The Inevitability of Multi-Cloud-Native Apps – DevOps.com

We all know the story: Enterprises moved to the cloud. They learned about data center virtualization and multi-tenancy and self-service developer provisioning. Along came Kubernetes, and they moved to cloud-native, where they learned about automation, DevOps and infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Now, even though most enterprises are still figuring out how to do cloud-native at scale, there’s a new imperative they must master: Multi-cloud-native applications. And for almost every enterprise with a global footprint, the move to multi-cloud-native applications is not optional—it’s inevitable. 

But before we explore why this is the case, let’s first retrace our steps. For almost every enterprise out there, the journey to the cloud started with adopting a public or private self-service infrastructure provisioning and management model. These enterprises quickly realized that this new IT model required a new set of tools to solve challenges they’d never before faced—enabling their developers with self-service provisioning, managing and operating infrastructure. Enterprises figured it out, but as soon as they figured out the cloud, they quickly had to gear up for the second phase: Automating and operationalizing an enterprise-wide rollout of cloud operating models throughout their entire developer organization. 

DevOps Experience

Of course, this phase has its own set of challenges, and a rich ecosystem of tools emerged to address them. Even so, we all can agree that the majority of mainstream enterprises are still in this second phase. They’ve adopted cloud, they’ve expanded its use, and they’re grappling with the challenges around multi-tenancy, security, DevSecOps and governance. Hand-in-hand with this goes a whole new set of challenges around cost management. Suddenly, enterprises are faced with managing the variable costs of public cloud infrastructure: Optimizing compute infrastructure, utilization and capacity to rein in cloud spend. It’s an issue Sarah Wang and Martin Cassado took head-on in their research on the Trillion-Dollar Paradox.

So, enterprises moved to the cloud and are now, for the most part, successfully grappling with scaling it. But nothing stays the same for long, and businesses drive IT to innovate. This is where cloud-native entered the picture to help enterprise software development teams become more agile and help businesses transform to deliver new services and experiences faster. In fact, the consumer experience this model makes possible has rapidly become the norm.

Consistently delivering rapid software iteration across a global footprint forces DevOps organizations to grapple with an entirely new set of technical challenges: Leveraging containerized applications and microservices architectures in production across multiple Kubernetes clusters running in multiple geographies. Customers want an on-demand experience. This third phase is what we call multi-cloud-native, and it was pioneered by hyperscale IaaS players like Google, AWS, Azure and Tencent.

The reality is, of course, that hyperscalers aren’t the only ones who have figured out how to deliver multi-cloud-native apps. Webscale innovators like Doordash, Uber, Twitter and Netflix have done it, too. To get there, they had to make and share their multi-cloud-native apps across every geography where their customers live. And, in turn, to make that happen they had to tackle a new set of challenges: Develop new tools and techniques like geographically distributed, planet-scale databases and analytics engines, application architectures that run apps on the backend close to the consumer in a multi-cloud-native way. This enabled them to do arbitrage across fleets of infrastructure capacity across regions, all while giving their customers that instant experience they increasingly grew to expect.

What enterprises must realize is that this experience consumers have grown to expect from webscalers is rapidly becoming the same experience they expect when accessing their bank account, their insurance apps and their tax records. For almost every planet-scale enterprise, this sets up a whole new set of challenges: To span multiple clouds and multiple geographies running multiple Kubernetes clusters, you now must worry about new ways to do autoscaling, self-healing, disaster recovery, operations management and cost optimization—all of which are things that you’re just now getting figured out for virtual machines (VMs) and clusters in single regions.

Enterprises must face the reality that cloud-native application models are not the destination but rather a waypoint on a journey to becoming multi-cloud-native. Because the consumer experiences delivered by webscalers make this the inevitable destination.

The Enterprise Journey: Cloud, Cloud-Native and Multi-Cloud-Native

Don’t take my word for it.

Uber and Twitter public disclosures describe how the multi-cloud-native model is an integral part of their strategic game plan. Hybrid and multi-cloud are part of this, too, leveraging Kubernetes as a cluster manager, but they still need tools to manage all those clusters across multiple environments in multiple regions at planet scale.

The bottom line is that the architecture that webscale companies are using today is the same one enterprises will need to adopt tomorrow to remain competitive. Alternatively, these enterprises will cede market share and relevance to the next webscale innovator to disrupt an industry. In adopting this model of building multi-cloud-native apps, enterprises will have to deal with unified access management, controlling multiple clusters, resource management and more, all across multiple regions and clusters of capacity, aggregating versus disaggregating cluster resources, using logical services that span clouds versus namespaces that span a single cluster.

The Enterprise Solution: Planet-Scale Cluster Manager

They will need a planet-scale cluster manager to do this; something that can observe costs, operations, performance and SLAs across clusters, across public and private clouds, spanning VMs and Kubernetes through a single pane of glass so they can operate above the clouds in an automated, easy-to-use way. Band-aid solutions like running multiple spreadsheet models to figure out how to optimize are not scalable. What’s needed are tools like machine learning to automate and optimize at scale, bin packing technology to intelligently and automatically optimize across a planet-scale infrastructure fleet and high levels of automation either with humans in or out of the loop. That’s how hyperscalers and webscalers are already doing it.

Every planet-scale enterprise is multi-cloud-native, running data-driven apps. It’s not a fiction: It’s already happening across webscale companies, not just hyperscalers. Multi-cloud-native is the path that every enterprise is going to need to follow if they want to transform themselves to compete with the next webscale upstart. The good news is, the pioneers have left us a map to follow.


To hear more about cloud-native topics, join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the cloud-native community at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon North America 2021 – October 11-15, 2021

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