As the sprint to the cloud continues, many organizations are making multicloud a key aspect of their IT modernization efforts. They’re doing this because they recognize that cloud-agnostic digital infrastructure can deliver the best combination of innovation, resiliency, cost-efficiency and other key benefits. However, it’s important to recognize the perceived challenges involved with driving successful cloud adoption. According to one recent survey from Cisco, 37% of organizations said deploying multiple clouds created security challenges, while 35% said it increased operational complexity.
These concerns are often magnified for federal government stakeholders with sensitive missions and data to protect. Many of these agencies think they’re limited to accessing cloud services through government-owned data centers. Instead, agency leaders should consider a hybrid multicloud operating model. Hybrid multicloud allows federal agencies to maintain chain of custody of their data while providing an alternative to moving it all into public cloud environments when it’s not practical or necessary to do so.
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As the name suggests, hybrid multicloud enables a combined hybrid cloud and multicloud architecture; that is, the integration of on-premises environments with cloud services from multiple providers using a software-defined interconnection fabric solution. Adopting a hybrid multicloud operating model can help agencies take a more cost-effective, flexible and secure approach to IT modernization, without the limitations of current government on-premises multicloud models.
By working with a vendor-neutral colocation provider to enable their hybrid multicloud strategy, agencies can interconnect privately with top digital service providers and mission partners, instead of using the public internet to do so. The right colocation partner will unlock a global geographic footprint, allowing agencies to deploy hybrid infrastructure at the edge wherever their mission demands. They can do all this while maintaining control over their data and securing their network traffic.
DoD multicloud adoption offers best practices
To better understand how agencies can benefit from adopting hybrid multicloud, let’s consider the Department of Defense. Last year, the DoD announced it was moving away from the $10 billion single-cloud Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract and replacing it with a multicloud approach. In its report on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, the House Committee on Armed Services praised the shift in cloud strategy:
“The Committee supports the Department’s decision to deploy a multicloud architecture. A multicloud approach aligns better with the Department’s mission and offers many benefits including allowing for more comprehensive future innovations, easier data portability, increased resilience and security, and decreased stove-piping.”
The DoD’s multicloud decision provides a blueprint for peer agencies looking to ramp up their IT modernization efforts. However, the Department’s experiences also drive home some of the unique challenges of cloud adoption, including cost management, risk of vendor lock-in, security and sovereignty requirements, and more. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at five specific ways a hybrid multicloud operating model can help overcome these challenges without security trade-offs.
1.Reduce data egress fees to avoid vendor lock-in
In most cloud service models, moving data into the cloud is either free of charge or very inexpensive. However, the fees involved with moving data out of the cloud can be considered a hidden cost of cloud. There’s concern from the Committees on Armed Services that these data egress fees could contribute to vendor lock-in, thus preventing the DoD from gaining the full value of multicloud:
“Some cloud services companies’ pricing models incentivize cloud migration by offsetting or waiving upfront adoption costs (such as data ingress charges) while charging fees for data egress that create significant disincentives for customers to move their data from one provider to another.”
To help address this concern, the NDAA reports from both the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services include a direction for the Comptroller General to assess the impact of data egress fees on the DoD’s multicloud strategy.
A successful multicloud strategy depends on choosing the right clouds for the right use cases. When agencies integrate on-premises environments into a hybrid multicloud architecture using a software-defined interconnection fabric solution, they get the flexibility to store data where it makes the most sense, instead of moving it all directly into public clouds. When agencies move less data into public clouds, data egress fees are less likely to become a problem. Thus, agencies can lower operational costs while also using their data to its full potential.
2. Get the best of both worlds with cloud adjacency
Colocation services play a key role in enabling an optimal hybrid multicloud operating model. Ideally, those services would be located in close proximity to cloud on-ramps, allowing agencies to establish cloud-adjacent infrastructure. Taking advantage of cloud adjacency enables the quick exchange of data between on-premises environments and the chosen cloud providers. This allows agencies to get access to the cloud services they need on demand, without committing to long-term cloud storage.
In addition, a cloud-adjacent approach helps agencies maximize the flexibility and agility of their digital infrastructure, supporting their IT modernization goals. This includes the ability to implement new storage capacity on demand, ensure data governance, apply data protections, optimize data collection and aggregation, and scale data service workloads. In short, cloud adjacency helps agencies simultaneously maximize the value from both sides of their hybrid architecture: the performance and flexibility benefits of cloud services, paired with the control and cost benefits of hybrid infrastructure.
