This content is part of the Essential Guide: An IT pro's survival guide for multi-cloud computing

Perfect your multicloud computing recipe with the right provider mix

When choosing cloud providers for a multicloud deployment, it's not just about cost -- consider specialized features, along with management and integration options.

Editor's note: This article is part three of a three-part series on multicloud strategies. Click here to read the first part and here to read the second part.

Offering organizations increased choice and flexibility, the multicloud model is starting to gain traction in the enterprise. But just as you would with a single cloud deployment, organizations need to carefully evaluate and choose the right cloud providers for multicloud computing. And in some cases, providers other than the market leaders might offer you better overall benefits.

When choosing providers for multicloud computing, start by mapping your application requirements to cloud service features. If you're evaluating multiple cloud providers for a particular cloud model -- such as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) -- check each against the features and benefits you've identified to see if a different provider choice, or a second one within the category, could help you. Multiple providers within a single cloud service type, like IaaS, can be justified if your application requirements differ in terms of reliability or geographic scope of service.

When looking within a single cloud service type, such as IaaS, for potential providers, it's more complicated to make the comparison. Differences in features and costs are likely to be more subtle. Beware of changing your provider choice based on a small difference in cost; it might not hold up over time.

Integration and management costs can cancel out price differences among providers, and in some cases, these costs could even outweigh the cloud services' benefits.

At Your Service

Multicloud users benefit from more than one of the three models, even though they'll probably depend on one more than the others.

  • SaaS hosts applications in the cloud, which means that hardware and platform costs are eliminated. Technical support for applications is limited to helping workers use them effectively.
  • PaaS hosts the platform and hardware in the cloud, but you supply and support applications.
  • IaaS hosts only the hardware. Thus, you provide and support all of the software.

In your review of cloud providers within each cloud service model, pay particular attention to the vendors' features for creating, deploying, managing, moving and linking application images. If these capabilities are not comparable among providers, estimate the cost and complexity and factor those into a comparison.

In addition, remember the market leaders in IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offer a variety of options -- not just the cloud model for which they're most known. If PaaS is your primary model, but you still have some IaaS cloud needs, check your PaaS vendor to see if it offers IaaS. That offering could simplify management and integration while also lowering costs. Make sure these secondary cloud service models have been in place for some time, though. Some providers may dabble in new areas and then cut the service if it doesn't pay off for them.

Multicloud computing continues to evolve

There are compelling benefits to the multicloud model, but the biggest advantage may be yet to come. Cloud providers are already quite specialized, because it makes sense for them to pick a niche where they can be valuable and profitable. Over time, providers will continue focusing this process and provide better features and costs for smaller segments of the cloud market. There will be more candidates for multicloud computing in the future, as these new, specialized services align with your particular needs.

Over time, cloud service prices will likely continue to fall. This will open new application opportunities that are best supported with multiple, application-tuned cloud services. To compensate for base price declines, cloud providers will offer add-on services, particularly in IaaS clouds, that act as functional extensions to applications. Today, most of these services are used by internal IT teams building cloud applications. In the future, third-party applications will be supplied in growing numbers to exploit the benefits of these services. You can see examples already from cloud giant Amazon.

The combination of these pricing and feature changes will result in organizations needing more cloud services to create an optimum cloud strategy. While some service providers will develop intercloud features and tools, users must navigate this increasingly complicated cloud space and make it work at the business level.

Everyone faces the difficult-to-predict future, but those who plan for it face it more effectively. That's true with the cloud, too. Multicloud computing trends are already clearly visible, and dealing with the selection and management of a multicloud model now will make the future of the cloud easier to grasp.

Next Steps

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The complexities of adopting a multiple cloud approach

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