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How to Build a Cloud-Agnostic Architecture

With a neutral platform, businesses can get the most value possible from all their different cloud partners

Efraim Martinez
How to Build a Cloud-Agnostic Architecture

The value that IT organizations can get from deploying a hybrid multicloud architecture is now widely recognized. Many enterprise IT teams rightfully view hybrid multicloud adoption as a key aspect of their digital transformation initiatives. However, recognizing the need for a hybrid multicloud architecture and successfully deploying one are two different things altogether.

Overcoming technological complexity and ensuring interoperability of applications across different cloud service providers are among the key challenges standing in the way of successful hybrid multicloud adoption. According to data from the IDC Cloud Pulse Survey, 89% of respondents have achieved some degree of hybrid and/or multicloud adoption; however, only 27% have achieved full application interoperability across their on-premises, private cloud and public cloud environments. Breaking through data silos and improving cloud networking are also key areas of concern.[1]

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An effective hybrid multicloud strategy requires being able to choose deployment models and cloud providers on an app-by-app basis. To do this, enterprises must adopt a cloud-agnostic approach.

What is cloud agnostic, and why does it matter to your hybrid multicloud strategy?

A platform is ‘cloud agnostic’ when it offers the freedom to choose the best cloud provider or SaaS service for each application, now and in the future. Implementing a cloud-agnostic strategy allows an enterprise to avoid getting locked in to one cloud vendor, while also meeting their interconnection and interoperability needs in a simple and efficient manner.

Building a cloud-agnostic digital infrastructure is important for all the following business reasons:

  • Innovation and best-of-breed services: Different cloud providers excel in different areas. Being able to select the best fit for each specific application is absolutely essential for project success. In addition, all cloud providers are consistently investing in innovative new services and improvements to existing ones. A cloud-agnostic infrastructure helps ensure your business is able to adopt those new innovations easily.
  • Cost-efficiency: The hidden costs of cloud show up differently across different cloud vendors. Being able to “shop around” with different providers can help you avoid paying more than you have to. Some cloud services are essentially common across all providers, which means you’d most likely select the least expensive option. In addition, you have to account for things like data egress fees, which may be higher for certain providers than others.
  • Cloud migration: The world around us is always changing, and your cloud needs are likely to change with it. That’s why a cloud-agnostic infrastructure must account for your future needs in addition to your current needs. A cloud vendor you rely on now may no longer be the right choice a few years down the road. When this happens, you need to ensure full portability of your applications and workloads from one cloud to another.
  • Resiliency: By definition, getting locked in to a single cloud vendor makes it impossible to ensure high availability via redundancy. If that vendor ends up not being as reliable as you’d hoped, then some amount of downtime will be inevitable. Deploying a single solution in parallel across multiple clouds is the best way to make sure that solution is always available when you need it.
  • Interconnection: Building an effective digital infrastructure is too complex and difficult for any organization to be successful working alone. In addition to interconnecting with different cloud providers, you’ll no doubt find yourself having to exchange data with ecosystems of partners and customers. A cloud-agnostic infrastructure allows you to create that free flow of data, even if your partners and customers are running different clouds than you are.

To further complicate things, each of these criteria should not be looked at in a vacuum, but instead balanced against all the others. For instance, you must be able to balance price against other criteria. For workloads that are particularly critical to your business success, it may make sense for you to pay more for premium cloud services. For others, it makes more sense to treat the cloud services as commodities, and choose based on price alone.

What does it take to ensure a cloud-agnostic approach?

Enterprise cloud architects often speak about vendor lock-in as something that should be avoided at all costs. This attitude in understandable, for all the reasons listed above. However, it’s all about striking the right balance. It’s completely normal for an organization to have a “first choice” cloud provider; they may treat that provider as their default option because they know the tech stack well, and they’re confident they’ll get good results from that provider.

Some degree of lock-in to that preferred provider is inevitable. However, the problem comes when the first choice becomes the only choice. This is when you’ll start to pay more than you need to, suffer from lack of interoperability with your partner ecosystem, and not be able to select best-of-breed services for each use case. So, the question is, how can an organization use their preferred cloud provider without overusing it?

A platform is ‘cloud agnostic’ when it offers the freedom to choose the best cloud provider or SaaS service for each application, now and in the future.”

A vendor-neutral colocation partner such as Equinix can help. Neutrality is an ingrained part of the company culture at Equinix. We partner with more than 3,000 cloud and IT service providers, and our customers trust us to provide them with low-latency connections to all those providers, with no preference for one provider over any other.

Cloud on-ramps to major providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud are available in many different locations across the global footprint of Platform Equinix®. This makes it easy for customer to select the cloud providers that best meet their needs, regardless of geographic location.

Equinix Fabric™, our software-defined interconnection service, enables a cloud-agnostic approach to hybrid multicloud networking. Equinix Fabric makes it quick and simple to set new virtual connections to cloud providers or make updates to existing connections any time your cloud needs change. Having a neutral platform won’t count for much if it takes months to actually connect to a new cloud provider. Equinix Fabric helps ensure long wait times are never an issue; once you decide to work with a new cloud provider, you can create a virtual connection to that provider in a matter of minutes.

The Equinix commitment to neutrality also extends to our deployment tools. Equinix Fabric APIs, built in accordance with the OpenAPI Specification, allow users to streamline internal workflows and simplify management across their cloud-agnostic infrastructure. In addition, Platform Equinix can be used alongside Terraform, an open-source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) wrapper that provides an alternative to IaC tools built by specific cloud vendors. This allows Equinix customers to create repeatable deployments without putting themselves at risk of vendor lock-in.

Payments company brings together three clouds in one place

One Equinix customer, a payment processing company, was able to deploy across Oracle Cloud, Google Cloud and AWS for different workloads. Since they are interconnected with all three of these clouds via Equinix Fabric, and they can use Network Edge virtual services to route data among the clouds with low latency, they would be able to easily move specific services from one cloud to another should their needs ever change. As a result, they are free to use their preferred clouds to their full potential without having to worry about getting locked in.

The customer was originally drawn to Equinix by our strong ecosystems of financial partners, including major credit card companies. This means that avoiding vendor lock-in wasn’t even their top priority when they came to Equinix. However, since Platform Equinix is neutral by design, they ended up getting a cloud-agnostic infrastructure without even having to ask for it.

To learn more about how Platform Equinix can help businesses avoid vendor lock-in and create a cloud-agnostic architecture, read the Platform Equinix vision paper today.

 

[1] IDC InfoBrief, “Applications, Businesses, Clouds of Enterprise Digital Transformation”. March 2022, IDC Doc #AP241208IB. Sponsored by Equinix and Google Cloud.

 

Neutrality is an ingrained part of the company culture at Equinix.”
Efraim Martinez
Efraim Martinez Principal Global Solutions Architect for global accounts, EMEA