Once, organisations were tentative about adopting cloud, now they are worrying about managing too many. Analyst IDC[i] predicts that by 2020 over 90 percent of enterprises will use multi-cloud services and platforms. But before organisations get to this stage they will need to create a structured and consistent framework to manage them.

The use of multi-cloud is a growing trend across organizations that have actively adopted public cloud, according to IDC. This is being driven by the need to use differentiated services from different providers and wanting to minimize lock-in to a single platform.

Multi-cloud enables enterprises to mitigate risks and leverage the strengths of different cloud providers to improve performance optimization and improve reliability. But multi-cloud can easily turn into an uncontrolled proliferation of clouds, also called cloud sprawl, if enterprises don’t carefully plan cloud resource management and integration of resources across cloud platforms.

Smart organizations are already busy mapping out their multi-cloud strategies. But many are finding the benchmarking, planning and resource allocation processes complex. It is impossible, for example, to simply shift legacy systems and processes into multi-cloud and expect them to work. To tap into the power of multi-cloud, organisations must identify which clouds are most suitable to support each workload.

The top challenges facing multi-cloud and how to address them:

In our highly competitive digital economy it is paramount that enterprises can run workloads in the most appropriate environments to increase productivity and take advantage of any cost savings. Multi-cloud is one answer. But multi-cloud doesn’t come without its hurdles. Here are five challenges and tips to overcome them to speed up multi-cloud adoption.

Compliance

For most organizations, compliance requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) apply to some or all of their data. Some address data jurisdiction issues via multiple clouds and data centers in different geographical regions. But with a plethora of applications it is essential IT departments know what is running where and have the correct tools in place for visibility and monitoring.

Policies defined at the IT level to maintain organizational standards are essential. These need to be agile to address dynamic business processes and introduce restrictions or standards quickly across cloud platforms. In larger organisations, a central policy manager is a necessity to maintain compliance across multi-cloud platforms and services.

Finally, it goes without saying that organizations need to verify providers can meet their compliance requirements before introducing them to their multi-cloud infrastructure.

Security

No discussion on multi-cloud can pass without mentioning security. From a positive perspective, a well thought out multi-cloud strategy can help to neutralize the possibility of cyber-attacks because an organization’s entire cloud services don’t typically sit with one single provider.

But as long as cloud data access points operate through the public internet, the risk of threats is still there. With applications spread across different providers they can be difficult to monitor. Some organizations are turning to data encryption and identity key management services to shore up their defenses in a multi-cloud world. Others are opting for a zero-trust model backed up by next-generation tools.

Ultimately the only way to secure a multi-cloud environment is through a robust multi-layered approach. This may require the assistance of dedicated security partners, enabling organizations to continue to innovate and leveraging the latest technologies, whilst staying one step ahead of a hostile threat landscape.

Cloud skills gap

Organizations are often surprised at the technical challenges associated with deploying and running a multi-cloud environment. Multiplying clouds inevitably means increasing the skills necessary to run the entire environment efficiently.  To move forward with multi-cloud deployments, organizations require IT professionals that understand different cloud providers’ platforms and management tools.

Organizations will need to be prepared to make the necessary investment in IT skills and look for a commonality in cloud platforms such as operating systems and development languages to ease the complexity. Alternatively, they will need to partner with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who are adept at optimizing and managing application workload deployments across a multi-cloud environment in geographically distributed locations, whilst providing 24/7 support.

Controlling costs

Effective management and cost control require a deep analysis of an organization’s entire infrastructure, which often reveals services they are paying for but not using. A single pane of glass and dashboard allow IT departments to micro-manage and optimize performance and resources. In addition to tracking current multi-cloud spend, organizations need to project their consumption requirements in the future. Cloud governance-based tools, for example, can alert administrators when total usage for an account has gone over budget.

Partnering with an MSP who can orchestrate the whole multi-cloud environment to consolidate billing from multiple vendors and provide performance and cost analysis can help to take the pressure off internally from monitoring cost control.

Visibility

Multi-cloud by its very nature is complex and difficult to trace. A cloud management platform (CMP) brings together disparate cloud environments through a single portal with native connections to major cloud solutions.

From a security point of view, everything is under the same management and rules. A portal and service catalog provide service capabilities with regards to apps and a single pane of glass by which to monitor the entire multi-cloud environment. CMPs include tools for dedicated cost optimization, for example, which means organizations can assess several environments such as Azure and VMWare. They can check if better optimization could be achieved by switching clouds for certain applications or managing cloud bursting from private to public cloud when capacity spikes arise. Some solutions can expand this visibility to on-premises using the same interface.

Are you right for each other right now?

Multi-cloud is fast becoming the norm. But organizations need to have reached a certain level of cloud maturity before they can dive into the deep end. They must be able to define their multi-cloud journey according to their business goals by considering geographical footprint, legal constraints, security, compliancy requirements, etc. and thus identifying suitable options and expected benefits. Only then will they be able to see multi-cloud as a real game changer when it comes to a competitive edge.