3 min read

What is polycloud?

Polycloud is an emerging cloud strategy that is starting to take hold across a range of organizations. The concept is actually pretty simple: instead of using a single cloud vendor, you use multiple vendors. By doing this, you can develop a customized cloud solution that is suited to your needs. For example, you might use AWS for the bulk of your services and infrastructure, but decide to use Google’s cloud for its machine learning capabilities.

Polycloud has emerged because of the intensely competitive nature of the cloud space today. All three major vendors – AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud – don’t particularly differentiate their products. The core features are pretty much the same across the market. Of course, there are certain subtle differences between each solution, as the example above demonstrates; taking a polycloud approach means you can leverage these differences rather than compromising with your vendor of choice.

What’s the difference between a polycloud approach and a cloud agnostic approach?

You might be thinking that polycloud sounds like cloud agnosticism. And while there are clearly many similarities, the differences between the two are very important.

Cloud agnosticism aims for a certain degree of portability across different cloud solutions. This can, of course, be extremely expensive. It also adds a lot of complexity, especially in how you orchestrate deployments across different cloud providers. True, there are times when cloud agnosticism might work for you; if you’re not using the services being provided to you, then yes, cloud agnosticism might be the way to go.

However, in many (possibly most) cases, cloud agnosticism makes life harder. Polycloud makes it a hell of a lot easier. In fact, it ultimately does what many organizations have been trying to do with a cloud agnostic strategy. It takes the parts you want from each solution and builds it around what you need.

Perhaps one of the key benefits of a polycloud approach is that it gives more power back to users. Your strategic thinking is no longer limited to what AWS, Azure or Google offers – you can instead start with your needs and build the solution around that.

How quickly is polycloud being adopted?

Polycloud first featured in Thoughtworks’ Radar in November 2017. At that point it was in the ‘assess’ stage of Thoughtworks’ cycle; this means it’s simply worth exploring and investigating in more detail. However, in its May 2018 Radar report, polycloud had moved into the ‘trial’ phase. This means it is seen as being an approach worth adopting.

It will be worth watching the polycloud trend closely over the next few months to see how it evolves. There’s a good chance that we’ll see it come to replace cloud agnosticism. Equally, it’s likely to impact the way AWS, Azure and Google respond. In many ways, the trend a reaction to the way the market has evolved; it may force the big players in the market to evolve what they offer to customers and clients.

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Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.


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