Deploying a Multi-Cloud Strategy for Hedge and Private Equity Funds
RyanEyes leadership wrote a version of this article for HFM Connect and HFM Global which you can find here: https://www.hfmconnect.global/posts/the-benefits-of-a-multi-cloud-strategy-for-hedge-and-private-equity-funds
In this blog post, however, we are going to expand on our HFM article to provide additional insight into the benefits of a multi-cloud strategy for our clients and the professionals in the alternative asset industry.
By Ted Ryan and Staff Writer
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Employing a Multi-Cloud Strategy
Multi-cloud is the use of cloud services from more than one cloud vendor. It can be as simple as using SaaS from different cloud vendors – e.g., Azure and AWS. But in the enterprise, multi-cloud typically refers to running enterprise applications on platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from multiple cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.
Many organizations, particularly in the asset management industry fear the wholesale move to the cloud because of the recent occurrences at AWS which included Downdetector showing outages for many Amazon services, including streaming service Prime Music, and videoconferencing tool Chime, and home-security system Ring. Many third-party applications that sit on top of Amazon’s cloud were also receiving outage reports on Downdetector, such as Ticketmaster and streaming services from Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.
However, despite the downtime issues, the benefits of a multi-cloud solution – one that’s portable across multiple cloud providers’ cloud infrastructures – are clear for all. Multi-cloud solutions are typically built on open-source, cloud-native technologies, such as Kubernetes, that are supported by essentially all public cloud providers. They also often include capabilities for managing workloads across multiple clouds with a central console or as we say, a single-pane-of-glass solution.
To generalize, a multi-cloud is a cloud computing strategy in which a company relies on multiple cloud providers instead of a single vendor. An organization can pick and choose the best services from each provider based on the following major factors:
- Service cost
- Technical requirements
- Geographic availability
- Resource availability (some Azure and AWS regions don’t offer the same services at every site)
The primary reason many organizations have moved or are moving to a multi-cloud concept is that no single provider can offer a solution to all the problems a business can face. Just like most organizations, cloud providers have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thus, organizations can use multiple clouds to create a custom infrastructure that ideally fits all business goals. Organizations want innovation, flexibility, cost savings, and a best-of-breed solution that incorporates the strengths of each of the cloud providers they choose.
What are the Main Multi-Cloud Advantages?
As we suggested in our blog post titled “Amazon Web Services vs Microsoft Azure” the cloud market is estimated to be worth a total of $64.3 billion in 2021, up from $50.4 billion in 2020, according to research firm Gartner’s latest figures. It is a market that has been dominated by AWS since day one when it entered cloud services in 2006. Now, Synergy Research Group’s figures for last year have AWS as the clear market leader globally for public IaaS and PaaS market share at 33 percent, followed by Microsoft Azure at 16 percent, Google at 8 percent, and Alibaba at 5 percent.
With so much competition in the industry, each cloud provider is having to launch new services and trim prices to give customers a better deal. It is now much harder for a single cloud provider to meet the exact needs of a business and provide the best services and prices across the board, so choosing one cloud provider may no longer be the best choice.
That fact has certainly not been lost on businesses. A study by Dimensional Research found that 77% of businesses are planning to adopt a multi-cloud strategy in the next two years in order to better meet their needs. But what are the multi-cloud advantages that make a multi-cloud approach so attractive? Multi-cloud means taking advantage of the strengths of multiple cloud providers.
AWS may have 200+ cloud services, but it does not mean that it will be able to meet all the cloud computing requirements of a business, or at least not optimally. By choosing multiple cloud providers organizations can take advantage of the best parts of each provider’s services and mix and match to suit the needs of their applications, workloads, and business. Different business units may have different demands, and while AWS may be ideal for one unit, Azure or VMware may be better suited for another. Multinational organizations are likely to find that what is optimal for one geographical region is not good for another, multi-cloud solves those problems.
What are the Main Multi-Cloud Disadvantages?
Despite the multi-cloud advantages, we described in the previous section, securing multi-cloud environments has introduced new obstacles for cybersecurity experts. Each cloud has a unique strategy, leading to an increased attack surface. This situation creates a corporate threat landscape that opens businesses up to new dangers and raises the risk of data loss, ultimately affecting the organization’s revenue and productivity. Almost all organizations have adopted at least one cloud-based service by now.
The 2020 IDG Cloud Computing Study found that 81% of organizations used cloud computing in their daily work, and 55% used more than one cloud service. The majority of IT decision-makers who participated in this study said that their organization would likely move more of their activities to the cloud during the next three years.
There is no denying that multi-cloud adds considerable complexity. Even though there are considerable multi-cloud advantages, the complexity makes monitoring cloud environments much harder. You can certainly take advantage of the opportunities to save on costs, but if the result is a lack of visibility into your cloud environments, those cost savings may not be realized.
Implementing and managing a multi-cloud environment can be a major challenge especially if you do not have the luxury of a highly skilled IT team well versed in each of the different cloud platforms. Each platform has its own interfaces and configuring and managing different platforms can cause headaches.
Naturally, monitoring and auditing the security tools of every vendor is a mandate for a robust virtual infrastructure. However, it can be challenging to manage the security systems of multiple providers simultaneously. There are four key issues that arise within multi-cloud environments.
- Access-Control Configurations – The same access-control configuration could not work on all cloud platforms due to each vendor’s tools. As a result, cybersecurity professionals need to establish and maintain a distinct access-control structure for each cloud in the system.
