From being perceived as ‘insecure’ to inspiring trust, from basic business models to complex and customized options, from the complete absence of virtualization to a ‘cloud first’ approach – cloud has certainly come a long way, creating its own space in customer environments. Today, it is no longer limited to an IT discussion but poses a key business question – how to select, operate, and benefit from a cloud strategy.
In a bid to harness more resources, organizations are slowly beginning to utilize multi-cloud environments (involving multiple cloud service providers), marking the dawn of a new era. As cloud practices mature, we are witnessing a more distributed and interconnected cloud environment, one that is constantly expanding and is powered by multiple service providers, integration touch points, and solutions; each trying to build its own audience and market.
For instance, in an organization, two business units may use two different cloud providers – this converts it to a multi-cloud environment.
However, plenty of choices and niche options can also lead to confusion and unnecessary complexity; something that customers realize only after implementation. It is, therefore, important to consider (but not be limited by) a few best practices – to avoid being stuck in investment silos or having to grapple with subpar implementations.
- Map your environments, business units, and existing strategies to define how many (or if at all) cloud service providers are needed. A close look at regulations and compliance also helps understand the ratio between private and distributed clouds.While multi-cloud environments promote diversification, it is important to factor in the unique needs of a workload to determine where it will best perform.
- Proper governance, integration, and controls are required to reduce functional and security issues. Moreover, it is also essential for cost control, transparency, and greater visibility.
- The Cloud strategy should complement your business portfolio, not direct it. Business case scenarios (strict and risk-based) and the ‘cost of not doing’ can often act as good filters for making the right selection.
- A viable exit strategy is vital before investing in multiple cloud offerings.
- Multi-cloud management (including expense and operations) is becoming a concern, often more daunting than the cloud itself. The focus must be on integrated views, ease of operations, and expense efficiency. Multi-cloud monitoring and optimization, with capabilities for differentiated comparisons, can unlock ROI from such an environment.
- It is not just a question of price – agility, scalability and unique business goals should be the basis of your selection. For instance, customers using multiple public cloud providers may suddenly find themselves caught in a myriad of expenses – defeating the very purpose of defining a cloud strategy.Can such costs be optimized? Only if the selection is founded on not just on costs but other crucial factors as well.
- Multi-cloud environments should not lapse into siloes, or disparate power centers in the organization that hinder the actual benefits. Outmoded structures and roles have to evolve with time, the same way virtualization changed everything. One should embrace the renewed role of people and processes in this environment, and not oppose it.
- While larger cloud players provide standardization as the primary advantage, niche players offer flexibility. Place your bet carefully, as larger players usually attract more investment (both in terms of capital and intellectual/development investment) but may not be entirely flexible to suit customer-specific scenarios.Often, the best multi-cloud environment may just be a combination of the two. Don’t hesitate in such cases if the business demands it.
- Understand workload scenarios, their placement, and more importantly, their future movement – this is what has the most impact when the need arises. Yet, differentiation doesn’t mean the creation of siloes.
- Multiple cloud scenarios would be required to support digital and IoT initiatives, with edge data and analytics becoming increasingly more important. Look for platforms that can turn complex data (with diverse volume, variety, and velocity attributes) into an advantage and integrate your system with distributed, yet flexible, environments.
- Skillsets will have to undergo a complete overhaul, both internally and externally. Within the organization, several roles will coalesce; some would need rigorous reskilling, but most importantly it would shift from ‘maintenance’ to ‘management’ as a function. The planning and execution timelines would make or break such implementations.
Multi-cloud environments are beginning to gain traction, given the need to mitigate the impact of possible disruptions (if saddled with a single provider), ease of availability and the inherent need to maximize the output of every workload. However, the complexity arises as soon as the ecosystems need to be integrated, be seen/operated in a unified view to ascertain their true value.
Most multi cloud management solutions today are based on specific environments with limited support for others. However, with time they are expected to truly open up – enabling governance and control across any variant. Multi-cloud environments are expected to become the ‘new normal’ – serving as a driver for transformative and competitive advantage for businesses on a steep evolution curve.