At Equinix, we believe cloud adjacent is the new on-premises. Our 240+ colocation facilities in 70 metros worldwide are also home to many cloud on-ramps from top providers, making them an ideal place for agencies to deploy cloud-adjacent infrastructure. Many of these providers are FedRAMP-authorized, giving agencies many trusted services to choose from.
3. Maintain chain of custody of data with secure interconnection and colocation services
Platform Equinix® helps agencies ensure their hybrid multicloud operating model meets key data security and sovereignty requirements. Government data is protected in transit using Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection solutions. Equinix Fabric gives agencies a private, dedicated connection between their on-premises environment and the cloud, helping them avoid the security and reliability drawbacks of the public internet.
In addition, Equinix colocation services allow agencies to place their data where it needs to be—either within the U.S. or across the world—without losing control of that data. Agencies can deploy their own managed servers inside an Equinix data center, allowing them to maintain complete chain of custody over any data they store there. Equinix merely provides the real estate, physical security, rack space and power needed to store the data. Even though the data resides in the Equinix facility, it never truly leaves the agency’s hands.
4. Spur greater collaboration with partner ecosystems
One of the key differentiators of a hybrid multicloud operating model is the ability to not only access chosen cloud providers, but also to directly interconnect and collaborate with mission partners and other digital service providers. Federal agencies can achieve this and easily scale their capabilities using Equinix’s vast digital ecosystem.
It should go without saying that top public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure will play an important part in this ecosystem. However, agencies can also consider private cloud providers, which can offer dedicated services to mitigate data egress fees via managed infrastructure in an Equinix data center. In addition, the Equinix digital ecosystem includes Software as a Service (SaaS) and Technology as a Service (TechaaS) providers for easy access to capabilities like data analytics or direct links to services like Microsoft Office 365, provisioned when and where agencies need them at the edge.
By leveraging the Equinix Fabric digital ecosystem and private, dedicated interconnection services, agencies can move data faster, more reliably and cost-effectively, with the added security of bypassing the public internet.
Furthermore, Equinix Fabric helps support optimized service networking. Agencies can easily set or adjust virtual connections in a matter of minutes, allowing them to extend and scale services as their needs change. Agencies can also take advantage of the Equinix Fabric APIs to further customize, streamline and automate collaboration with their partner ecosystem.
5. Support disaster recovery operations and global network resilience
The critical nature of agency missions makes avoiding network downtime essential. Fortunately, a hybrid multicloud operating model is inherently more resilient than other cloud architectures, simply because it doesn’t rely excessively on any single location or any single cloud provider. Using multiple cloud providers with built-in geo-redundancy across different locations ensures that agencies can roll over their operations to a different site any time there’s an outage at a primary site. The global geographic footprint of Platform Equinix and the diverse list of service providers available in our digital ecosystem helps agencies deploy the right backup sites in the right locations.
In addition, repeatable infrastructure and virtual connections are critical in any agency’s disaster recovery efforts, storing the known good characteristics of their network infrastructure using software code. In the aftermath of an outage, agencies can simply run that code to redeploy their virtual network infrastructure the exact way it was meant to be deployed, quickly and with no possibility for human error.
Equinix Fabric supports Terraform, a cloud-agnostic infrastructure-as-code wrapper. Using Terraform can help reduce operational costs by removing overreliance on redundant physical infrastructure to support disaster recovery.
Platform Equinix supports the diverse components of hybrid multicloud in federal agencies
Start pursuing the benefits of hybrid multicloud today
Federal agencies face unique challenges when it comes to cloud adoption, but they don’t have to face those challenges alone. By partnering with Equinix, agencies get a combination of a global colocation footprint, industry-leading digital infrastructure and interconnection services, and a dedicated team of professionals experienced with helping agencies meet their mission objectives in a secure and cost-effective manner.
Cloud adoption is a journey, not a destination. Like any journey, it helps to have a guide who knows the landscape inside and out. Take the first step in your journey by scheduling an Equinix Digital Edge Strategy Briefing today. During the briefing, you’ll meet with an Equinix expert to get answers to your questions and start planning for what an ideal hybrid multicloud operating model could look like.
 Report to accompany S. 4543 on “To authorize appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.” Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate.
Adopting a hybrid multicloud operating model can help agencies take a more cost-effective, flexible and secure approach to IT modernization...