Integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud: Multi-Cloud Management for Hybrid/Multi-Cloud Environments

Hybrid and multi-cloud environments are common place for greater flexibility, resilience, compliance capabilities, and opportunities for optimization and innovation for modern businesses. According to a report published by Enterprise Strategy Group in 2023, the majority of organizations now use multiple on-premises data centers, colocation providers, and Platform as a Service (PaaS)/ Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers to power their IT infrastructure. A staggering 85% of organizations use two or more IaaS providers, making the need for cloud synchronization and effective management tools stronger than ever.

Today’s largest cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. These providers offer similar basic services, such as VMs, platforms like databases and file shares, serverless computing and more, but their areas of specialization differ slightly:

  • AWS’s global reach is one of its biggest strengths.
  • Microsoft excels in security and compliance and offers Windows-based VMs for those heavily invested in the Microsoft Ecosystem.
  • Google Cloud provides powerful data and analytics tools, making the platform popular for machine learning use cases.

This guide explores the importance of multi-cloud management and some best practices for synchronizing services across cloud platforms.

Understanding Hybrid vs. Multi-Cloud Management

Hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployments are two slightly different approaches to cloud computing. Hybrid cloud deployments blend two or more cloud types. For example, they might have some data in a private cloud or on-premises data center and deploy other applications to a single public cloud.

In contrast, multi-cloud deployments use different clouds of the same type, such as having a presence on both AWS and Azure. An organization can have an infrastructure that’s both hybrid and multi-cloud at the same time.

Keeping data synchronized across multiple cloud platforms can be a challenge, but it’s an essential part of cloud management to ensure all environments have access to up-to-date information.

The Case for a Unified Management Approach

Multi-cloud approaches offer several benefits, such as resilience, more efficient distribution of workloads, and avoidance of vendor lock-in. However, multi-cloud environments are more complex, presenting new challenges in cost management and security.

According to the 2022 Virtana State of Multi-Cloud Management Report, which surveyed 360 cloud decision-makers in the U.S. and UK, 63% of respondents were using five or more separate tools to manage their multi-cloud environments, and 83% reported they were still relying on manual processes for at least some of their cloud management work.

A unified approach to multi-cloud management helps address these issues by simplifying operations across cloud infrastructures. Potential ways to reduce the complexity of managing systems across vendors include:

  • Cloud management tools: Terraform, Morpheus, and Flexera CMP can all help manage cloud solutions across multiple vendors.
  • API-based management tools: Automate cloud management using APIs for performance monitoring and provisioning.
  • Multi-cloud management platforms: Third-party providers offer a unified interface to manage different cloud environments, simplifying cloud resource management and monitoring.

Syncing AWS, Azure and Google Cloud: A Step-By-Step Guide

When using multiple cloud platforms, it’s vital to properly synchronize data and workloads. Careful planning keeps latency as low as possible and minimizes data transfer costs when syncing between clouds.

How you manage workloads will depend on the goals driving your multi-cloud approach. For example, you might aim for multiple redundant deployments spread across different providers or choose to deploy your workloads on the platform best suited to them.

In the former case, it may make sense to have user-facing services running on both AWS and Google Cloud platforms serving multiple territories. In the latter case, you might decide to run data processing or machine learning workloads on Azure or Google Cloud, depending on the type of data you’re processing and any compliance requirements.

To minimize vendor lock-in:

  • Use containerization: Deploying workloads in containers adds a layer of abstraction between the applications and the OS/hardware they’re running on, increasing portability.
  • Choose open formats: Avoid proprietary tools and try to base your stack on open-source solutions. Use MySQL, MongoDB, or PostgreSQL for database solutions, as they’re widely supported. Choose Jenkins for DevOps tooling and Kubernetes for scaling and deployment.
  • Use abstraction layers to interface with proprietary systems: If a cloud service provider uses its own proprietary systems for a task such as logging, create a library to interface with that system. If you need to move to another provider, you’ll only need to change that library, simplifying the transition.
  • Adopt Container Orchestration and Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools: Automate the provisioning of cloud resources with IaC and container orchestration solutions, reducing the risk of human error and ensuring more accurate provisioning of containers and infrastructure, independent of platform.

Leveraging Multi-Cloud Management in a Hybrid Cloud Environment

Hybrid multi-cloud environments are commonplace, as many organizations have legacy workloads hosted on-premises or choose to keep some workloads in their data centers or on a private cloud for compliance reasons.

Some common use cases for hybrid multi-cloud environments include using cloud services for machine learning or distributed data processing or as a solution for backups and disaster recovery. Some organizations also use hybrid cloud solutions for cloud bursting, running their services on-premises some of the time and bursting compute capacity through Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) or other cloud services as required.

Hybrid multi-cloud environments offer several potential benefits. Organizations can take advantage of the scalability and flexibility of the public cloud and the comparatively low cost of compute resources the public cloud offers. They also have the benefit of control over their on-premises data centers and the confidence of knowing certain critical workloads are isolated or running in hardened, regulatory-compliant environments.

