Leading businesses are embracing the critical advantages of a modern multi-cloud model amid both the global pandemic’s profound impact and the pressing need to optimize data security, costs, business continuity and disaster recovery in today’s dynamic and threat-laden digital economy.

The multi-cloud trend going forward is expected to quickly move beyond the current focus on initial adoption – ultimately optimizing capabilities to control rising cloud costs, enhance security and match applications to the best fit among today’s various cloud features and services. Relying on multiple cloud services provides ‘optionality’ – a workload better-suited to the capabilities of one cloud provider is not limited by reliance on a single provider that a business is already working with.

IDC research shows that global cloud spending on public cloud services is expected to reach US$1.3 trillion by 20251. What exactly is multi cloud? Simply put, it represents the evolution of cloud capabilities – a flexible, seamless, scalable model that connects diverse public clouds to other public clouds as well as to on-premise workloads. Given that most organizations already leverage the capabilities of at least one public cloud, and these in large part operate in harmony with on-premise workloads, the next frontier for many is to seamlessly integrate multiple cloud service providers into their environments.

Multi-cloud deployment can leverage multiple IaaS vendors or rely on different vendors for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services. This approach delivers the flexibility to run workloads on any cloud depending on your specific business needs – consistently migrating, managing and securing applications wherever they are deployed.

But beware. While a multi-cloud approach unlocks multiple new benefits, it also creates new challenges – making it critical to understand and manage risks associated with your infrastructure and the business data being distributed across multiple cloud providers. Without a smart overarching plan to architect and manage a multi-cloud environment, one of the most-exciting advances in computing can become just a resource-draining IT initiative that fails to deliver on its promise.

Multiple challenges in a multi-cloud environment

As more businesses embrace the unmistakable advantages of multi-cloud, they are facing the need to manage significant challenges that include:

Complexity and management – Cloud providers have been differentiating themselves with specialized offerings designed to suit specific and evolving business requirements. While this offers significant advantages, managing multiple cloud environments among different providers also adds complexity to your IT infrastructure. Each cloud provider may have its own set of tools, APIs and management interfaces, requiring additional effort to integrate and coordinate operations across platforms. As these technologies evolve, they grow more complex – leading to increased costs, resource allocation challenges and potential security risks that cannot be ignored.

Interoperability and compatibility
– Applications and services designed for one cloud provider may not seamlessly work across others. Porting or migrating applications between different clouds can be complex and time consuming, requiring modifications or redesigning to adapt to different infrastructure and service offerings. Poor interoperability hinders agility and your ability to leverage specific cloud features or tools. The cloud landscape is changing frequently, making it crucial that your cloud-selection strategy remains current to meet workload needs and capitalize on today’s best available services. If a specific workload needs to scale significantly and quickly, for example, how will you choose between various platforms and capabilities?

Security and compliance – Managing security and compliance across multiple cloud environments is far more challenging than working with a single cloud provider. The complexity of a multi-cloud architecture can increase the threat of a cyber-attack. Each cloud service and platform may have its own security controls and compliance standards to help ensure consistent security measures and regulatory adherence. There is also the challenge of ensuring appropriate identity- and access-management mechanisms – giving employees reliable and secure access to diverse systems and processes both today and as workloads evolve amid new cloud features and services. You need appropriate workflows, controls and procedures. Careful coordination and monitoring of security and compliance needs is critical.

Rising costs – Cost management is a leading concern as businesses pursue multi-cloud’s  advantages. While a multi-cloud strategy enhances flexibility, it can quickly drive-up costs. Services and capabilities can overlap across multiple cloud providers. There is also the challenge of data transfer and egress fees that can mount when shifting data between clouds. Businesses may need to dedicate valuable time and effort to negotiate and establish favorable pricing agreements among multiple service providers and diverse pricing models.

Technical expertise – Utilizing multiple cloud platforms requires specialized skills and expertise if you hope to effectively manage each cloud provider’s unique features and ecosystem. The demand today for diverse skillsets can pose significant challenges regarding the recruitment and training of qualified professionals, plus the need to retain these experts as businesses compete for talent and new skills in the digital economy. But new skills are now indispensable to success.

