Multi-cloud mania: What organisations should take into account when considering a multi-cloud environment

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A recent report by IDC suggested that in the next 12 months, 43 per cent of organisations are planning to incorporate a cloud-first IT strategy as a high-priority. However, these days, cloud is no longer just a single choice. Increasingly, organisations are looking towards adopting a multi-cloud strategy, with Gartner even predicting that 70 per cent of enterprises will be in the process of implementing a strategy such as this by 2019.

The many benefits of the cloud, such as scalability, security, cost and flexibility, mean it’s not surprising that many organisations are turning towards it. Nevertheless, it takes more than just simply understanding these benefits in order to succeed with a multi-cloud strategy as a whole.

The multi-cloud challenge

There can be any number of cloud options, both public and private, that are available to businesses – herein lies the challenge when it comes to multi-cloud. Take the public cloud for one, the vast amount of options include vendors like AWS, Azure and IBM, and then a multitude of different deployment methods including Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and Platform-as-a-Service. 

On top of these, there are also the many private cloud options, either managed internally or delivered by service providers, who are able to offer more specialised and targeted end-to-end services. These can aid businesses in meeting individual vertical sectors’ objectives – all with minimal in-house effort and expertise.

The choices for cloud technology then are countless, with the purchasing options in a similar pool. Additionally, organisations are faced with choosing whether to bundle its multi-cloud with add-on capabilities such as analytics, or whether just cloud platforms are enough. With all of this to take on board, no wonder organisations are struggling to make the decision to pick the perfect combination of clouds – so, how do you make the choice?

Each potential cloud vendor is able to offer its own advantages for a specific aspect of a business – whether it is around cost, flexibility, scalability or something else entirely. However, it usually takes a case-by-case basis to figure out which cloud vendor is the most suitable for which application. For example, the cloud solution that is the most apt for sharing a sales teams internal resource won’t automatically be the best one to deploy a customer service AI application.

It’s important that organisations looking to adopt the cloud identify the different ways the critical services and applications on offer are consumed, as well as bandwidth, storage and compute requirements, before deciding on which options to take.

Considerations for cloud migration

It can be fairly straightforward to utilise the cloud for file sharing or storage, but when it comes to application migration from on-premises to the cloud, it’s not always so easy. For one, applications cannot simply be dragged and dropped into the cloud environment, so there needs to be some redesigning of the program to aid in maximising app compatibility.

The first things organisations should consider when moving apps to the cloud, is the format, composition, and purpose of the app. Unlike on-premises applications, many cloud-based apps are designed as a collection of individual services that are all drawn from data that can be stored in an entirely different repository.

Being able to factor this into a multi-cloud environment comes down to assessing the requirements of each aspect – elements such as how fast the data needs to be accessed, or thinking about which departments needs to actually use the service for their service delivery should be taken into account. Cloud infrastructure deployments need to be made bearing in mind the individual aspects of each of these considerations.

Additionally, there is also the question of making sure there are the correct cloud provisions for new app deployment and progression. The recent IDC and Zerto study showed that 31 per cent of organisations realised that they are already running cloud-native apps, and that 25 per cent plan to deploy more in the next year, meaning that app requirements will become a key decider in cloud procurement decisions. For example, Azure or EC2 provide automatic auto-scaling, which can elastically adjust the cloud capacity based on application usage – something that is particularly useful for web-based services where customer demand could lead to burst and scale up considerations. Essentially, this auto scaling encourages applications to perform optimally, regardless of changing demands, and can allow for custom metric considerations that an organisation can define based around its personal requirements.

On the other hand, static applications, or those architected for virtual or physical environments, may benefit more from leveraging private cloud services. This is also the circumstance if there is a business case for externalising the operational aspects of the IT environment.

Continual management of the multi-cloud environment

After selecting the components and creating the multi-cloud strategy, the next issue an organisation faces is how to maintain and monitor it – after all, day-to-day cloud needs may not always be the same. Fundamentally, the plan needs to be flexible, and monitored on an on-going basis to ensure maximum net benefit. Choosing a solution that enables change in line with evolving business needs – while removing risk and avoiding vendor lock-in – provides a higher chance of success with multi-cloud, and the best overall benefits for the organisation in question.

In many cases, there is no actual way to be entirely sure that an individual cloud platform will deliver on its promises for a specific use case, unless its tested first hand. Nevertheless, in order to do this, businesses need the confidence that, should the specific platform not work out, they can easily transfer their data back on-premises or to another provider without any extra effort required.

Additionally, its imperative that all data and applications be backed up and protected no matter what on-premises or cloud environment they are in. Currently, four out of five organisations (78 per cent) protect less than three-quarters of their apps. This leaves an astounding number of potentially critical applications unprotected – something a comprehensive multi-cloud management strategy should address.

The ultimate multi-cloud adoption strategy

Mobility and management are at the heart of finding success when it comes to migrating to a multi-cloud environment and maintaining an ongoing multi-cloud strategy. After all, it’s important to ensure that an organisation can get all of its applications and data into the cloud, in the correct place, with the services in place to access the data needed to operate – and be able to move them somewhere else if required.

Whether an organisation chooses to adopt a public or private cloud, having a centralised management platform can be the difference between isolated deployments with data protection vulnerabilities and an actual, all-encompassing multi-cloud strategy. Being able to leverage such a platform that can aid in transitioning critical applications with no disruption at all to end-user services, and that is interoperable among environments, will help to solidify IT plans and guarantee that they are resilient for the future.

It’s certainly an ongoing process when it comes to optimising applications for the cloud, and one that should be continuously evaluated. After all, there is no one cloud or set of cloud environments that can simply solve all of an organisation’s cost, flexibility and scalability needs. Seeking advice from technology partners and independent consultants that are knowledgeable in combining cloud solutions is something that many organisations should consider, as this can be helpful not only for the initial set up, but throughout the continual maintenance and management of a new multi-cloud environment.

Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Technology Evangelist, Zerto
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