Tuesday, 22nd September 2020

To make the most of multi-cloud, businesses need to see the bigger picture

By Simon Ratcliffe, Principal Consultant at Ensono.

While CIF research indicates that hybrid cloud – a blend of on premise and public cloud – has already become the norm amongst most enterprise organisations, multi-cloud on the other hand – the adoption of multiple public clouds – is a relatively new and emerging strategy.

To date, many organisations have opted for one public cloud provider believing the complexity and cost of multiple public cloud providers outweighs the benefits. But increasingly, this isn’t the case.

Organisations are realising the importance of avoiding vendor lock-in and taking advantage of best-of-breed solutions; they are realising that multi-cloud is beneficial for meeting compliance and regulatory requirements which often demand a prescribed exit route to another public cloud; they are realising that multi-cloud supports disaster recovery and easier migration for some data and applications; and they are also realising that multi-cloud suits today’s applications which, by design, tend to be created in a more modular style and can more easily span multiple cloud providers or consume services from multiple clouds. For these reasons and many more, adoption, naturally, has begun to increase.

Admittedly, it’s a trend that’s still in its early days. Much of the industry, especially in Managed Services, has historically tended to hitch their wagon to one public cloud provider or another so that one public cloud becomes the ‘right’ answer. Even today, few consultancies and service providers are truly agnostic and are able to design and operate multi-cloud environments effectively.

Nevertheless, despite this ingrained industry resistance, the trend towards multi-cloud won’t be slowing any time soon. Those who will make the transition, and indeed, those who already have, will need be strategic in how they deploy and manage the environment.

Rethinking multi-cloud

There can certainly be challenges in establishing and running multi-cloud setups. For one thing, multi-cloud can leave organisations open to duplication and fragmentation of data, services and skills. For another, multi-cloud can complicate governance and compliance.

However, in many cases, these challenges only occur because of the perspective taken. Seeing multi-cloud simply as a set of different infrastructures that need to be secured, monitored and managed can lead to creating different and disparate approaches and tooling. The key is seeing the different environments as components of a whole and adapting the operating model to this approach.

Traditionally, businesses see applications, infrastructure, networks and security as discrete horizontal layers that manage technology. However, to properly leverage multi-cloud, organisations will need to take a more vertical approach and start with the user experience at the application level and adopt technology that allows them to track the user journey through the different levels of the OSI model.

Taking this vertical approach means not worrying about which cloud platform to use. Indeed, many user journeys traverse multiple cloud platforms, and it’s possible to trace the journey and identify at which point the journey slows or fails.

A new perspective

We need to abandon the ‘bottom up’ approach to monitoring the different infrastructure elements and adopt this ‘top down’ view.Yes, organisations still need monitoring of the core elements. But it’s important to understand that these are supporting tools rather than primary mechanisms of issue identification and alert. The emphasis should not just be about where physical systems are located, but instead, on thinking about how to deliver applications to end users and monitor these applications most efficiently and reliably.

As with any fundamental shift in technology, if we as businesses do not pivot our operating models to reflect multi-cloud environments, then problems are all too likely to arise. On the other hand, if we can adjust how we think about these environments, then huge benefits are there to be realised.

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