As cloud computing becomes the go-to platform for hosting modern software workloads, organizations are confronting a new wrinkle in their cloud strategy options: being cloud agnostic. Thinking about your existing cloud workloads, how easy would it be to move them to a different platform or provider? Would it be possible without excessive engineering labor and manual refactoring? Even if it’s possible, is it a good idea to aim for cloud agnosticism?
What is Cloud Agnostic?
It is referred to applications and workloads that can be moved seamlessly between cloud platforms – without being bound by operating dependencies. Cloud agnostic tools can work on any cloud platform. They work just as well on AWS as Microsoft Azure, which means easy service portability without interruptions. Irrespective of the movement you get the same results because the tools do not rely on the underlying features of a specific platform. It offers companies opportunities for scalability and flexibility, along with customization options to meet specific business requirements.
What are the benefits?
When companies adopt a cloud agnostic strategy, they benefit from four primary benefits: portability, cost optimization, consistent performance, and avoiding vendor lock-in. These benefits can help companies better understand what value to expect when developing a cloud agnostic approach.
- Portability ensures that an application works independently of the platform and can seamlessly migrate from one cloud platform to another.
- Consistent performance is a valuable characteristic of cloud agnostic, as companies benefit from a standard of performance (speed and scale) independent of the platform or infrastructure the application or service is running on.
- Cost optimization is a primary tenet of a cloud agnostic architecture. As pricing models change between cloud providers, cloud agnostic applications can be migrated easily to run in the cloud platform that delivers the best cost savings.
- Avoiding vendor lock-in ensures that companies are not subject to one operating platform, but have the freedom to move applications as they see fit.
While a cloud agnostic approach provides organizations with several benefits, it’s also important to be cautious about the potential drawbacks. Although organizations can avoid being locked into a single vendor when they are cloud agnostic, this can also be a disadvantage for their engineering team.
With a cloud agnostic approach, organizations lock themselves into services that are transferable across multiple cloud providers. This “lowest common denominator” approach is necessary if the organization decides to switch cloud providers — but it also means the engineering team is not able to take advantage of the best-of-breed services of each of the cloud providers.
Not being able to use the innovative services of cloud providers can slow down the team and put competitors at an advantage.
For example, if one cloud provider offers a key feature that is important to your application, you may not be able to use it in a cloud agnostic approach if other cloud providers don’t have this feature. However, if your competitors are not taking a cloud agnostic approach, they can utilize the feature to provide more value for customers.
Another potential drawback of the cloud agnostic approach is dealing with unexpected data transfer costs — which are notoriously difficult to predict and understand. Building multiple cloud providers can be uneconomical for many organizations.
In our experience, organizations benefit from a multi-service approach rather than a cloud agnostic one. This means organizations lock into one single cloud provider and build their application while taking advantage of best-of-breed services from multiple vendors — such as one for messaging and a separate one for data warehousing.
Should you go Cloud Agnostic?
If your organization is willing to deal with the added complexity and upfront investment of developing a cloud agnostic strategy, you’re likely to see benefits over a longer time horizon. You will be uniquely positioned to quickly mitigate the operational impact of any single provider outage or security issue, weathering the storm while non-agnostic competitors lose valuable traffic and trust.
On the other hand, your team might be better served taking advantage of provider-specific services, eschewing long-term benefits for fast iteration and a quicker time-to-value cycle. If you have a smaller development team without a dedicated operations staff, you can still immediately capitalize on the reduced operational overhead offered by managed services.
Ultimately, the decision to go cloud agnostic depends on a balance of short-term and long-term goals, as well as your engineering resources and plans. Smaller teams would do well to utilize managed services, allowing them to go to market as quickly as possible. Conversely, larger enterprise organizations can bring their considerable resources to bear, crafting a cloud agnostic design that will provide longer-term benefits.