To maintain the benefits of this approach, it’s essential to carefully plan the infrastructure and take a systematic approach to bridging data between private/on-premises and public cloud workloads. Some things to consider include:

  • Networking: Plan the network in a way that minimizes data transfer costs and allows for load balancing while maintaining proper security for sensitive services. Use VPNs for secure communication.
  • Monitoring, Logging, and Security: Use multi-cloud management tools to monitor the performance of all services to check for downtime or performance issues and to alert you to potential security-related events.
  • Access Control: Carefully configure Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems. Follow the principle of least privilege to ensure any logins or keys people or scripts use can only access what they need to perform their jobs.
  • Data Protection and Backups: Configure automated backups and properly encrypt and store them according to data protection regulations. 

Tools and Platforms for Seamless Integration

Many tools are available to help with container orchestration, resource provisioning, and cloud management. Some popular tools include:

  • Kubernetes: Also known as K8s, Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating container management. The platform was originally developed by Google and is now managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). It’s highly customized and scalable and can be deployed in a range of environments. K8s has a limited UI for managing cloud instances, but many of its more powerful features require command-line usage.
  • OpenShift: RedHat developed another container management platform, OpenShift, as an enterprise-grade application platform that includes support for Kubernetes and many other features. You can use it with all major cloud service providers, and it has additional open-source features built-in. OpenShift allows users to control more features via the UI.
  • Terraform: Operating at a different level of abstraction to Kubernetes and OpenShift, Terraform is an IaC tool that automates the creation and provisioning of computing resources. Otherwise, you’d have to manually provision resources, which could be a time-consuming and error-prone process in complex environments. IaC solutions, such as Terraform, ensure transparency, efficiency, and repeatability by allowing automatic resource provisioning through scripts.

Overcoming Challenges in Multi-Cloud Environments

For all the benefits of multi-cloud, there are some challenges:

  • Visibility: Monitoring costs, resource usage, and security alerts across multiple cloud platforms can be difficult. Unified dashboards bring all the information IT managers need together in one simple view.
  • Cost Management: It’s easy for runaway processes or forgotten instances to continue racking up bills when you have services running on multiple platforms. You can mitigate this risk by using cloud management software to monitor resource usage and following standard cloud best practices to set alerts or cost management systems on each platform.
  • Compliance: While major cloud services providers offer dedicated solutions to comply with regulatory requirements, such as government or military cloud solutions and storage that meets HIPAA or other regulatory requirements, these may be separate products. Organizations that need to meet such requirements must plan their workloads carefully to ensure they’re deployed to the right private/hardened clouds and any data is stored and processed in a compliant environment.
  • Data Protection and Backups: When protecting and securing data in a multi-cloud environment, consider how many tools it might take to achieve this, the personnel overhead, and the portability of data between clouds (e.g., backing up AWS to Azure, restoring Google Cloud to AWS, etc.)

Case Studies: Successful Multi-Cloud Management

Many industries use multi-cloud environments, ranging from finance to entertainment. One example of a successful multi-cloud deployment is Provident Mexico, a personal loan provider that transitioned to multi-cloud to improve the efficiency and reliability of its IT environments.

The company had a mixture of virtualized infrastructure on-premises and cloud services, and its infrastructure was complex, amounting to around 300 servers. By using cloud management solutions to get a unified view of all its workloads, it was able to streamline its IT management and reduce the time it took to deploy applications to production by almost 75%.

Another successful hybrid cloud deployment example is Clarke University, which used Veeam+Wasabi as part of a high-performance hybrid cloud system for immutable data backups. Setting up the solution was simple, and it integrated quickly with the rest of the system. The university benefited from high-speed, secure backups while simultaneously reducing data egress fees for backing up its data.

Future Trends: The Evolution of Cloud Integration

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud adoption is showing no sign of slowing down. Edge computing is becoming increasingly popular, and multi-cloud deployments are an important part of edge-to-cloud connectivity as organizations look to deploy workloads to cloud data centers as close as possible to their IoT devices.

As hybrid and multi-cloud adoption expands, we’ll likely see increasing adoption of AI and machine learning tools to help automate cloud services. Nigel Gibbons, director and senior advisor at NCC Group, discusses a trend toward “more intelligent, self-managing hybrid cloud systems that can predict and adapt to the increased velocity of changing needs.”

The day of the self-managing data center isn’t here yet, but cloud management solutions are improving rapidly.

Embrace the Benefits of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid multi-cloud solutions offer numerous potential benefits for organizations of all sizes. They unlock the cost-saving and scalability benefits of the public cloud while allowing organizations to keep legacy or sensitive workloads within their own data centers or on a private cloud.

Managing multi-cloud environments isn’t always easy, however. If you don’t properly plan multi-cloud deployments, IT teams risk becoming beholden to manual, error-prone processes or juggling numerous complex tools to handle their workloads.

Choosing a good cloud management platform and planning an integrated multi-cloud management approach saves time and reduces the risk of runaway costs and security and data protection issues.

Optimize your Cloud Strategy with Veeam, and discover how Veeam’s powerful backup and recovery solutions can empower your multi-cloud environment. Whether you’re looking self-managed backup solutions or fully managed backup as a service through Veeam-powered partners, let us help you remove the complexity of data protection so you can focus your talent, budget and resources on objectives that drive business growth.

Get our Hybrid Cloud Backup Guide for more insights on hybrid and multi-cloud backup.

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