For a long time, organizations and their IT departments looked to cloud computing as an experiment rather than a corporate standard. Today, many organizations have a “cloud first” strategy.
According to IDC research, more than half of businesses currently rely on a public or private cloud platform for more than one to two workloads, up from only 24 percent less than a year and a half ago. Globally, public cloud spending is estimated to reach $141 billion by 2019.
As organizations move past the initial stages of cloud adoption, the maturity of their cloud environments grows. Rather than host one application in one cloud platform, many organizations are shifting to multi-cloud environments. A recent study of large organizations found that 82 percent have a multi-cloud strategy in place.
Motivations for embracing a multi-cloud setup are numerous. Having a mix of public, private, and managed cloud platforms in place can help mitigate the risk of data loss or downtime in the event of an IT incident. In addition, a diversified cloud portfolio also helps organizations avoid being locked into one vendor, potentially improving overall performance.
But with multiple cloud platforms inevitably comes added complexity – a reality that many IT departments don’t fully appreciate until it’s too late.
Managing Multi-cloud Starts with Asking the Right Questions
Though deploying multiple cloud platforms offers IT departments more options and greater flexibility, it also presents a laundry list of management challenges. Factors like cost governance, internal skills gaps, technical integrations, and security already perplex IT staff when overseeing just one cloud platform. Introducing multiple platforms into the mix only exacerbates those issues.
Cloud computing is supposed to facilitate more efficient IT departments and more agile organizations, not create new headaches and bottlenecks. Before pursuing a formal multi-cloud arrangement, IT and business leaders need to conduct honest assessments of their organizations if they hope to avoid an enterprise technology nightmare. Here are four questions IT experts should ask themselves to gauge whether or not multi-cloud is the best move forward:
- Is a multi-cloud deployment something we need or want to do? Multi-cloud may be a trending subject in the enterprise IT world, but just because it’s in vogue doesn’t mean it’s right for every business. No matter how you slice it, multiple clouds are harder to manage than one – for smaller and mid-sized organizations in particular, this isn’t a strategy to adopt unless it’s necessary. If your organization is leaning toward multi-cloud, it’s vital to ensure that your reasons for doing so are sound (and that you have exhausted alternative options). For example, plenty of businesses are concerned about the reliability of the cloud platform they have chosen, and may not want to put all of their mission-critical workloads in one basket. While this is a valid concern, it’s one that can be resolved through less drastic measures than multi-cloud strategies.
- Do we have the right tools at our disposal? A lot of organizations implement tools that complement specific cloud platforms, whether it’s Azure or AWS. Once you move to multi-cloud, however, you’ll need tools that are platform agnostic. IT departments must find tools that not only work across different cloud vendors, but also play nice with their on-premise systems as well. An obvious example of this can be found in “infrastructure as a code,” a method IT teams increasingly use to automate infrastructure management and provisioning duties and facilitate cloud deployments. Before diving into a multi-cloud arrangement, organizations should phase out vendor-dependent tools in favor of neutral solutions that allow for flexible implementation strategies no matter how many cloud platforms are at play.
- How will we extend our on-premise tools into a multi-cloud environment? Whether it’s antivirus programs or patching software, the average organization counts on a portfolio of on-premise tools to keep their systems running smoothly and securely. IT leaders need to develop a concrete plan for how these tools will fit into the overall multi-cloud arrangement, or how they will need to change. In some cases, organizations may have to re-evaluate the number of licenses or connectivity features required to keep these tools functioning in the new environment.
- Do we have the skill sets to manage multi-cloud internally? Organizations of all sizes struggle with in-house skills gaps that obstruct their ability to manage a single cloud provider. A 2015 study found that one in five IT decision makers has a hard time finding talent to fill cloud-specific roles. If your team can barely keep up with the volume of change that one cloud implementation brings, that doesn’t bode well for your success in managing multiple platforms. Unless your organization has a strategy for recruiting cloud talent, training current IT employees, or engaging a third-party to help fill the knowledge gap, now may not be the smartest time to pursue multi-cloud.
If adopting one cloud platform is equivalent to earning a bachelor’s degree, then multi-cloud is a master’s program – fine in theory, but not the most logical next step for everyone. By asking the right questions about multi-cloud up front, IT leaders can land on a strategy that fits, rather than forcing the issue.
Brett Gillett is the AWS Practice Lead at Softchoice, where he helps businesses deliver increased value to their internal and external customers through the effective implementation of cloud-based solutions. With more than 15 years of experience, Brett is a results-oriented technology enthusiast with a proven track record of designing and implementing large, complex systems management and security solutions in a wide variety of corporate environments.
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