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Overview of a Foundational Multi Cloud Integration Architecture for Complex Business Models

A business person orchestrates a multi cloud integration architecture from a simulated interface.

In a multi cloud deployment, you use multiple public cloud providers to provide a seamless interface for your applications, data, workloads, and infrastructure. In true multi cloud integration architecture, the goal is to integrate resources across multiple cloud providers so they can all seamlessly communicate and work together. For example, a single application may use a development environment hosted in Google, a database in Microsoft Azure, and a processing engine in AWS.

Many organizations use multiple cloud services but lack any integration between them, or simply replicate workloads across several clouds for redundancy, failover, and performance. Others use various SaaS and cloud platforms within a single ecosystem for simpler orchestration and management. In this article, we’ll cover all the most common multi cloud integration architectures and the best practices for implementing a foundational architecture that can help you achieve digital transformation.

Overview of a Foundational Multi Cloud Integration Architecture

There are four basic deployment models to lay the foundations of your multi cloud integration architecture.

“Shadow IT” or Unintentional Multi Cloud

Unfortunately, many organizations achieve multi cloud unintentionally through what’s known as “shadow IT”. When the CTO has no overarching framework for teams to follow, different business units end up purchasing their own cloud solutions without the oversight or buy-in of the actual IT department. Workloads in different clouds are usually siloed off from one another. Sometimes, this will leave an organization without a complete picture of where all their data, applications, and other resources are located in the cloud.

Obviously, this is far from the ideal multi cloud strategy (in fact, it is not a strategy at all). If you find yourself in this scenario, there are still ways to improve your architecture. For example, you could invest in a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), which can automatically discover and monitor all your cloud resources and infrastructure. A CASB also allows you to unify your security and access control policies so you can apply them consistently across your entire multi cloud architecture. Once you have full visibility and control over your cloud environment, your unintentional multi cloud can transition to a mature multi cloud integration architecture.  

Multi Cloud Redundancy and Failover

If your organization wants to approach multi cloud more intentionally, but you aren’t yet ready for the challenge of orchestrating workloads across multiple providers, then you might consider a redundant multi cloud architecture. In this strategy, you replicate your data, applications, and workloads across two or more cloud platforms. This multi cloud strategy can help you boost performance in certain geographic areas and ensure high availability in case of an outage. Often, an organization will start with multi cloud redundancy and failover before transitioning to true multi cloud integration when they have the training, staff, and resources in place.

True Multi Cloud Integration Architecture

A traditional multi cloud environment hosts resources across multiple, disparate public clouds, e.g., AWS and Google Cloud. The advantage of this strategy is that you can avoid vendor lock-in and choose the providers that offer the best functionality and pricing for each individual workload or application. The disadvantage is that it can be challenging to integrate and orchestrate resources across multiple vendors and platforms unless you invest in an IPaaS (integration platform as a service) solution and/or containerization solutions like Docker and Kubernetes.

Single-Ecosystem Multi Cloud

Our final multi cloud integration architecture involves hosting resources across multiple cloud platforms within a single ecosystem, such as Salesforce. Although you’re limited to offerings available within your chosen ecosystem, this strategy still allows you to choose the platforms and services among them that work best for each particular workload. This makes integration and orchestration much simpler because your cloud providers are already designed to work together.

To achieve digital transformation, you should aim for a true multi cloud integration architecture or a single-ecosystem multi cloud.

Multi Cloud Integration Architecture Tips and Best Practices

The best way to implement a multi cloud integration architecture is to start with a comprehensive plan and then stick to it. Identify your goals for the multi cloud architecture and determine what your requirements are for each workload you’re migrating. It’s easy to get carried away when a vendor offers a limited-time promotion or an exciting new feature is released, but the more you stray from your original plan, the more expensive and complex your multi cloud architecture will become.

One challenge development teams face in a slipshod multi cloud architecture is version drift. When different application dependencies are being created, integrated, and updated across multiple cloud platforms, you need a way to ensure that everything is in sync. For example, automated version control and CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) tools will continuously test code and deploy it. They can also automatically test new code to ensure that bugs and security vulnerabilities are removed before they’re integrated with the rest of the multi cloud architecture.

Automation can also help with integration and orchestration between cloud platforms. For instance, container orchestration tools like Kubernetes can automatically deploy, move, update, and delete containerized resources across your entire multi cloud integration architecture from one central management system. For a simpler multi cloud deployment without containers, you could use an IPaaS to automate the creation, monitoring, and management of your integrations between cloud providers.