Multi-cloud strategies will become commonplace, says Rackspace CTO

Large enterprises are already considering multiple clouds to mitigate the risk of a single cloud outage

As cloud computing grows in importance, multiple clouds will become increasingly commonplace, and it is therefore vital that applications deployed in different clouds can talk to each other and those of partners and customers, according to John Engates, CTO of open cloud company Rackspace (pictured).

A multi-cloud approach is one where an enterprise uses two or more cloud services, therefore minimising the risk of widespread data loss or outage due to a component failure in a single cloud computing environment.

It brings benefits such as additional infrastructure necessary for fault tolerance and gives customers a choice to use clouds that are better suited than others for a particular task.

“The adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket applies in cloud too,” Rackspace CTO John Engates told Computer Weekly

“The advantages to enterprises of multi-cloud strategy are the same advantages that came from a multiple-supplier strategy – real price competition, feature differentiation and risk mitigation,” he said.

But for many, such a multi-cloud strategy has been difficult because of lack of cloud interoperability and standards.

The industry is moving towards a future where organisations use multiple clouds.

“Many cloud users are using AWS [Amazon Web Services] as their starting point, and as soon as they have a handful of applications running, they start thinking about the potential of running some of those workloads elsewhere – either a private cloud or another public cloud,” said Engates.

“The challenge is there is really no direct AWS alternative that has anywhere near 100% fidelity with the AWS stack,” he added.

Open standards a key benefit of open source cloud computing

But Engates saidopen source cloud platforms such as OpenStack enable collaboration between clouds and help businesses avoid supplier lock-in.

By choosing an open cloud service, businesses avoid being locked in to one technology and gain the freedom to move their data and applications between, public, private and hybrid cloud models as required, he said.

Vanson Bourne research conducted in September 2012, commissioned by Rackspace, found that open standards was cited as the main benefit of using open source cloud computing platforms.

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The study, which surveyed IT managers from 250 UK enterprise and public sector organisations, saw respondents rating lower total cost of ownership, no supplier lock-in, the ability to move applications between different clouds and being able to run internal and external clouds on the same common standards as the biggest benefits.

It also highlighted that the industry is moving towards a future where organisations use multiple clouds, with over 50% of respondents already admitting to working with two or more cloud providers.

“Cloud customers have been paying attention to the string of recent cloud outages and are rapidly formulating multi-cloud strategies to mitigate the risk of a single cloud outage,” said Engates.

The most recent high-profile public cloud outage was on Christmas Eve, when Netflix services went down as AWS’s Electric Load Balancing (ELB) service reported problems.

“The cloud tool-makers and third-party software suppliers will quickly realise that multi-cloud is in real demand and will start to offer the tools the customers need to really make multi-cloud possible,” Engates added.

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