Why the Best Cloud-Native Approach is Cloud-Agnostic

Among the many advantages of the cloud-native approach are speed, cost optimization, scalability and reduced time-to-market. It’s no wonder, then, that Gartner estimates that more than 85% of organizations will embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025.

However, even organizations that have mastered cloud-native development are at risk of missing the boat by making the wrong choice for their cloud infrastructure, opting for a platform-native architecture, grounded by proprietary services that anchor them with lock-in, drown them in unexpected costs, and negate the power of portability that cloud-native is meant to deliver. The far better approach for leveraging the advantages of cloud-native applications is to deploy them on cloud-agnostic, multi-cloud architectures underpinned by services built on open source alternatives.

The Sweet Song of the Platform-Native Sirens

To be sure, the legacy hyperscalers that dominate the cloud market today have much to offer, especially to startups and small- to medium-sized businesses that want to get up and running quickly and have limited in-house IT resources. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, they sing an irresistible song, enticing decision-makers with a one-stop shop and hundreds upon hundreds of services. Add to that the massive name recognition of Amazon, Microsoft and Google, and choosing a proprietary partner may seem like a no-brainer. But buyer beware: Your cloud-native strategies can be thwarted by platform-native lock-in.

Here’s the rub: You may develop an application with a cloud-native design—using containers, service meshes, APIs and running on platforms like Kubernetes and so on—but if you’re leveraging other tools and managed services that only exist on a particular hyperscaler’s platform, you’ve actually built an application that is platform-native. That workload is not portable. It is vendor-locked. It is stuck there on that cloud provider’s platform. And the longer it is stuck there, the more difficult it becomes to untangle.

Hyperscalers will tell you that the alternative to platform-native applications—using open source tools to build portable, cloud-agnostic applications that run on a multi-cloud infrastructure—is too complicated and too big a drain on your resources. But if you’re buying into that narrative and you’re building platform-native applications using hyperscalers’ proprietary managed services, you may ultimately find your ship dashed upon the rocks of high costs, wasted resources and lack of portability—unable to claim the full benefits of cloud-native agility.

For Portability, the Best Cloud-Native Approach is Cloud-Agnostic

Rather than succumbing to the sirens’ song, I encourage you to build your own cloud-agnostic, multi-cloud architecture for your cloud-native applications. You can use the open source tools that are available today—with infrastructure-as-code (IaC) and automation at their core—to build and manage a cloud-agnostic architecture that will put you back at the helm of your own ship, with the power of portability and control of your own destiny.

Why is portability so important? Because you should be able to choose your cloud providers—and easily move your workloads among them—to fine-tune the metrics that matter to you, whether it be cost, performance or geography.

Just as it is wise to diversify your stock portfolio, it is wise to diversify your cloud portfolio. You will reap many advantages from a portable, cloud-agnostic approach, including the ability to:

  • Commoditize your core cloud infrastructure
  • Achieve a higher degree of availability
  • Improve security
  • Increase resiliency for business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Control data sovereignty
  • Improve adaptability and agility to pivot as business needs evolve
  • Provide end users with best-of-breed offerings at the best cost-to-performance ratio

As your business grows, you should be able to scale your cloud resources and pivot your cloud strategy at the speed of your industry—all with more efficiency and less cloud waste. The role of your cloud providers should be to make this portable, multi-cloud approach easy for you, not harder.

Yes, You Can!

By architecting around open source and core cloud infrastructure primitives, you can eliminate complexity and platform dependence that threatens your cloud-native business strategies. Some wrongly assume that managing a multi-cloud architecture with open source tools is an overwhelmingly large time investment, but keep in mind that operators are no longer doing everything by hand. That may have been true years ago, but not anymore. Today it is possible and even straightforward to use industry standard, open source tools to build an automated, cloud-agnostic stack that is portable and not platform specific. Today, with IaC and other industry standard automation tooling, you can version control your cloud resources, set up and leverage quality automation pipelines to do the management heavy lifting of your underlying components. If you’re already using Ansible and Terraform on AWS, then you’re already familiar with these declarative tools and, essentially, your ship is ready to sail.

Here are three things you can do right away to get started moving from a platform-native architecture to a truly cloud-native and cloud-agnostic one:

  1. Assess your cloud infrastructure situation and identify your points of vendor lock-in.
  2. Investigate why the choice was made to use that architecture and that service provider. What functionality is served by this choice?
  3. Explore the open source options and alternative cloud service providers that can be used for a portable architecture and break the bonds of lock-in.
  4. Test deployment of the portable architecture. Once acceptance testing passes–meeting all requirements and ensuring feature parity everywhere needed–proceed with planning a migration and cutover strategy.

Cloud-Agnostic Portability Triumphs in the Long Run

So, where are you today? How portable are you? Are you able to move your cloud-native applications and data if you want to? Or are you actually running platform-native applications that have you locked in to a hyperscaler? To what degree are you wasting cloud resources and overpaying for managed services, only to have less control over your own destiny?

I challenge you to consider that you may benefit far more from steering your own ship. With the open source tools available to you today, you can invest in your cloud-agnostic, cloud-native workloads on a multi-cloud architecture that gives you true portability. Investing in portability will give your organization the freedom to sail to any and all of the places that serve your needs best.

Billy Thompson

Billy Thompson is a Solutions Engineering Manager for Akamai Cloud Computing Services, helping customers design portable architectures and deploy them at scale for technical and business teams. Billy holds a degree in information security and has a special interest in IaC, Kubernetes, Big Data engineering, and Python and Rust programming languages. He is a longtime Arch Linux user and Vegan and never knows which to tell people first. Outside of work he studies Jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and boxing. He also volunteers his home for fostering and acclimating rescue dogs.

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