By Matthew Wallace, CTO, Faction Inc.
In making the case for multicloud deployments, evangelists within enterprises are routinely citing adoption advantages such as redundancy, risk mitigation, solving issues with workload placement and escaping vendor lock-in. While true, these benefits pale in comparison to what I believe will be multicloud’s most compelling benefit over the long haul: the newfound agility of harnessing cross-cloud solutions will drive more organizational innovation.
Cloud transformation has, of course, remade the IT landscape as we knew it – introducing on-demand compute capabilities, simple access to ever-more-powerful infrastructure, and countless data and services solutions that have added tremendous new efficiencies to how enterprises operate and integrate new capabilities. The next leap will be into a multicloud world, and it will deliver a similar breadth of opportunities. The large public cloud providers have come a long way from their initial forays into providing platform-level services, and they are now climbing the stack to add solutions around machine learning, big data, IoT applications and closer integrations with developer tools.
This reality should cause those organizations currently committed to a single cloud provider (whichever one that might be) to re-evaluate their strategy. While it’s possible that partnering with a single cloud provider and relying exclusively on the solutions it provides may be enough for an enterprise to continue successfully, I’d argue it’s easier to imagine that business being out-innovated – and ultimately out-competed – by rivals leveraging disparate tools from across the entire sky of cloud innovations.
Already today, a multicloud-ready enterprise might uncover a competitive advantage through, for example, utilizing Amazon Redshift on AWS to process data, and then sending it over to Microsoft’s Power BI on the Azure cloud to visualize it. Such multicloud use cases will only become more intricate and powerful going forward, and those able to execute these combinations will find themselves with more latitude to explore potential advantages and outmaneuver competitors.
Multicloud Planning Steps
Against that backdrop, here are five non-negotiable planning steps for any enterprise to succeed in a multicloud environment:
1. Introduce a multicloud-friendly data management plan. Data management is already a multifaceted challenge: enterprises employ myriad solutions to collect, store, process and visualize data securely and effectively. Ensuring that data is properly positioned and accessible for utilization across multiple clouds requires that systems be carefully designed for this purpose. Data volumes are swelling from terabytes to petabytes, and performing ad hoc transfers across disparate systems and significant distances will cease to be a viable option. Therefore, it’s critical to plan and implement a data management strategy congruent with your multicloud goals.
2. Prepare your applications and data to integrate with cloud services from the beginning. Within a multicloud framework, enterprise data will likely be spread across on-premise, colocation facilities and cloud services themselves. Research out of Gartner has suggestedthe importance of carefully positioning specific workloads to deliver digital infrastructure. Enterprises should use foresight in planning out how best to move, store, and access data, and design applications ready to thrive within multicloud environments.
3. Make sure your IT strategy is ready to leverage hybrid or multicloud-based solutions. As different cloud services continue to proliferate, it’s essential to have an IT strategy already in place that is fully prepared to efficiently on-board those services and put them to work. This can be easier said than done, and demands attention.
4. Make plans to provide for the entirety of your applications’ needs. Supporting your applications in a multicloud environment requires diligent planning to ensure that all necessary infrastructural resources and application services are in place and readily available. These designs should feature a generous amount of flexibility as well, so that your infrastructure is ready for what you need from it well into the future.
5. Don’t leave gaps in your multicloud implementation for developers to fill themselves — because they will. Really getting the most out of a multicloud implementation will require a holistic approach. Where gaps in your strategy present issues that were unaccounted for, your developers will find ways to overcome them. While it’s seemingly good that they’re capable of doing so, it’s bad for overall outcomes to be using fragmented solutions outside of a coordinated strategy. With shadow IT accounting for 30 percent of total IT spending, this certainly isn’t as isolated issue – but it is one enterprises with multicloud environments can be particularly vulnerable to without a fully fleshed-out strategy.