Executing a multi-cloud strategy: Crawl, walk, run
Despite many challenges, enterprises are increasingly adopting cloud computing in an effort to become more agile, lower IT costs, and have the ability to scale.
Most of those companies have or are moving their their workloads to multiple cloud providers and are, consequently, adopting multi-cloud strategies.
But Francesco Paola, Chief Strategy Officer at Unitas Global, is skeptical about those numbers.
“Have most enterprises really adopted a multi-cloud strategy? If that does turn out to be the case, I would postulate that these enterprises are naive, because most don’t appear to have a good single-cloud strategy,” he told Help Net Security.
“Most are adopting cloud for the wrong reasons, like immediate cost savings, lift and shift without refactoring or rearchitecting and not taking full advantage of cloud-native services available in the public cloud platforms. Most also don’t invest in defining the right governance model upfront and end up running up technical debt in no time.”
The pros and cons of a multi-cloud environment
By opting to use the services of many cloud providers, companies have a much wider choice of services and can leverage the specific expertise of each of them (e.g., AI/ML in Google Cloud Platform, MSFT competencies in Azure, and the plethora of services in AWS).
Also, most of the big cloud providers maintain infrastructure and assets across the globe, so companies that must comply with regulation mandating that they have to keep their data within specific country borders can do so and still use public cloud services.
But there are also quite a few downsides.
“Multi-cloud multiplies all your training, tooling, expertise and operational (people) costs. It delivers increased complexity and a just marginal benefit compared to doing a single cloud well (unless you have a very niche use case),” Paola noted.
“Also, moving data and workloads between clouds is not as trivial as the overhyped software demos would have you believe, and services aren’t fungible across clouds, except for the simple ‘VMs in the sky’ use case.”
Finally, there are the increased connectivity charges between cloud providers.
“Most would highlight the specific services offered in a multi-cloud environment as a reason for making the switch. These services help enterprises to achieve a specific purpose. For example, there may be a specific feature that is in Google’s cloud, like AI/ML that is not as effective in AWS or Azure,” he added.
“Another consideration is certain solution vendors may certify support for specific clouds over others. Beyond that, many people opt for the least expensive provider when switching to a multi-cloud environment, but that is the last reason you’d want to increase your complexity.”
Plan before executing
All in all, his advice to enterprises is to have a strong single-cloud foundation in place before starting to develop a multi-cloud strategy.
“It’s important to get the first public cloud right. Invest in governance, up-skilling your resources and making sure that you have a partner who can accelerate your adoption and minimize technical debt. Ensuring a firm understanding of workloads that should be transferred to the public cloud and the differences between public clouds and on-premise infrastructures will make sure that the transfer is efficient and cost-effective,” he opined.
“The bottom line is, you will need to invest money in a multi-cloud system in order to get it right. Otherwise, you will incur runaway costs, technical debt and compromised security.”
Another piece of advice to CIOs is to first crawl, then walk and only then, finally, run.
Many CIOs rush into cloud adoption without taking the time to properly plan the migration, he noted. Also, they should not assume that they can transition to even one cloud in six months – these projects take time.
“Investing in a center of excellence (COE) that is tasked with driving cloud adoption will help you to properly identify pilot projects and workloads. Define the key performance indicators you are trying to achieve and what will define success for you,” he counseled.
“The easiest way for many CIOs to take their enterprise through the migration is to partner with an expert who can help with the transition over a 12-24 month period. The partner can help define the right governance model, and tailor the platforms to support the specified workloads, and ensure that internal teams are upskilled to be self-sufficient after the migration is complete. Ultimately, remember that a multi-cloud infrastructure is an immense undertaking. Don’t try to boil the ocean, take the time to plan before you begin.”