Optimising multi-cloud environments: The workload-first approach

Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a shift towards multi-cloud infrastructures as companies scrambled to transition to digital platforms amidst the disruptive conditions brought about by the pandemic, in an attempt to survive and compete. However, whilst multi-cloud is often employed to capitalise on specific domain expertise, this has led to a landscape marked by suboptimal performance that impacts user experience, hefty expenditures, and complex setups. These setups, in many instances, have trapped businesses in restrictive contracts, hindering their capacity to fully optimise their cloud environments. 

It’s vital to make the cloud work smarter, not harder for you. While this is easier said than done, businesses need to be guided by the needs of their workloads and data, rather than the capabilities of their cloud service provider. The solution to these issues lies in putting the needs of your workload first. 

As businesses now have a bit more breathing room compared to the height of the pandemic, they are now re-evaluating their cloud deployments, and looking for the most effective ways to match their specific workload requirements to the ideal cloud provider. A workload-first approach might not be the most straightforward initially, but in the long run, it allows businesses to prioritise their needs above those of the providers, thereby maximising the utility and efficiency of their cloud investments. Here’s how to get started.

Building a multi-cloud architecture with workloads in mind 

Cloud adoption is often motivated by an organisation’s desire to innovate and drive cost reductions, as well as reap the agility and scalability benefits. While these benefits are real, many organisations have discovered that without the right architecture and governance, the desired cost reductions fail to materialise. Thus, businesses must ensure that their cloud setup is designed with their specific business needs in mind and align the right workload to the right cloud platform based on which provider is best suited to meet these needs. 

Instead of arbitrarily deploying workloads to any available cloud, this means auditing workloads and understanding what they need to run most effectively. Some workloads are more or less intensive than others and require two or more different platforms to cater to their needs. Others would benefit by being closer to the end users they serve. This workload-first approach will enable organisations to benefit from a breadth of providers serving multiple needs without worrying about complex processes or high costs. 

As IT decision-makers weigh up their options, they should also ensure that their chosen cloud offering can provide flexibility, with services that can be modified according to a company’s business needs and with an organisation charged for only what they eventually consume. The right provider will offer businesses the flexibility to choose the most optimal workloads to host with them as part of a multi-cloud environment.

By building your multi-cloud architecture with these kinds of insights in mind, businesses enable their cloud costs to be determined by their workload needs. Cloud providers should then be motivated to tailor their services to their needs – meaning businesses are only paying for features such as portability, data processing, and disaster recovery when needed. 

The importance of developer-focused simplicity 

By adopting a workload-centric approach to multi-cloud environments, IT leaders are unlocking powerful opportunities and experiences for the wider business. For instance, the developer experience is fast being recognised as a key metric for success. Multi-cloud platforms are most valuable when they’re built to suit developers’ needs by enabling them to choose their preferred tools and providers, thereby enhancing productivity. This strategic decision enables businesses to regain control over their digital direction and steer their companies towards a future of smarter, more efficient cloud usage.

Scale, performance, and security 

It goes without saying that security is a vital component of any multi-cloud setup and must be a priority from the very beginning. As cybersecurity threats continue to plague all businesses, the cloud presents another in-road for bad actors to exploit organisations’ weaknesses within their cloud infrastructure. Thus, IT teams are needing to rise to the challenge of meeting a large and growing number of requirements, from application performance to infrastructure scaling to security. 

Given the increasing complexity of cyber threats, IT leaders are recognising the need to place stringent security measures at the heart of their cloud strategy. Choosing cloud providers who truly understand all elements of cybersecurity becomes imperative, and those who include these measures as standard are likely to prevail. Such a proactive approach helps businesses mitigate risks associated with data breaches and cyber-attacks, thereby fortifying their digital infrastructures.

Zero trust architecture operates on the principle of ‘never trust, always verify’. Every access request is thoroughly authenticated, authorised, and encrypted before being granted, regardless of its origin within or outside the network.

By adopting the workload-first approach, businesses have the flexibility to ensure that different types of data, such as that related to HR or payroll, are receiving the appropriate level of protection. Opting for incorrect levels of security can be both a costly and dangerous mistake. Thus, it is important to let the workload define the security requirements for our data, rather than the cloud provider. 

Maximising value from the cloud 

It’s clear the journey to effective multi-cloud management is not a sprint but a marathon. The rapid transition to the cloud during the pandemic may have been a necessary survival strategy, but businesses now have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to ensure that their cloud strategies are aligned with their workloads and completely secure.

Natalie Billingham, Senior Vice President of Sales and EMEA Managing Director at Akamai
Technologies, explores how the workload-first approach transforms every aspect of your business’s cloud architecture, from financial savings to increased security.

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