IT pros forgo simplicity, use multiple cloud services

Stuart J. Johnston, Senior News Writer

If the main reasons for moving to the cloud are to reduce the complexities of deploying, managing and maintaining applications, why do so many cloud customers run multiple clouds?

Cloud management services provider RightScale Inc. said last week that 87% of its customer cloud usage comes from companies with more than one cloud services provider and more than one cloud type. It's a drumbeat that has been building over the past year, the company said.

The most common uses for multiple clouds include providing high availability, business continuity and disaster recovery, according to the company. Meanwhile, aside from public clouds, RightScale customers also deploy on-premises and hosted private or hybrid clouds.

I know a big health care provider with nine clouds. But they … will eventually harmonize down to probably two providers at the most.

Tom Nolle, president of cloud consultancy CIMI Corp

RightScale customers use the company’s myCloud service to support Amazon Web Services, Datapipe, IDC Frontier, Logicworks, Rackspace and SoftLayer. Additionally, RightScale has teamed with private cloud software providers Citrix CloudStack, Eucalyptus Systems and the OpenStack open source cloud computing project, the company said.

That does not necessarily mean what RightScale sees happening is a clear trend, said one analyst. After all, multi-cloud management is RightScale's forte and their numbers are not independently verifiable.

"If you're going to be using RightScale, you probably want to manage a multi-cloud strategy," said Kyle Hilgendorf, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Analysts for two large analysis firms said their companies do not track use of multiple clouds. But there are certainly companies using this approach.

And whether deploying multiple clouds is a good idea depends on your point of view.

"I know a big health care provider with nine clouds," said Tom Nolle, president of cloud consultancy CIMI Corp. "But they do [that] because they are testing and they will eventually harmonize down to probably two providers at most ... most customers [that have multiple clouds] say they will pick one provider."

"We tell clients 'You do not want to have multiple providers unless you can't do it any other way’," Nolle added.

Still, some cloud customers want or need to use different cloud providers for certain use cases, such as DevOps, explained Michael Crandell, CEO and co-founder of RightScale Inc.

In fact, for years some companies have envisioned the use of multiple clouds as a way to hold off vendor lock-in and to provide additional alternatives for backup and recovery.

Whether people end up using one provider or two or three, you have some choice. They're not looking for a revolution ... they're just looking to get their work done.

Michael Crandell, CEO and co-founder of RightScale Inc.

"The notion of an evolving multi-cloud strategy meant the ability to seek lowest cost of goods from multiple cloud vendors," Greg Arnette, founder and CTO of Sonian, a  data management Web service, said in a post to his personal blog in February. "[But] a lot of positive breakthroughs would need to occur to be able to successfully operate a single reference architecture software stack across more than one cloud," Arnette added

The Apache DeltaCloud project, for one, supports multiple cloud application programming interfaces (API). Currently at version 0.5, the Apache Software Foundation Top-Level Project (TLP), DeltaCloud, supports quite a list of cloud APIs, including VMware vSphere, Eucalyptus, Red Hat RHEV-M, Microsoft Windows Azure, Rackspace, Terremark and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Despite seeming counterintuitive, however, demand seems to be picking up, at least in the short run. RightScale has seen its customers go from 84% using multiple clouds in late 2011 to 87% today, Crandell said.

"Whether people end up using one provider or two or three, you have some choice," he added. They're not looking for a revolution ... they're just looking to get their work done."

Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at sjohnston@techtarget.com.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Disaster recovery in the cloud explained or view the full guide: Expect the unexpected with a solid cloud DR strategy

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