Using cloud integration to overcome the complexity of a multi-cloud infrastructure

IT cloud service providers are becoming the new IT department and that’s all good.  But how can the new IT landscape avoid ending up with a spaghetti mess of isolated cloud vendors? Here’s a take on how to enable rapid decision-making and an agile way of working in a fragmented business landscape. 

Cloud services (SaaS) have exploded during the last couple of years with companies such as Salesforce and Amazon paving the way. It has become a mature business where over 90% of companies use one or more cloud services (IDG Expert Network: Navigating the Digital Universe) of which 80% utilize a multi-cloud landscape. But even though cloud services have become widely accepted and carry documented benefits in terms of flexibility, cost reduction and data security, buyers of cloud services start to question new SaaS services. It indicates that cloud services are moving into a new phase with new challenges that need to be understood and addressed. 

Since the 2000s, companies have endeavoured on IT application outsourcing to global vendors with the aim to reduce operational cost and improve IT performance. For many companies, it has been a challenging journey with increased governance and collaboration complexity, and fragmentation of information and processes. The complexity has increased exponentially with every new vendor added to the IT outsourcing landscape. Structural and technical solutions were the backbone of the outsourcing setup and required best practice tools and frameworks to make this new way of working both efficient and effective. However, managing expectations and responsibility across multiple internal and external borders and cultures turned out to be the main headache.

Today, we see a new type of IT application outsourcing in terms of cloud services, made possible by digitalization and globalization. It carries a similar operating model where the responsibility for application development and operations is transferred from the internal IT department to the IT (cloud) service providers – available through a subscription model and updated user interface. New cloud services are easy to initiate in business with little involvement of the IT department. But the ease of initiation is also its greatest challenge as information, processes and collaboration easily become fragmented in different cloud solutions. So how do companies enable rapid decision-making and an agile way of working with a fragmented business landscape (information, processes and collaboration)?

According to ComputerWorld research, Cloud Services is currently under scrutiny as 50% of companies hesitated to add new cloud services during the last three years – considering the hurdles of cloud integration. In fact, 90% of companies (MuleSoft Research) experience integration challenges and fragmented cloud landscape of multiple user-solutions. With more and more cloud services available, the problem with cloud silos is worsening everyday. It is the cost of moving too fast into the cloud without a proper analysis, planning and governance. Integration of multi-cloud environment (on-site, private or public) is the key priority of IT professionals to boost business competitiveness (ComputerWorld Survey) – but it is also an unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. A majority (54%) of digital professionals do not believe they will succeed with digital transformation (Institute for Digital Transformation Survey) – mainly due to the increased complexity and process/information fragmentation.  Maybe it is a sound development to view cloud services from a holistic perspective. 

Overcoming the complexity of multi-cloud and harvesting business benefits starts with business ambitions, requirements and way of working. How does business intend to compete and create value for its customers in the future? The answer is a business-driven, holistic and technically robust cloud integration enabling scalability, flexibility and business effectiveness. It is a fine balance between technology, governance and business orientation where the shortcomings of one capability will have a negative effect on the whole multi-cloud set-up and limit the business effects. It is therefore important to have the right competence, tools and experience for cloud integration to mitigate the business complexity. One way to ensure the right workings of the multi-cloud environment is to conduct integration stress tests where business scenarios are run in a safe environment. For example, what happens if there is a significant cloud service down-time? It is an excellent way to test the maturity and robustness of the integration set-up and identifying potential threats that need to be resolved. 

My recommendations: 

  1. Understand the complexity of multi-cloud solutions. How does this affect the Business/IT architecture, governance, ecosystem and leadership of the organization? Are we ready to go into a multi-cloud set-up?
  2. Start with the technology and structure of cloud integration. Is it the backbone of a multi-cloud infrastructure? Do we have access to experts, frameworks and best practice integration engines to enable efficient and effective cloud integration? 
  3. Engage business in stress testing your multi-cloud environment and integration solution. Does it really manage all the different business scenarios according to business expectations?
  4. Do not attempt to scale your multi-cloud environment without a mature and robust integration foundation (technology, governance, ecosystem and leadership). It will not work!

Cloud Services is the future for IT application development and operations. The resources and competence required, in an unpredictable business and IT environment, to host these applications and infrastructure in-house are difficult to find and manage. Cloud service is the obvious choice. However, it is a tricky journey to reach the required maturity and robustness to enable scaling and realization of cloud services with full benefits. It is a journey with new obstacles that requires a new perspective and mindset of IT and business professionals. The question I ask is whether these professionals are ready to go outside their comfort zone to address the increasing complexity of cloud integration?

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