage and multi-cloud be combined without creating a management nightmare?

Combining edge storage with a multi-cloud strategy isn't easy. Advance prep is the key to making the two systems work together effectively. Knowing how much and what types of data will be generated, as well as where the data will be collected, transferred and retained, is critical to planning both systems.

Planning will also require knowing how long each type of data must be retained, as well as where, when and how much of it will need to be transferred among different systems and cloud platforms. Other questions that must be answered in advance include how the data will be managed, stored, backed up and protected, as well as what compliance requirements will come into play.

Both near- and long-term plans for the edge and multi-cloud systems must be thought through. All of this information can help managers minimize the complications posed by combining edge and multi-cloud storage and getting them to work together seamlessly.

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