- Hidden Security Vulnerabilities – There are increased chances of more security loopholes in a multi-cloud system, as some cloud systems might have unsecured resources or hidden security vulnerabilities. While taking care of this vulnerability in a single-cloud system is quite complicated, it becomes even more challenging to identify and address it with multiple clouds.
- Shared-Security and Management Responsibilities – Most public cloud vendors adhere to a shared-responsibility model with a portion of the security and management duties expected to be handled by customers, however, it is often unclear who is doing the patching, vulnerability management, change management, alert escalation and so on. But, since shared-responsibility models vary among cloud providers, customers must try and understand their responsibilities in multi-cloud environments often by trial and error.
- Security Concerns – From a security and IT ops perspective, each cloud in a multi-cloud system is unique. With a more complex combination of public and private clouds, the need to closely monitor the environment also increases. This can cause a strain on resources, which only becomes more difficult as the organization scales up.
The Benefits of the Oligopoly, AWS, and Azure
Fund managers who leverage cloud computing allow their organizations to get new products on the market faster, increase efficiency, lower operational costs, improve interdepartmental collaboration, reduce capital expenditures, and increase innovation.
However, to make the move to the cloud, organizations must either have trained professionals on the job who are certified in cloud computing or leverage seasoned partners, preferably in their industry. Certified professionals can address the concerns that may arise during the transition to the cloud and are familiar with the nuances of cloud-based computing.
Defining the Services and Benefits of AWS
What kind of services will you find through AWS? So far, there are 18,000 distinct services and counting. They include:
- Developer, engagement, and management tools
- Machine learning and predictive analytics
- Databases and storage solutions
- Business productivity tools
- Application integration
- High Availability Scaling for Computing
As we suggested in our previous blog posts on AWS vs Azure, AWS is “an innovator of online commerce, it stands to reason that Amazon would develop a robust cloud computing platform for enterprise. The vast global framework and disbursement of AWS are what the entire platform is built on. The availability zones are located as far as possible from each other within their region to ensure that there are no lapses in service if one AZ goes down due to a natural or another type of widespread disaster. Edge zones are caches that act in a similar manner to content delivery networks (CDN’s) by caching web content nearer to the location of the user for faster delivery and response times.”
This type of infrastructure allows data delivery to deploy faster and on a global scale without affecting the availability of service or performance. AWS supports all operating systems and generally ranks as the top IaaS platform for availability, reliable performance, and the number of applications.
Defining the Services and Benefits of Azure
With Azure, you will benefit from services including:
- Big data and predictive analytics
- Game and application development
- Scalable data warehousing and integration with analytics tools
- Blockchain technology
Again, as we suggested in our previous blog post, “Azure is known as a solid, integrated platform for companies that already rely on Windows-based standardization, Microsoft Azure has overcome some obstacles to compete head-to-head with AWS. One surprising feature is its Linux-friendliness as it relates to the virtual guest operating systems and compatibility with Linux container platforms.
The strength of Azure was always as a provider of IaaS, Azure also comes with built-in and ready-to-run server apps that support a range of languages, including .NET, Java, PHP, Node.js, and Python. The platform is available in 54 regions around the world, with services that are designed to increase productivity while deploying the most current technology. It is also one of the easiest enterprise clouds when it comes to configuring and operation.”
RyanEyes multiple clients that want to use the cloud selectively across multiple cloud providers – But how? With an in-house network, you could control rights and provisioning within one cloud; it’s somewhat simple to provide resources per the resources. But with multiple clouds, suddenly you need separate users per cloud environment.
Let’s summarize our “Big 3” recommendations and the benefits of multi-Cloud solutions as we conclude:
Remember how Grandpa used to walk around the house turning off all lights and then exclaimed, “Electricity costs money!”; Well in your Cloud environments, “Don’t leave your servers on!” If you want a tool that could cut your server costs by 50%, you could use a solution like RyanEyes to schedule when servers are used and when not in use. Further, it puts the control on the business user to stop and start servers and allows the IT team to concentrate on more pressing issues rather than “Could you please turn this instance on for me”. You could set up bots that try to automate this but eventually, the business complains about lack of control.
Best of Breed Solution
This could be “leverage technical innovation” however you could say that about almost any technology so let’s be clear; use toolsets that you are optimal for your organization. Have you committed to one provider but wish you could use the functionality of another provider? Use RyanEyes to call services and features from one cloud to another. Take advantage of a “best of breed” approach so that you can entitle users to take advantage of the best tool available regardless of the vendor
Managing User Rights
Let’s roll “business resilience and compliance” into user rights for simplicity. Managing user rights and privileges across a multi-cloud environment can be quite challenging. Typically a firm will want to pick an “Active” cloud environment provider where user controls are maintained for individuals within the organization. Then they will allow a separate application to manage and control user access privileges in the “passive” cloud environment. In this way, sufficient controls can be maintained however, the burden of having to maintain two environments is mitigated. An alternative method would be to use an SSO approach. But even with the SSO approach, access to one environment’s Groups and Users is essential for broadly maintaining access.
A solution like RyanEyes permits both approaches and at the same time maintains the highest levels of security and log collection to understand who is accessing the cloud environments and when. RyanEyes allows organizations to have more granular control and reporting when it comes to which services are being utilized by the firm.
The benefit from a compliance and business continuity standpoint is that the fewer access points and privileges the lower the chance of a vulnerability, unauthorized access, successful phishing attack, 3rd party compromise leading to a compromise in your organization and so much more.