According to MIT Technology Review, the term “cloud computing” was arguably coined in 1996 by a group of Netscape technology executives, who saw the cloud model as the future of doing business on the Internet. The term is also said to have been coined in 1996, when companies began to “describe the new paradigm in which people are increasingly accessing software, computer power, and files over the Web instead of on their desktops.”
Regardless of who created the term, between 1996 and a decade later, cloud computing progressed from a concept to an early practice that established the paradigm of accessing “software, computer power, and files over the Web instead of on desktops.”
The same description holds true today, but the phenomenon it describes has made significant technological gains. Instead of using a single cloud, many companies now use a multi-cloud strategy that offers multi-cloud storage. The strategy commonly conforms to one of three models of implementation. Let’s look at each one, examining its benefits and drawbacks that apply far and wide.
1. In-House Multi-Cloud Strategy
In this multi-cloud strategy, a company classically owns, operates, and maintains the cloud infrastructure, directly accessing the multiple clouds it creates instead connecting to them through a third-party provider. The in-house model is common to companies that have well-rounded IT departments, and rarely, if ever, outsource business-critical resources.
For many companies, the biggest benefit is an exceptionally high level of quality control over upgrades and maintenance to the cloud system. A company’s IT department typically handles the work, which creates another benefit: the work is performed by in-house staff, who have firsthand knowledge of company IT needs and how management prefers to address them.
Management delivers and receives information quickly by going straight to the IT department.
A fourth benefit applies to companies that use the in-house model to satisfy privacy policies. When policy dictates that multi-cloud storage can’t be orchestrated by a third party, the need to protect exceptionally sensitive data (e.g., engineering plans for military tech) is usually the reason why. In this situation, the in-house model is ultimately a risk mitigation strategy.
The most obvious drawback is expenses. A company buys and maintains software and hardware that creates the cloud system. In addition, the company pays to upgrade these resources. Because the need to upgrade is inevitable, it essentially means that, over time, the infrastructure of the system will be repeatedly rebuilt. The need to upgrade implies another cost factor: the company must maintain a robust IT department that can perform the work.
Receiving cloud capacity from a third-party provider largely eliminates these costs. The provider owns the resources that create the cloud system, vigilantly maintaining and upgrading them to compete favorably with other providers. The client may still require permanent IT staff, but not for performing cloud system maintenance and upgrades.
2. Third-Party Multi-Cloud Strategy
In a third-party multi-cloud strategy, a company receives cloud capacity as a service from a remote provider. In this software as a service (SaaS) scenario, the client pays a service fee based on the services received, and the capacity in which received. The client can receive full cloud service from the provider, or it may have a “hybrid” cloud system, in which it manages certain elements of the cloud while the provider manages others.
Paying for multi-cloud storage as a service is typically less expensive — both upfront and in the long run — than investing in the hardware, software, and IT personnel needed to implement and maintain the same capacity on an in-house model. A solution that is costly to implement in-house can seem downright cheap to acquire from a third-party provider.
As mentioned previously, the service provider upgrades the resources that create the cloud system to maintain a competitive edge. Simultaneously, the upgrades help maintain the competitive edge of the client by ensuring that cloud resources are never obsolete. The client also saves time. The provider handles system upgrades, system maintenance, and the re-optimization of services to better meet a client’s changing needs, as necessary.
Is multi-cloud storage strategy as a third-party service a money saver in the short-term and financial drain in the long-run? Will service payments made in perpetuity have a higher total cost than implementing a cloud system independently?
Because the ongoing need to upgrade resources that create the cloud puts the cloud system in a state of continual, gradual reimplementation, the answer to both questions is largely no. The upfront cost of implementing a cloud independently is not a one-time expense;
it is simply the initial cost of implementing the cloud.
If the third-party model has a drawback, it’s quality control. Quality of service is defined by the quality of service provider. Identifying mediocre service providers is challenging for companies that need third-party IT due mostly to their unfamiliarity with IT.
Listening to what a provider’s client references say about its services can be a solid indicator of service quality. The key is to receive an extensive set of references. Fielding responses from the smaller set of “star” references a provider chooses in advance may tell only one side of the story.
3. Open-Source Multi-Cloud Strategy
An open-source multi-cloud strategy relies on open-source cloud software for creating the infrastructure that defines multi-cloud storage. A company selects an open-source cloud software resource, and then codes the software to make it deliver the necessary cloud capacity. This is typically done by in-house developers.
As with open-source software for other IT applications, open-source cloud software can be downloaded for free, or for a nominal fee. Another benefit is that there are more open-source options than ever before.
For companies that implement a multi-cloud on an in-house model, open-source software can also save time. Instead of writing code to create proprietary software from scratch, developers can instead focus on refining software code whose basic platform already exists.
The biggest drawback to the open source option is the same as with practically all forms of open-source software: to a greater or lesser extent, the configurability of the code is limited. Consequently, a company can end up with cloud infrastructure that is a good fit, but not a perfect fit. Depending on the importance of the multi-cloud for supporting key revenue drivers, the compromise could significantly impact the bottom line.
Another disadvantage is that technical support from a service provider is often non-existent. If a company needs advice for configuring the software, it must often seek it from web forums that deal with the software in question. Sometimes, the advice doesn’t even exist, because the limitations of the software’s code mean that certain configurations cannot be made.
Need Advice on Creating a Multi-Cloud?
If you’re unsure of which multi-cloud strategy to use, or you need assistance with implementing and/or maintaining cloud capacity, the specialists at NIC can help. We can serve as a consultant for your strategy, the provider of your multi-cloud, or both.
To get started on your company’s best strategy for multi-cloud storage, contact us to plan a consultation.