Kubernetes and the Multicloud Future

Friday, October 11, 2019

Multicloud containers

Technology analyst Jason Ader has written extensively about the rise of containers and Kubernetes in the context of next-generation, microservices-based application architectures, and now attempts to demystify the term multicloud and delve into the central role of Kubernetes in enabling enterprises to pursue a multicloud deployment model.

"The term multicloud means different things to different people," Ader stated. "For our purposes, we define multicloud as the distribution of workloads across two or more public or private clouds, with some level of orchestration and integration across those clouds." He continues to define hybrid cloud, which integrates an on-premises private cloud with a single public cloud, as a subset of this multicloud definition. Popular and emerging multicloud use-cases include cloud bursting, data protection/disaster recovery, heterogeneous storage management, and running a single application across multiple clouds.

Relative to using a single cloud, a multicloud architecture is attractive for a number of reasons, including risk mitigation, reduction of vendor lock-in risk, compliance, and the ability to use best-of-breed technologies and services from different cloud vendors. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 75% of enterprise customers using cloud services will embrace a multicloud approach, up from 49% in 2017. The days of going all-in in a single cloud are largely in the past, especially for larger organizations.

While an increasing number of enterprises have come to recognize the value in using multiple cloud providers, sometimes in addition to maintaining a private cloud, interoperability and portability across clouds has been challenging historically. This is changing with the advent of Kubernetes and container technology, which allow for increased application portability across public clouds. The age-old promise of "write once, run anywhere" becomes theoretically possible with Kubernetes. However, while Kubernetes offers application placement flexibility and optionality, the concept of a multicloud control plane that can move apps around based on capacity or price has been more dubious—mainly because moving applications across clouds can be expensive and risky, and potentially subjects customers to a least-common-denominator problem (where an enterprise may be unable to leverage advanced services within the individual cloud platform).

"To understand the rise of hybrid cloud and multicloud," Ader explained, "it is important to understand the original rationale for the shift from on-premises data centers to the public cloud." Over a decade ago, enterprises largely built out their own IT infrastructure, which was often expensive and inefficient. It was also costly to maintain this infrastructure, which could be quickly outdated with rapid changes in hardware and software technology. These enterprises would often overpay for IT resources to ensure they could handle spikes in demand. Companies also needed to invest in skilled engineers to set up and maintain the hardware and software.

Enter the public cloud. Public clouds use a consumption-based rental model. Suddenly, enterprises could rely on others to worry about infrastructure maintenance and updates, while paying only for what they used. Customers could get out of the business of running their own data centers, and focus on their core competencies.

Enter the hybrid cloud. With the premier public cloud vendors achieving breakneck growth rates, there was a prevailing notion just a few years ago that all workloads would eventually move to the public cloud, representing an existential threat for many on-premises IT vendors. Numerous industry experts believed that the datacenter was dead. Today, however, Ader believes the pendulum has swung back to some extent: enterprises are increasingly taking a balanced approach to workload placement, with some applications making more sense in public clouds and others in private (on-premises) clouds.

Hybrid cloud models became attractive for enterprises for a multitude of reasons, namely speed, control, costs, and security.

Ultimately, Ader sees a bright future for multicloud and Kubernetes. At its least, Kubernetes offers a standard application construct across different cloud environments, enabling greater portability and reducing vendor lock-in. At its best, Kubernetes changes the multicloud paradigm, enabling a centralized control plane for seamlessly managing and moving applications across clouds.

For a copy of the "Kubernetes and the Multicloud Future" report or for more information on the companies from Jason Ader's coverage list, please contact your William Blair sales rep.

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