Resources > Security Terms Glossary > What Is Multicloud?

What Is Multicloud?

What Is Multicloud?

Multicloud is a strategy in which an organization uses two or more cloud service providers or services to perform a variety of functions, such as cloud storage, cloud computing, security, or application support.

By adopting a multicloud strategy as a part of a greater digital transformation, you can run public clouds and private clouds (hybrid multicloud). However, IT professionals generally use the term to describe using multiple clouds from different cloud providers.

How Does a Multicloud Architecture Work?

As organizations embrace cloud computing, they’re increasingly adopting multicloud environments due to the rise in remote work and the growing demand to have access to cloud services from anywhere, anytime, off the corporate network. 

A multicloud approach doesn’t mean cloud-only, though. Some organizations opt to keep some functions in their on-premises data centers or a private cloud while utilizing multiple cloud service providers for other purposes.

Most often, organizations adopt multicloud solutions that comprise different infrastructure, platform, and software as a service (respectively IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) providers. Additionally, a multicloud deployment is often an organization’s means of modernizing its ecosystem as it shifts toward a serverless architecture.
 

Multicloud Service Providers 

Multicloud apps are all around us, coming from some of the biggest names in the tech world. Some of the most popular public cloud providers include: 

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • ServiceNow
  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP) 
  • IBM Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud
  • Alibaba Cloud

In addition to the public cloud, there are a number of private cloud providers including: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, Dell, Oracle, and IBM/Red Hat.

A multicloud strategy not only provides more flexibility for which cloud services an enterprise chooses to use, it also reduces dependence on a single cloud hosting provider.

VMware

Multicloud Use Cases

Beyond compatibility with a bevy of vendors, multicloud architectures offer high availability to support a wide variety of cloud-enabled technologies, such as:

  • APIs
  • Containers such as Kubernetes
  • Disaster recovery (DR)
  • Open source development
  • Microservices
  • DevOps

Adopting multicloud gives businesses the agility to innovate at a much faster pace than with a single public cloud service or provider only. High performance and availability mean reduced downtime, and increased data management capacity opens the door for artificial intelligence and machine learning adoption, as well.
 

What’s the Difference Between Hybrid Cloud and Multicloud?

Where a hybrid cloud makes use of public and private cloud services, a multicloud architecture uses services from multiple public cloud providers at the same time. A hybrid cloud is suited for organizations that operate under strict compliance regulations, such as public sector, finance, or law firms.

This is because private clouds are controlled by the organizations that deploy them. The organizations themselves bear the brunt of responsibility should they fall victim to a cyberattack, so a private cloud doesn’t come under the shared responsibility model. Furthermore, these clouds tend to be built on the basis of securing data.

Stitching together secure connectivity across multiple clouds and your data centers means the challenge grows severalfold, requiring a patchwork of site-to-site VPNs, firewalls, transit gateways, peering policies, and more.

Rich Campagna, Zscaler

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Multicloud Strategy?

Employing a multicloud strategy can bring a host of benefits, including: 

  • Reduced cost: Having more options allows you to compare prices and choose which option works for you. Plus, a multicloud strategy eliminates the need for set up and maintenance of physical data centers.
  • Lower risks: Having a distributed cloud infrastructure reduces your reliance on a single cloud provider, which enhances business continuity and reduces risks. Having clouds across different locations reduces the danger that an outage in one will bring work grinding to a halt. 
  • Compliance: A multicloud strategy allows for increased compliance with policy and regulatory standards because each cloud infrastructure provider can monitor compliance individually.
  • Scalability: A multicloud strategy allows data and applications to reside in multiple locations worldwide, which in turn allows for exponential scalability as business needs grow and change. 
  • Improved user experience: Having distributed locations through a multicloud strategy means they are closer to the user, reducing latency and improving user experience. Because you avoid single vendor lock-in, you have more choice and flexibility. 

However, there are also risks that come with multicloud: 

  • Various rules: Multiple providers will force you to contend with multiple rules and systems. It can become more complicated and time consuming for IT departments to monitor each one.
  • Unfamiliarity: With each cloud you adopt, you’ll have to become familiar with it and bring all employees up to speed. This can take time and effort. 
  • Security: Monitoring all of these clouds can present some security challenges. For instance, it can be difficult to maintain a unified set of controls, which can cause security gaps.

In the face of these challenges, organizations adopting multicloud solutions will need to come up with ways to manage and solve them. Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved here.

Why Do Organizations Adopt Multicloud Strategies?

Your organization’s unique needs depend on many factors, such as team size, business goals, and budget, and you have options when it comes to the management and optimization of a multicloud environment.  

  1. Allow the separate cloud service providers to manage and monitor each cloud independently, with internal teams working with each separate cloud vendor and platform.
  2. Adopt a multicloud management platform for security and connectivity to help you mitigate the business risks posed by separate solutions with heterogeneous controls that may not integrate with each other.

On top of this, you need to ensure secure connections for all your users and workflows. Traditional network-centric security wasn’t built to secure the new, agile world of the cloud, which is why Gartner recommends embracing zero trust network access (ZTNA) technologies.

ZTNA, sometimes called software-defined perimeter (SDP), provides secure access to private applications across hybrid and multicloud environments, enabling secure cloud adoption. Many vendors claim to offer comprehensive ZTNA solutions, but only one has built a ZTNA platform in the cloud, for the cloud, to give your multicloud environment the degree of security it needs and deserves—that vendor is Zscaler.

 

Secure Your Multicloud Environments with Zscaler 

Zscaler Private Access™ (ZPA™) is the industry’s most deployed ZTNA platform. It contains Zscaler Cloud Protection (ZCP), built on top of the cloud native Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™, provides a comprehensive solution to protect workloads in multicloud environments, including on-premises data centers. ZCP improves workload posture and ensures secure workload communications. 

ZCP’s Workload Posture capabilities include: 

These cutting-edge capabilities apply automation to remediate misconfigurations, remove excessive entitlements, and prevent cloud data loss. 

Additionally, ZCP’s Workload Communications capabilities protect all workload communications—both north-south and east-west—to prevent the spread of malware across your cloud infrastructure. Because ZCP is a unified solution that provides orchestration across all major cloud providers, organizations benefit from consistent security and simpler operations.

Register for a demo of Zscaler Cloud Protection to explore how you can securely enable multicloud solutions in your organization.

Using SDP to Secure Access to Private Apps Across Multicloud Environments

Read the white paper
Using SDP to Secure Access to Private Apps Across Multicloud Environments

Can Your Security Keep Up with a Multicloud Strategy?

Watch the webinar
Can Your Security Keep Up with a Multicloud Strategy?

Automatically Prevent Cloud Misconfigurations

Learn more about CSPM
Automatically Prevent Cloud Misconfigurations

Leveraging Zero Trust for Multicloud Networking

Read the blog
Leveraging Zero Trust for Multicloud Networking