Supercloud, multi-cloud, bigly cloud?

When we first heard about supercloud, we assumed it was yet another new cloud hype term with no substance – but we were wrong. (Yes, Silverlinings admits when we are wrong.)

It’s true that the name "supercloud" sounds like hype, but the concept — an abstraction layer to control multi-cloud — is gaining support albeit with confusion and some disagreement among experts over the term.

A supercloud is born

The supercloud idea dates back to 2016 Cornell University academic studies which defined it as "a cloud architecture that enables application migration as a service across different availability zones or cloud providers.”

According to Cornell, APIs allow superclouds to “span across all major public cloud providers such as Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, and Rackspace, etc., as well as private clouds.”

James Sanders, CCS Insight, principal analyst of cloud and infrastructure said the concept goes back even further. "Supercloud as a concept is essentially a rebadged version of multi-cloud management, which has been around for as long as AWS has faced competition from other cloud platforms,” Sanders told Silverlinings.

A variety of products, such as VMware Aria or Red Hat OpenShift, Terraform and HPE GreenLake can achieve the same outcome, he noted.

One company already putting superclouds into action is telecommunications company Vonage. The enterprise's Senior Director of Product Marketing, Lawrence Byrd, explained to Silverlinings that Vonage uses communications APIs to implement a global multi-cloud strategy internally, "Our applications and APIs are at a higher level where our customers do not need to worry about internal global distribution details, which are automatic for them."

Supercloud: the concept is real, but the term is questionable

David McCarthy, IDC vice president of cloud and edge infrastructure service, told Silverlinings that he doesn’t subscribe to the supercloud term and “the industry hasn't adopted it either,”

While the concept is real, he said, “Customers are looking for ways to simplify the integration and management of resources across multiple cloud providers. VMware has made significant strides here, acting as a compatibility layer for multiple clouds and on-premises systems.”

David Linthicum, Deloitte's chief cloud strategy officer, agreed with McCarthy on both the term and the concept.

“It’s just a good idea architecturally to place many of the redundant systems in a logical technology layer that functions above the cloud providers, as a non-native, cross-cloud solution,” Linthicum told Silverlinings. “This reduces the redundancy, complexity, and heterogeneity by leveraging common services across cloud providers, such as security, operations, governance, data integration, etc."

In short, "The idea is to combine common services at a single meta layer that allows for a single interface,” he added. "This area will evolve quickly over the next few years, as enterprises understand they will hit a cloud complexity wall that will hinder the value they get from cloud."

Agreeing to disagree

Duan Van Der Westhuizen, SVP of cloud at Ensono, said that while there is “no doubt” that the concept of an abstraction layer above multi-cloud aims to solves a huge problem for enterprises and can address perceived fears around cloud lock-in.

“The risk you run with abstraction, however, is that you no longer specialize in each cloud technology stack that’s natively provided by the cloud provide,” he said. “Meaning an abstraction can drive the lowest common denominator outcome as those features are normalized into a single tool or experience.”

However, William Collins, the cloud networking company Alkira's principal architect, doesn't see it that way. Collins simply sees supercloud "as an evolution of multi-cloud.”

He told Silverlinings that as organizations started their multi-cloud journeys, often, it was reactive.

“Supercloud is the chance to be proactive and play the long game to ensure your business is set up to stay competitive for the future,” he said, adding that, it “creates a unique opportunity for the network to simplify design and operations by employing a single fabric, or abstraction, that connects you to the clouds, across clouds, and to on-premises sites."

A different approach?

Supercloud is a different approach than the popular Kubernetes-based hybrid cloud model promoted by companies like Red Hat with its OpenShift and Mirantis's hybrid/multi-cloud approach. Instead, as mentioned above, supercloud uses a variety of APIs to connect directly with cloud provider APIs and services.

Alkira's Collins said, customers, don't have to use a Kubernetes-first approach to application delivery. “If a customer can solve a problem at scale using scalable cloud storage for their application for much cheaper, that may be their direction,” he said.

Is the supercloud concept important? Yes, according to Jeff Clarke, Dell’s co-COO and vice chairman, who said at 2022 Dell Technologies World that "if we can take these cloud assets and capabilities, and combine them in an orchestrated way to deliver a distributed platform… it's game over."

Clarke may be on to something. After all, the Flexera State of the Cloud 2022 reports that "89 percent of respondents report having a multi-cloud strategy." If someone can give cloud architects an effective way to manage and shift jobs across clouds, that really will be a game changer.

Now, we just need another name. “Bigly cloud,” anyone?

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