There is a common pattern when a new technology emerges to disrupt the business landscape. First comes adoption: slow at first, and limited to the most forward-thinking companies and agile start-ups.
By the time the technology reaches maturity and universal adoption, early adopters have already begun looking for ways to enhance and diversify their use of said technology and extend their competitive advantage. We are seeing this today with cloud, as more and more enterprises that adopted cloud the best part of a decade ago are implementing a more sophisticated multi-cloud strategy.
The reason is simple: vendor lock-in. Enterprises do not want to be at the mercy of any single vendor – an attitude that has been plain for the last 15 or so years, with enterprises increasingly moving from monolithic platforms to open-source alternatives. Lock-in is a particularly pressing issue in the cloud since enterprises not only have no control over the software itself but also little control over the data. Their entire business may be at the mercy of their cloud provider – not a position where any organisation would feel comfortable. Consequently, what enterprises are looking for now is flexibility in deployment models, one of the primary drivers for adopting a multi-cloud strategy.
Adopting a cloud-neutral strategy gives organisations far greater assurance of business continuity and service uptime. This is regardless of whatever interruptions they might experience at the infrastructure tiers, be it the hardware tier (servers, networks, storage devices) or at the software tier (bugs in OS, routers, or device drivers). Since no digital business can afford extended periods of downtime, this is a significant advantage of going multi-cloud.
Even more important than uptime, however, is how a cloud neutral strategy can help future-proof an organisation in terms of cost (CapEx and OpEx) and compliance. On the cost front, if it becomes too expensive to run a public cloud, an organisation that has adopted a multi-cloud strategy is not tied to this model forever. They can pivot, building out their own data centres and, without any extra effort, run their applications as-is in their own private cloud (through their own data centres). This is also true for compliance. If due to some future regulatory requirement, an organisation needs to pull some of the data and the corresponding workload from the public cloud into a secure on-premises environment for security and privacy purposes, multi-cloud makes this possible. By adopting this strategy, they now control where to move the data and workloads, so they can choose another cloud provider that meets the required standards, or they can move the data into their own private cloud.
Like any technology strategy, there are some drawbacks to a multi-cloud strategy, namely a lack of standards and portability. This simply means that organisations require careful architecture, so as not to leverage proprietary capabilities of a specific cloud vendor. This is an evolving area where there is a consolidation of technologies and vendors. As this gains importance, innovation at the cloud manageability tier will address this.
Choosing, managing and securing a multi-cloud management platform
Multi-cloud management is evolving fast, but there are several vital steps that need to be reviewed by every organisation. Understanding these points is essential for enterprises as they first assess their multi-cloud options, as well as managing and securing their data from then onwards. These key considerations include:
Deployment & management: Businesses will want one common manageability platform, which can deploy and manage across multiple cloud infrastructures. This is easier said than done, however, as different cloud providers have different virtualisation tiers and various levels of managing them. Furthermore, any platform must also deploy and manage the private cloud. One of the main considerations for this platform should be that it allows seamless movement of services and workload between public and private cloud deployments.
Tooling for productivity: After management, comes ease of use. After all, the last thing that any business wants is a tool that makes life harder for those using it or gets in the way of time-to-market. An effective multi-cloud platform must be easy to use for both the operations team as well as the development team, for simple and effective configuration, deployment, and scaling of services.
Monitoring & diagnostics: Failing to shut down services is one of the most common issues in the cloud. So much so that it costs companies thousands of pounds every year. It’s why organisations must implement monitoring tools into their multi-cloud strategy. Effective tools should alert as well as provide a delegated administration capability; a must in this fast-paced world. Diagnostic tools that provide visibility into the infrastructure tier are also essential, in order to troubleshoot the most difficult issues.
Security & governance: With more customer data and confidential information becoming accessible from the web, the management platform must provide the ability to quickly roll out and implement security updates at any tier: infrastructure, platform or application. The management platform must also provide the ability for rule-based governance of data and services so that organisations can control the movement of data across geographic boundaries and conform to governmental rules and regulations.
In summary, the cloud has matured from private to hybrid and now multi-cloud technology, which will become the de-facto standard for cloud architecture as companies seek to optimise workloads and avoid vendor lock-in. Data is in private, public, or hybrid clouds and on-premises. However, it needs to be managed and secured effectively no matter the environment. Only businesses that can achieve this will unlock the true benefits of multi-cloud.