If you follow cloud computing, you might know this: When a Fortune 500-size customer decides to offload some computing tasks to the cloud, it invariably uses more than one provider.
In the past, it was considered smart to hedge bets so that the customer doesn’t get too beholden to any one tech provider. But there has always been more nuance than that, according to speakers and attendees of this week’s Google Cloud Next tech conference in San Francisco. For example, Darryl West, global chief information officer of global bank HSBC described how HSBC is using various Google cloud services for things it used to do in-house.
For the last six months, HSBC has been observing how some Google cloud services—like BigQuery, described as an online warehouse for data analytics—can help the bank’s anti-money laundering efforts by reducing false positives as well as quickly adding computers for risk analysis.
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Each of the major clouds offers basic computing, storage, and networking along with database services. They also all claim leadership in advanced technological capabilities and the ability to run massive swaths of data centers around the world.
Google is perceived to be especially strong in machine learning and artificial intelligence. For the last year or so, the search company has been trying to demonstrate it understands how to sell that technology into businesses. Microsoft Azure appeals to the many existing Microsoft Office and Windows customers. Amazon Web Services, undoubtedly the 800-pound gorilla in the mix, offers the widest array of cloud services.
“We are early in our journey, and it’s a strategy of keeping close to all the major players and understanding their strengths and weaknesses,” West noted.
R.J. Pittman, chief product officer for eBay (EBAY), concurred: “A lot of differentiation will emerge from what the cloud platforms offer and they’re going in different directions.”
Coca-Cola (KO) also does business with all of the major cloud players because they each have their “pluses and minuses,” said Greg Chambers, group director of digital innovation for the Atlanta-based soda maker.
During the keynote, eBay’s Pittman demonstrated a new “shopbot” that lets consumers use voice commands to ask Google Home connected speaker device to check pricing on products. As Geekwire pointed out, eBay is already a Microsoft Azure customer. Google Home competes with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant and Echo device in tandem.
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Still, not everyone agrees that multi-cloud is the best option from a customer point of view.
Holger Mueller, an analyst with consulting firm Constellation Research, said spreading out workloads among clouds carries its own risks.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea for enterprises,” Mueller said via email. “Fragmenting across clouds is an issue when you want to analyze data.”