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How Enterprises Can Get Multi-cloud Right?

At this point, most enterprises exhibit a degree of understanding of what a successful cloud strategy looks like. However, as businesses grow, these strategies need to scale to manage a massive and complex IT infrastructure using a single cloud solution.

Such scenarios demand a multi-cloud strategy that could bring together the best services from multiple vendors under one umbrella. As it turns out, the benefits of multi-cloud are manifold — from avoiding vendor-blocking to enabling cost-efficient resource utilization.

In fact, a 2018 prediction from International Data Corporation (IDC) saw multi-cloud inevitably becoming a go-to solution, with 85% of enterprises viewing this architecture as an affordable method of insulating them from vendor-blocking.

Today, the multi-cloud movement has grown immensely powerful with the onset of new technologies and the proliferation of niche and specific services. And establishing control over it isn't that easy.

To achieve a successful multi-cloud strategy, companies must balance the trade-offs. And that's never straightforward. In that regard, here's a closer look at the need to shift to multi-cloud and how to ward off the complexities.

The Need to Adapt to Multi-cloud

Organizations have been embracing the cloud to meet the immediate scalability requirements, but as they grow and evolve, they find themselves contending with a new set of challenges.

  • Vendor Lock-in

The web is awash with talk of vendor lock-in and how that's enough to drive a shift to multi-cloud. But, to say that vendor lock-in is a pressing concern is only partially correct. This is because there's no specific definition to this issue.

For instance, vendor lock-in for an organization could be the inability to move data between different cloud services or unwillingly using a provider-specific component to integrate multiple services. Alternatively, it could be an unfixable change that could cause data loss or raise concern over data integrity.

In that sense, it may/may not be a pressing concern and would depend on the enterprise's perception of the same. Nevertheless, vendor lock-in is an issue that needs to be dealt with, and multi-cloud presents itself as one of the most feasible methods to do so.

A survey shows that almost 80% of the companies report vendor lock-in as their primary reason for shifting to a multi-cloud strategy.

  • CAPEX and OPEX

At the heart of every successful cloud strategy is the cost-effectiveness it can bring. That saving can be amped up with the careful application of a multi-cloud strategy.

Most notably, multi-cloud offers an opportunity for businesses to reduce the financial burden of working with a single cloud provider or at least make it a lot more cost-effective by optimizing workloads.

It could further help avert a situation where an enterprise had to overinvest in more capacity for handling an expected spike in demand for cloud services. In that light, it's noteworthy that the cost-effectiveness of the multi-cloud solutions depends on how well they align with the business objectives and the need to shift to multi-cloud, in the first case.

"Though cost savings are a purported benefit of moving to the cloud...promised savings don't always materialize. Thus, it's vital to fully map out and understand all costs involved in using a hybrid multi-cloud before jumping into those clouds."

-Tittel et al., Multicloud Portability by Red Hat

  • Innovation

Perhaps the biggest advantage (and necessity) of shifting to multi-cloud is the opportunity to experiment with new services, platforms, and technologies using existing infrastructure. For instance, AWS has some features that aren't available with Azure and vice versa.

These unique capabilities may prove valuable for a particular enterprise and help accelerate innovation in the sense that each application would have a specifically tailored service or platform for support.

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Complexities to Consider and Tips on Getting it Right

Although the need to shift to multi-cloud is apparent, navigating through each facet associated with it is not that easy. Here are a few seldom-discussed intricacies and their solutions:

  • The Security Issue

From configuration defects to poor vendor architecture, the multi-cloud landscape is complicated by security risks that could lead to data leaks and performance issues. In fact, a recent study indicates that more than 90% of enterprises worry about security complexities in the multi-cloud landscape.

Since cloud security isn't limited to the provider's network and includes securing data in transit, ensuring that systems and applications run in secure environments is imperative.

As such, there's always a need for a thorough analysis of each cloud vendor's infrastructure and its extensive security measures to ensure the most secure environment possible. More so, a robust architecture is required to avoid data loss/infringement.

Researchers from the University of Constantine propose a viable solution for dealing with data-integrity-related security issues. They suggest going for:

  1. Virtual Private Network (VPN) to minimize the loss of data.
  2. Crypted Authentication with both public and private keys contributing to the safeguard during transit.
  • The Migration Problem

What if the chosen solution is incompatible with the existing infrastructure or applications? Or the new cloud service that looks promising seems to be a misfit for the enterprise for compliance reasons? The scenario could lead to unnecessary downtime and even an increase in operational costs.

And finding a way to manage disruption and downtime typically causes a major concern for businesses as they transition to multi-cloud. The concern is further accentuated if there's a need for regular updates.

In that regard, looking for solutions to the problem and clearly defining the target to be achieved would be a good start. Conventional thinking suggests a comprehensive strategy for managing disruptions, downtime, and updates with a defined timeline for each phase.

Nevertheless, a concrete approach is to use the experience with the existing and the present cloud partners alongside the knowledge of resource and performance metrics to the best effect.

Here's a short checklist that can be followed:

  1. Survey and compare the applications/services present in the envisioned and the current cloud partner's offerings.
  2. Confirm whether there's a need to introduce new applications or services not available in the previous cloud partner by characterizing workloads.
  3. Try migrating one of the applications to test the migration process and trace any unforeseen difficulties.
  • The Disaster Recovery Challenge

The challenge of multi-cloud is amplified when it comes to implementing a viable disaster recovery solution. In fact, the most critical concern for businesses looking for disaster recovery in their cloud strategies is how to seamlessly synchronize cloud data across multiple clouds.

Researchers reveal several challenges to disaster recovery in the multi-cloud environment with special emphasis on dependency, failure detection, and a lack of redundancy.

First off, anyone operating the cloud wouldn't have entire control over the system's data. As such, dependency could become a cause of concern. Secondly, there are times when failure detection takes longer than usual, thus, keeping the system inoperable for long. Finally, the conventional procedure of activating the secondary site when the primary site is down might not allow "synchronous [and] asynchronous replication to a backup site."

Much like the challenge, the solution to this problem is mostly intrinsic. The high availability and scalability options of the cloud enable failures to be detected within time. Employing trained professionals to manage the disaster recovery plan could be a viable option for a smooth process.

Summing Up

From security concerns to synchronization issues, many challenges pass through the mind when plans for multi-cloud are determined. Fortunately, there's always a viable fix to each of the problems. The key is to rely on sound judgment and to plan ahead.

Besides, what's clear is that organizations that are transitioning to multi-cloud will have to continuously reduce operational complexity. That could be done by carefully dissecting the requirements and preparing for smooth transitions while working with an expert technology partner who can provide the right guidance.

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