Companies are adopting the cloud at an unprecedented rate. In a recent report by Dimensional Research, of 650 global IT professionals, 91 percent will deploy a new workload to cloud this year; 77 percent will deploy to multiple clouds; 45 percent will deploy cloud-based apps to co-lo providers.
Clearly, decision makers are no longer talking about a single hybrid cloud solution where their datacenter is linked to one public cloud. They’re adopting a multi-cloud solution.
What’s driving the trend?
Simply put, it’s the needs of the business. Recent quotes from a couple of IT executives shed light on this:
“I want to be able to tell our business units, ‘If you want to stand up services on the NBC private cloud, go ahead. We have the technologies and the operating processes to do that. And when it’s time to move appropriate workloads to a public cloud, we have the technologies and the operational processes to do that too.’”
– Eric Craig, CTO, NBC Universal
“My goal for hybrid cloud infrastructure is to provide a “brokerage service” for IT functions such as server provisioning and application provisioning. We want to not only provide internal services on demand, but the flexibility to move in and out of the cloud down the road. How do I make internal services as flexible as an AWS or Azure? How do I make our business look at us like a service?”
– Paul Reyes, Vice President of IT I&O, Energy Future Holdings
IT wants to be a strategic partner with the business. They want to offer flexibility to meet changing business needs. Call it IT-as-a-Service. Call it hybrid cloud. Or, just call it multi-cloud. Whatever you call it, the key is that we want solutions that are best “fit for purpose,” considering various business needs. No single approach will meet all needs, hence the multi-cloud strategy.
I’ve said before that we’re still in the early stages of the cloud game. It’s a complex, evolving competition whose rules seem to change from inning to inning. IT executives want to offer IT services that are a best fit for their business needs. One thing is certain in the cloud game: cloud strategies and IT service offerings will change over time. If you have a 5-part cloud strategy, 2 of those 5 parts will likely change in the next 18 months. Having the flexibility to shift strategy, do and then undo to meet changing business needs without lock-in and without penalty when you change your mind is what we need. That is what will win the game in the cloud era.
It Gets Complicated
Flexibility and ability to change is great in concept. But complexity gets in the way.
Let’s say you start simple. You move a couple applications to AWS to leverage their global IaaS. But then you have various user roles that need access. Dev needs access, but production doesn’t want developers to have access once the workload moves to production. Then maybe you add multiple accounts on that cloud – one for the project office for strategic projects and another for production. Project office has a fixed annual budget, where production is pay per use. Perhaps workloads get spread across a couple availability zones. Then, perhaps you have another BU that wants to use a different cloud for their work.
You get the picture. Even if you start with one application moved to the public cloud, you need to think about where this is likely headed.
NTT Communications published a survey of nearly 1,600 Information and Communications Technology decision makers in Europe and the U.S. Forty-one percent of respondents said managing multiple cloud vendors is confusing. The same percentage also said moving complex applications was, “more trouble than it’s worth.” But at the same time, 90 percent of decision-makers say their most important applications will move to the cloud.
There’s no doubt about it – businesses need a way to leverage the power and benefit of the cloud, while managing the operational risk. I’m not talking about cloud security. I’m talking about the challenge that comes from managing multiple applications, on multiple clouds, with multiple groups of users, and multiple accounts and financial control plans, with various cost reporting requirements.
Organizations need consistency when it comes to multi-cloud. That consistency needs to start with cloud management.
For the foreseeable future, any IT strategy that involves using public cloud should consider cloud-agnostic tools. Management and orchestration tools should not be tied to any particular cloud. They should also provide companies with the ability to manage applications with a common level of visibility and control across platforms, as well as manage users, and cloud accounts, and billing plans.
So what should organizations look for in a multi-cloud tool? I have to agree with David Linthicum of InfoWorld.com: public cloud management should be decoupled from any specific public cloud provider. You don’t want to replace internal management silos (network, storage, compute) with public cloud IaaS, and then create new management silos (one for Amazon Web Services team and tools, one for VMware, one for Microsoft etc.)
It’s complicated – but doesn’t have to be hard
For a long time, I’ve championed the advantages of a federated cloud strategy. It’s why I think CliQr CloudCenter is the best multi-cloud management platform out there. CloudCenter is a single platform designed to deploy and manage application stacks on any supported cloud. Currently it can manage applications on more than 15+ datacenters, private cloud and public cloud environments.
It is application-centric, unlike many infrastructure-centric cloud management platforms. It’s a combination of cloud agonistic application profile, with cloud-specify orchestrator, making it fast and easy to model, migrate, and manage applications without changing the application, without cloud-specific scripting, and new management silos. On top of that, it deploys full application stacks in a way that preserves portability.
More importantly, CloudCenter gives organizations a consistent base for their clouds to work off of. And when you have consistency across a multi-cloud architecture, you have the basis for a winning strategy.