‘Multi-cloud all the way’: Why Google Cloud’s UniSuper fiasco shows you shouldn’t rely on a single cloud provider

Google Cloud, which manages IT infrastructure maintenance for Australia pension fund UniSuper, pictured at Mobile World Congress 2023.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Earlier this month, UniSuper found itself in a true nightmare scenario when Google Cloud deleted the account – complete with backups – belonging to the $135 billion pension fund. 

The incident prompted nearly two weeks of confusion and disruption for the Australian firm’s 600,000+ members, culminating in a public apology from Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

Google described the incident as an “unprecedented sequence of events whereby an inadvertent misconfiguration during provisioning of UniSuper’s Private Cloud services ultimately resulted in the deletion of UniSuper’s Private Cloud subscription”.

Industry experts have suggested that the incident highlights the importance of keeping – and diligently maintaining – backups. They’re certainly not wrong, but on this occasion backups simply weren’t enough to avert disaster.

UniSuper said it had "duplication in two geographies" as a failsafe against an outage or data loss. However, the deletion of the firm’s private cloud subscription affected both of these locations as well.

Luckily, the firm said it had backups in place with an additional service provider, which helped minimize data loss. 

UniSuper fiasco shows the advantages of multi-cloud

What this incident points toward is a bigger problem: Lumping all your eggs in one hyperscaler basket.

UniSuper announced in mid-2023 that it would outsource maintenance of its IT infrastructure to the cloud giant, which isn’t out of the ordinary. Companies the world over do this with other major providers such as AWS or Microsoft.

Jamil Ahmed, distinguished engineer at Solace, told ITPro that while choosing a single cloud vendor improves simplicity, the UniSuper incident highlights the growing appeal of a multi-cloud approach.

"‘One-of-a-kind’, extremely rare outages or issues continue to plague every service provider from time to time, which is why the need to store and access valuable information on multiple provider services has arisen,” he said.

From a business perspective, Ahmed said there are “no excuses” for having a single cloud provider in 2024, as this ultimately hamstrings a business into working with one vendor that at any time could encounter a similar problem.

Simply put, he said, a single-vendor approach is a vestige of a bygone era in cloud computing.

“It needs to be multi-cloud all the way, treating cloud as a commoditized compute as much as possible, rather than building apps and services that are tied to knowing what cloud they're in.”

“Unfortunately, when businesses first introduced the cloud into their strategy, about 10 years ago, they made multi-provider usage a problem to solve later on.

“It is now 'later on,' and the strategy of using one cloud service is demonstrably dangerous and negligent."

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

For news pitches, you can contact Ross at ross.kelly@futurenet.com, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.