One cloud is never enough – why a resilient multi-cloud scenario is essential

Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX
14 September 2023

Too much of any one thing is never healthy. Variety and diversity are not only desirable qualities, but also provide an operational advantage – from HR to investment portfolios. This is also true on a technological level. Concentrating data storage and processing in a single data center is a risk that modern business can no longer tolerate, which is one reason that many companies have already turned to cloud solutions. But even cloud solutions harbor the risk of concentration if the services of only one cloud provider are used, explains Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX. Cloud concentration risk can be mitigated through the strategic use of multiple cloud providers – intelligently interconnected in low latency to ensure cloud-to-cloud communication – along with distributed infrastructure to ensure operational resilience. Therefore, to truly secure the company’s data flows to and from clouds, the way a company connects to its clouds must not be forgotten.

The cloud has become essential to the smooth running of any modern business. Cloud adoption is such that the average employee now uses more than 30 cloud-based apps to carry out their daily business, with the total number of cloud-based processes per company running into the hundreds. Using the cloud removes the need for expensive Capex investment in IT resources and allows the infrastructure to grow flexibly with the needs of the organization. It enables a mobile and geographically distributed workforce to access data and resources around the clock. It also allows businesses to connect with the latest AI and analytics tools and capabilities. Multi-cloud allows a company to cherry-pick best-in-class services for each use-case, accelerating processes and boosting the revenue potential. Furthermore, business continuity and disaster recovery strategies today depend on cloud solutions that can be accessed 24/7, regardless of any incidents or outages on the ground at or near one company location.

While security was once a concern for companies migrating to the cloud, most organizations are now confident the tools and processes implemented in cloud infrastructure can deliver robust protection. However, multi-cloud environments in many companies are still the result of accident and shadow IT. One result of this is that, even if the IT Administrator manages compliance and visibility of security within each cloud environment, the connectivity to and between the clouds is often neglected.

Direct connectivity to the cloud – bypassing the public Internet and increasing security

Even in highly developed cloud markets and cloud native companies, the cloud is often accessed via the public Internet. This has multiple disadvantages, including not only issues with the performance and reliability of applications based in the cloud, but also the security of the data in transit. But this risk can be avoided. Instead, a company can directly connect its network to the cloud networks being used via a Cloud Exchange. This shortens the distance that data needs to travel, increasing the speed, performance, and reliability of applications in the cloud. It also increases the security of the data flowing between the company network and the cloud network by controlling the exact pathway along which data is permitted to travel and bypassing the public Internet.

Cloud concentration – a risk to business continuity

While it may seem easier to place all workloads, databases, and apps in one cloud environment, strategists and regulators around that world are becoming increasingly aware of the risk of cloud concentration – the risk that, despite the benefits of cloud infrastructure itself, this exclusive partnership with one cloud provider may become a single point of failure. An outage or cyber-attack on a single cloud would, in this case, cause significant disruption – so much so that the company is unable to continue business activities. Although there are mechanisms to mitigate this risk through distributed computing and diversifying within a single cloud environment, a better option is to mitigate this risk through strategically focusing on the operational resilience of digital infrastructure.

Resilient connectivity to and between cloud service providers has thus far often been overlooked in strategies, but is essential for services to be up and running quickly in the event of any outage. Because true mitigation of the cloud concentration risk doesn’t simply stop at using multiple clouds. It is important to be able to access the clouds from geographically independent data center locations, using physically different (non-overlapping) data lines. Here, we see that diversity not only in cloud providers, but also in network and data center operators, leads to the greatest level of resilience against potential incidents. Managing this can be simplified by using a distributed Cloud Exchange and interconnection platform so that the risk of an outage – regardless of whether it strikes a cloud, a network, or a data center – can be successfully mitigated.

Cloud-to-cloud communication improves multi-cloud

Simply connecting to and sourcing services from multiple clouds is, however, not a complete solution to multi-cloud. As a result of data portability challenges, some individual workloads and applications may remain siloed on single clouds. Proprietary applications (e.g. certain AI applications) may also not be available through other providers. Therefore, a second step is to ensure interoperability and direct connectivity between all cloud environments and the associated applications, so it’s possible to synchronize data and results fast and seamlessly across a diverse operator landscape. Here, the best option is to use a cloud routing service on the Cloud Exchange and interconnection platform to directly interconnect your chosen clouds. This concept has several advantages over the traditional method of connecting to each cloud individually – because with a cloud routing service, data can be synchronized between clouds directly on the interconnection platform, without a long and cost-intensive journey via the company’s own infrastructure. Applications and data behave as if in a single cloud environment, with the lowest latency and seamless interaction. This, in turn, simplifies and fortifies the design of a business continuity and disaster recovery strategy, among other important use cases.

As this shows, a complete strategic plan is needed to handle multi-cloud in a holistic and secure manner – from the choice of services and providers through to the manner in which they are accessed and interconnected. 

A resilient multi-provider approach made easy

Using a carrier and data center neutral interconnection platform simplifies this process: it gives you access to a diversity of not only cloud providers, but also connectivity providers, network operators, and data center operators. This enables you to design a geographically distributed and resilient set-up. For example, a company can ensure redundant connections (preferably using different network providers) to multiple clouds from physically separated data center locations, and even remotely incorporate on-ramps from different cloud regions for additional resilience. High-speed and reliable connectivity between those clouds and on-premise infrastructure can then be put into place for data sharing and back-up purposes. All of the connections can then be managed easily via the interconnection platform’s portal and API.

The design of a high-performance distributed cloud, carrier and data center neutral interconnection platform – like the ones operated by DE-CIX, for example – offers a model on the macro scale for exactly the kind of geographical distribution, diversity, and redundancy that I also recommend for the design of enterprise-owned digital infrastructure for any critical use case. Although such an interconnection platform may appear to the outside world to be a single entity, if it is designed according to best practices, it is actually composed of a multitude of redundantly implemented servers, services, software, and other components, distributed across multiple locations, and supported by the services of many infrastructure providers. This dramatically increases the resilience of connections and ensures continuous access to critical data, no matter what happens anywhere on a local level.

The key to performance and resilience

If variety is the spice of life, then multi-cloud is the spice of every cloud strategy. Beyond this, diversity in clouds, data centers, and carriers, together with redundancy built in across all infrastructure and providers, is key to the best performance and resilience for critical data pathways, data storage, and workloads.