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The practice of using multiple different cloud providers across your organization, such that you choose the best fit on a project-by-project basis.

Not all cloud providers are equal. Different providers offer different toolsets and some will be better suited to a particular project than others. A polycloud strategy enables you to take full advantage of cloud offerings from various cloud vendors.

What is it?

Rather than going "all-in" with one cloud provider, you pass different types of workloads to different providers.

What’s in it for you?

You can get performance and efficiency gains by using the best tools for the job. You also reduce the risks inherent in being tied to one provider.

What are the trade-offs?

You may miss out on savings cloud providers offer if you go all-in with them.

How is it being used?

Enterprises that have mature cloud strategies will often adopt a polycloud approach — as will those in highly regulated industries.

What is it?

Polycloud is the strategy of using multiple cloud providers across your organization, where you choose the one best suited to a particular project. For instance, you might choose Google for your machine learning and data-oriented applications and Azure for hosting your Office 365 integrations.

This is not the same as being cloud agnostic, where companies try to make their applications as portable as possible between cloud providers.

What’s in for you?

While cloud providers have more or less reached feature parity in their core offerings, differences still exist. A polycloud approach takes advantage of this, enabling you to use the best tools for a particular workload. That means getting performance and efficiency gains.

Polycloud also enables you to spread your risks. There are three main risks associated with cloud computing:

  • Business relationship risk. For instance, what happens if your relationship with a vendor is strained? Retailers may be wary of cloud vendor with a retail business. 
  • Pricing pressure. For any negotiation, you want leverage, you want your vendors to know you have alternatives, so that they’re more responsive. 
  • Concentration risk. This is a strong concern in highly regulated industries such as finance, where regulators insist that entire economies do not become dependent on a single tech firm.

What are the trade offs?

There may be short-term cost disadvantages to polycloud, as the cloud providers typically offer incentives for going all in with them. In the longer term, the benefits of polycloud should outweigh this.

But adopting a polycloud approach will also mean that you need staff with skills in multiple providers. For instance, account structure, identity management and access control differ significantly across the three dominant providers.

There may be circumstances where polycloud isn’t appropriate. For instance, if you’re a start up, wanting to get products into consumers’ hands as soon as possible, polycloud may not make sense in the short term.

How is it being used?

Polycloud is prevalent in highly regulated industries, where the requirement to reduce concentration risk is mandated. You also see polycloud in sectors where the cloud providers themselves also operate.

But polycloud can be a solid strategy for any type of organization, and is most common in enterprises that have mature cloud skills, and are capable of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the providers’ offerings.

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