The Cloud has cemented its place firmly in the enterprise. Many organizations are leveraging the cloud to deploy their workloads and applications and with the evolution of the cloud, enterprises are gradually moving away from employing a single cloud to taking a mix and match approach in choosing their cloud platforms and vendors. This has led to the growth of the multi-cloud where enterprises have the opportunity to choose the most suitable options for cloud services from different cloud providers. A survey conducted by Dimensional Research discovered that more than 77% of organizations are planning on deploying a multi-cloud architecture to gain more flexibility with their cloud solutions.
What is a multi-cloud strategy?
Some big cloud outages made the news in 2016 such as that with Microsoft Office 365 in January and February and the AWS outage in Sydney Australia in June. Occurrences like this drove the realization that even a couple of hours of downtime could critically impact business operations. CIO’s and CTO’s across the globe started relooking at their cloud strategies and evaluating the risks of having only one provider across the entire cloud environment. No one wanted to have all their technology eggs in one basket. Looking at a multi-cloud strategy gave organizations the ability to protect themselves against downtime and data loss that can be caused due to a hardware, network, storage or software breakdown in a cloud environment. The additional benefit of adopting a multi-cloud strategy is that it allows organizations avoid vendor lock-ins, create more interoperability and thus improves IT performance.
A multi-cloud strategy essentially is the concurrent use of two or more cloud services. Given that with the greater digitization of the enterprise organizational requirements are becoming more complex, a multi-cloud strategy gives organizations the flexibility to make their cloud choice according to their requirements since not all cloud environments and platforms are created equal. JP Morgan had released a report titled “CIO Survey Foreshadows Changing of the Guard,” which revealed that by 2020 almost 41% of the enterprise workloads and application portfolios will be run in the cloud. IDC also reports that “86% of enterprises predict that they need a multi-cloud strategy to support their business goals in the next two years”. Clearly, thanks to the Cloud, IT is about to witness even greater disruption and organizations are looking at long term strategies to be successful in the multi-cloud environment.
When embarking on a multi-cloud journey, organizations need to make some careful considerations. Here are some of the important considerations while moving to a multi-cloud environment:
- Each cloud computing provider provides different core computing functionalities. For example, the instance types provided by AWS, Google and Azure are not the same and that the security measures of Azure and AWS also differ. It is, therefore, essential to recognize the difference in the cloud offerings and choose one according to your application design and architecture
- Organizations have to develop readiness for a multi-cloud strategy by first building a consistent cloud foundation knowledge and then also adding technical skills for each of the cloud providers in use. This will prove critical in ensuring that the cloud-based applications can be built and used easily by all invested stakeholders.
- You will have to clearly understand data residency and data locality demands to reduce latencies.
- Mature security and governance postures to navigate the security and compliance challenge will be called for. It thus becomes essential to have a common set of security policies that are implemented across the multi-cloud environment. This will have to contain rules for identity management, vulnerability assessment, intrusion detection, authentication demands etc.
- Another consideration is the need for strong API lifecycle management policies across the public, private, and traditional applications to create, run and manage all actions in a single offering. This includes having flexible deployment options that can be managed from a single panel.
- You may have to link operations such as building, testing, and deployment, to create a continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline and create a customized toolchains for greater efficiency and better management
- As a baseline, you may have to develop a Minimum Viable Cloud architecture to define the technical and functional requirements and implementations to develop consistent capabilities in multi-cloud deployments.
- On the business side, you will be called upon to balance cost and service availability by identifying spending patterns and service requirements.
- A key consideration is to minimize complexity by leveraging standard technology stacks, microservices, and establishing set communication pathways between applications.
- Given the added complexity, it may become necessary to identify third party tools to manage capabilities across vendors and governance and management features that may be inconsistent across the different cloud platforms. Evaluating such tools to ensure that they are cost-effective, have strong capabilities and add value to the organization are a must.
- A strong backup and recovery plan is essential. You must have a strong storage strategy for greater resiliency for better disaster management.
Clearly, the benefits of having a multi-cloud approach are many. These include more autonomy in application deployment, more flexibility, which allows you to keep applications both on premise and in one or more clouds, and extended capabilities to match the needs of specific deployments amongst others. At the same time, a multi-cloud strategy adds complexity in the form of different services, technologies, interfaces etc. It also brings into focus the question of interoperability (or the lack of it) and added management overheads and the need for a higher level of expertise across a diverse range of subjects, investments in VPN connections and monitoring etc. However, discussing the challenges of a multi-cloud strategy makes for another blog for another day – stay tuned to this blog for more on that.