With the promise of unmatched IT flexibility, better cost structures and greater business efficiencies, the multi-cloud model is seeing strong adoption by companies of all sizes, across industries. According to Gartner, the multi-cloud market size is estimated to reach $240 billion by 2019. The concept has been defined in extremely simple terms – as using two or more cloud service providers across a single IT environment. It also incorporates the notion of hybrid IT, i.e., multi-cloud services may involve public clouds, private clouds,virtual private clouds, and other types of virtualized infrastructure such as hyperscale data centers.
The most widely understood benefit of having a multi-cloud strategy is the ability to leverage different cloud vendors, services and deployment models, enabling business users to create a highly optimized IT environment for better business outcomes. Over time, however, organizations have started to understand that the benefits extend far beyond just workload optimization and avoiding vendor lock-in. Let’s look at 5 key benefits of a multi-cloud strategy going beyond vendor flexibility:
Backing Up Your Cloud Deployments
To start with, even cloud-based applications need to be backed up. Cloud-based applications can face a number of availability and performance issues (e.g., DDoS attacks, bandwidth problems, outages). DR therefore becomes an important piece of cloud deployments. However, since DR is often an afterthought, many organizations would continue to have an on-premise DR setup, even when a majority of their applications have moved to cloud infrastructure. Having a multi-cloud approach allows organizations to back-up their cloud based resources and data on other cloud service providers. This ensure that business-critical applications and data are not just backed-up cost-effectively but can also handle highly fluctuating workloads and mitigate risks in case of a crisis.
Benefitting from a Vendor-Neutral Strategy
While avoiding vendor lock-in is seen to be a major criterion for multi-cloud adoption, organizations stand to gain greatly from creating a vendor-neutral cloud strategy. This would ensure that IT teams have the flexibility to discontinue or replace cloud vendors if they do not adhere to performance needs. Since the probability of vendor lock-in is minimized greatly, companies are in a stronger position to negotiate prices and performance expectations with their cloud vendors.
To achieve this, companies need to put together a uniform set of standards, KPIs, service levels and reporting tools for all their cloud service providers. They would also need to work towards an interoperable, API driven environment that allows seamless transfer of data between different cloud environments and applications. Using an enterprise-grade and vendor-agnostic Cloud Management Platform (CMP), like the one offered by Netmagic, goes a long way helping organizations create a vendor-neutral multi-cloud strategy.
Leveraging Microservices and APIs for Greater Business Flexibility
Having a microservice-based architecture allows business users and stakeholders to access ‘business services’ in a virtualized, multi-cloud environment. It also gives IT teams the flexibility to modify existing services and develop new ones, without worrying about the choice of cloud-platform, vendor, deployment model or technology stack used.
This microservices architecture is supported by a robust, API-driven integration approach. APIs simplify the integration of microservices, applications and data across cloud platforms as well as on-premise legacy systems. Using an API-driven approach, IT teams can effectively create a common set of guidelines for business users to access data, add resources or create new instances, irrespective of the deployment mode or cloud service provider.
Creating Business-Focused IT Teams
With a multi-cloud, microservices and API strategy, IT teams can potentially help business users chose optimal services for their needs, and not just provision resources. As companies move to multi-cloud environments (with robust Cloud Management Platforms in place), the IT organization will start moving away from resource management / maintenance and take up more business-focused roles such as performance analysis, cloud vendor strategy, cost management, workload optimization, data governance and business service orchestration.
Simplifying IT Governance
Historically, we have seen traditional IT environments to become extremely complex over time, due to new product / service introductions, M&A scenarios, businesses scaling up, budget constraints and dependency on a single technology stack for all IT needs. Most legacy IT environments have not been able to keep pace with fast-growing market and continuously changing customer expectations. For larger organizations with huge, monolithic systems, doing a complete overhaul is nearly impossible, and enhancements are therefore incremental and iterative. Governing this complex legacy environment, therefore becomes a challenge in itself.
Contrary to what many believe, a multi-cloud environment would be much simpler to manage and govern as compared to traditional, on-premise environments. With a strong, API-driven architecture, adding new functionality, creating new business services or adding scale becomes simple and seamless for users. Since a vast majority of IT resources are on cloud infrastructure, it becomes very easy to expand the existing governance framework (e.g., security, accessibility, performance monitoring, analytics, provisioning, identity management, etc.).
The new multi-cloud environment will definitely bring with it a few new challenges such as coping with new tools, developing new skills, integration issues, workload mapping, data transformation, security and effective change management. It also adds a new level of complexity to the existing IT environment, where IT teams will need to manage the legacy environment and the new multi-cloud environment simultaneously. However, the benefits outweigh these initial concerns by a long way. In the near future, adopting a multi-cloud approach might not be a matter of choice anymore, but actually become imperative to the organization’s business strategy.
Authored By Nitin Mishra, SVP & Chief Product Officer, Netmagic (An NTT Communications Company)