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Multicloud Storage: Everything You Need to Know

multicloud storage

Multicloud storage merges the services of multiple cloud storage vendors into one architecture. You can combine native public cloud services, Managed Service Providers (MSPs), and marketplace images or 3rd party cloud solutions into one multicloud environment. Multicloud storage can increase data protection and flexibility, through the distribution of data across multiple, isolated locations, and reduces the risk of vendor lock-in.

In this post, we’ll review the benefits and challenges of multicloud storage, and explain how multicloud storage works. We’ll also show typical multicloud storage applications, and explain the core requirements for multicloud storage. Finally, we’ll show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help to simplify multicloud storage architecture management, and reduce costs.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What is multicloud storage?
  • How multicloud storage works
  • Multicloud storage use cases
  • Core requirements for multicloud storage
  • How Cloud Volumes ONTAP Supports multicloud Storage Management

What Is Multicloud Storage?

Multicloud storage is the use of multiple cloud storage services, which may either be hosted in the public cloud, in a private cloud, or as standalone on-premise resources with cloud-like capabilities. It is part of a multicloud architecture, which combines services and resources from multiple cloud providers and/or private cloud infrastructure.

Your included storage services can be:

  • Native public cloud services—provided directly by cloud providers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Typically include support for block, object, file, and database storage.
  • Supplier-integrated services—such as MSPs, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and cloud service resellers. These vendors offer services which are pre-integrated with your cloud provider. Services often provide extra features and performance improvements compared to native services. Examples of vendors include Rackspace and Cloudreach.
  • Marketplace services—third-party services offered through your cloud providers marketplace. These services are typically applications or pre-built virtual machine images you can deploy.

Multicloud Storage Benefits

There are several benefits to using multicloud storage, depending on your configurations. The most common include:

  • Increased data protection—since applications and data are separated across services, breach of one service only affects a limited amount of data. This enables you to easily isolate attacks and to reliably store data backups in remote locations.
  • Increased flexibility—using storage services from multiple vendors enables you to avoid vendor lock-in and increase data durability through duplication. Combining services also provides you greater access to specialized, proprietary services.
  • Cost optimization—the ability to piecemeal storage services enables you to customize cost and performance options according to your needs. Multicloud environments enable you to take advantage of the best possible prices and pricing structures for each service.

Multicloud Storage Challenges

While multicloud storage can provide a host of benefits, it can be challenging to manage, protect, and deploy storage in a unified way. Some common challenges include:

  • Multiple APIs—cloud services communicate via APIs. While there is some standardization with RESTful APIs, different providers create different API structures. This can include different rule structures or different languages. These differences require application customizations to enable communication across services.
  • Compatibility issues—to integrate smoothly into a single environment, storage services need to be compatible across clouds. This means services need to accommodate the same data structures and allow integration with the same tools.
  • Complex management—visibility across cloud services and environments can be difficult to ensure. It requires centralized monitoring and federation of services, such as identity and access controls. Without centralization, services are likely to have configuration differences or errors, and increased vulnerability.

How Multicloud Storage Works

Multicloud storage is typically managed with multicloud controllers. These controllers combine all your resources under a common namespace and API. This centralizes management and enables you to monitor and manage services from a single dashboard. Multicloud controllers often use a combination of cluster, security, and storage manager agents. There are also dedicated multicloud Kubernetes services, like Google Anthos.

By combining services in a single framework, multicloud controllers enable you to:

  • Minimize expenses by using storage services only when needed. You can customize how data is moved across your services, ensuring that it remains accessible and optimized.
  • Maintain control over your data with centralized monitoring and logging. This enables you to reduce the risks of data loss or theft since you know exactly where data is and where to target security measures.

Multicloud Storage Use Cases

There are a variety of use cases for multicloud storage, depending on your environments, needs, and budget. Below are two common examples use cases.

Clustering Mission-Critical Databases in the Cloud

You can use multicloud storage services to create functional database clusters in the cloud. In single-vendor environments, this is typically not possible since databases are stored in block storage. Block storage is often only accessible to a single compute instance, limiting resiliency.
With multicloud storage, you can duplicate databases across multiple clouds. This can be important if one cloud provides better support in a specific geographical location, if specific workloads are better served by a different cloud provider, or if there are cost concerns at peak load times.
It also improves high availability, by shielding mission critical databases from downtime affecting entire data centers or regions at a cloud provider, which has happened to all major providers at one time or another.

Easing Disaster Recovery

By distributing data and applications across service providers you can limit the effects of service outages and disasters. In the same way that distributing your data across multiple regions within a cloud provider offers redundancy, so does distributing across vendors. If you experience vendor-specific issues, such as service attacks or local disasters, you can simply move workloads to your other providers.
You can also eliminate the need to host a separate disaster recovery data center. Since your data is already duplicated across services you can simply store backups from one provider with another. This duplication enables you to quickly recover configurations when needed.

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