Key considerations in the race to multi cloud

KPMG global specialists are providing insightful guidance on the design and implementation of effective multi-cloud environments that can meet the specific and unique needs of businesses. Key considerations and digital solutions that can help underpin success include:

Multi-cloud architecture – It is essential to understand the challenges that exist while creating a robust multi-cloud architecture. You need to incorporate the right set of tools and technologies to support workload placement across diverse platforms and services. A solid operating model to effectively manage multi-cloud use is imperative – breaking it down into process security, technology, financial operations and people and skills. One of the keys is aligning IT service management with your multi-cloud operating model – implementing the right technology to effectively operate, manage, monitor and secure resources and services among providers – from data management, governance and security to vendor licenses, contracts and more.

Resilience –  Establishing resilience in a multi-cloud environment is critical to disruption prevention and recovery. You need a rapid, flexible and scalable environment that provides both zonal and regional resilience. You should also factor in the essential need for an appropriate recovery-time objective (RTO) and recovery-point objective (RPO) to help ensure they do not break down when a service spans multiple clouds.

In today’s fast-changing and threat-laden environment, a new approach to resilience is indispensable – one that helps ensure your ability to ‘bounce back’ quickly from disruptions and maintain application availability. New functional capabilities and skills to embed resilience through design is the way forward and it will likely require businesses to give resilience greater priority as they invest in innovation.

Security – Leading businesses are recognizing the need to design and implement a modern multi-cloud security model across applications and data governance, one featuring a common access-control model across platforms. This includes automation of key capabilities such as identity and access management, as well as automation of compliance for continuous monitoring, reporting and testing of capabilities. Periodic testing is no longer sufficient as threats soar in frequency, impact and cost to the organization. Automation also offers revolutionary new capabilities to predict trouble before it strikes in today’s bold new reality. 

Cost optimization – Businesses need to rethink budget planning and financial control as the pace of change accelerates. For multi-cloud, you need to invest in new cost management and visibility tools that can establish and maintain centralized governance and avoid cost overruns. Amid different pricing models and various mechanisms to control costs among diverse cloud service providers, balancing the value of workloads with associated cloud costs is essential. Ask yourself what the total cost of hosting an application is. Is it going down or up – and what can you do to drive it down? Can the business reduce some of the variability that exists in current costs?

Governance – Unified governance in a multi-cloud environment can be pivotal to success, catering to uniform application of policies, configurations, compliance and management. It’s essential to have an effective workload placement strategy in place – establishing clear guidance, for example providing insights on which cloud is most appropriate for a specific need. Governance needs to be strong to manage how diverse clouds and applications frequently talk to each other. Effective service-level agreements are also critical, along with a sharp focus on skillsets and operational costs as applications migrate among platforms.

Operations, SLA, license management – To operate effectively in a multi-cloud environment, businesses need to invest in monitoring and logging tools that enable appropriate management of operational, licensing and service level agreements needs and issues. 

KPMG multi-cloud framework

KPMG professionals are working to make a difference for clients with a multi-cloud framework designed to provide smart and informed management of financial, technical and security requirements and operations-governance capabilities.

⦁   This approach is designed to provide clients with the advantages of a multi-cloud model covering all phases – from strategy and on-boarding to ongoing operations.

⦁   It aims to identify key technical activities in your cloud setup, on-boarding and application migration.

⦁   It provides a detailed checklist developed for each stage to help verify that controls are precisely executed as needed.


Multi-cloud graphic

A multi-cloud model is inevitable for most organizations and KPMG specialists are helping clients transition to this operating model in a secure, compliant, cost-effective manner. The framework and methodologies are developed and tested through work with major global enterprises and aligns with common regulatory frameworks and guidelines. The architecture, development and Devops teams work across platforms to help create a unified approach to architecture and engineering, featuring unified tooling, automation and reporting for faster time to market.