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One Cloud Doesn’t Fit All

Why multi-cloud is the best strategy for the business

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Credit: Dell EMC

One Cloud Doesn’t Fit All

Wait, I thought we had a cloud strategy?

Just when you thought you had your cloud strategy set, another request comes in from one of the lines of business that, of course, doesn’t quite align with the aforementioned strategy. If you push back, does the application owner fall in line and try to adapt or do they go rogue? Too often, it ends up being the latter. And oftentimes we ask, who can blame them? Especially when business units have been tasked with developing and pushing out a new consumer-facing application that does align with another organizational objective--digital transformation. And that objective could make or break the business. They have a mandate, and you do as well. How can this be reconciled? I offer that a multi-cloud strategy, serves just that purpose. According to RightScale in their recent State of the Cloud Report, cloud users are running applications in 8 clouds on average. In simple terms, that means utilizing the right cloud to the right purpose. The approach includes a variety of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms to address needs in the following areas:

1.     Infrastructure

2.     Workloads

3.     Applications

The example above is just one of the many challenges facing organizations of all sizes, in every geography and in every industry as they plan and execute a path to digital transformation. While many are turning to the adoption of cloud to help address these challenges, most are realizing this approach encompasses more than spinning up virtual machines in someone else’s data center. Whether storage tiering, long-term retention, general-purpose workloads, or platform services, organizations share a common dilemma: the need to innovate while taking advantage of existing investments in both people and technology. Many IT organizations don’t have the luxury of hiring new resources or “borrowing” resources from existing teams in order to learn and implement a new set of tools and processes for each technology they’d like to introduce into the stack. All, while keeping the lights on to ensure the business continues to function.

For decades, IT organizations have strived to become a true partner to the business, but the misalignment of strategies among other factors has historically prevented this. Now, more than any other time, it’s vital to make this a reality. This allows IT to become a true enabler of the business, rather than being viewed as an incidental inhibitor. As different industries are being disrupted, business reaction is swift, whether to avoid being displaced or to achieve critical, first-mover advantage, and in most cases, moves faster than IT. This sometimes leaves IT in the unenviable position of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole…with a jackhammer, or of being left out of the picture completely. The snowball effect created along the way presents even greater challenges when focusing on security and compliance.

IT organizations are constantly trying to figure out how to maintain a level of control while enabling the business to be agile enough to make this critical transformation. Many organizations have adopted a cloud-first approach but it’s generally a single private or hybrid-cloud model best suited for general-purpose workloads. While this may satisfy a large number of existing requirements, it’s not a panacea to solve future challenges. Adopting a true multi-cloud strategy can ensure the flexibility required for innovation while maintaining a certain level of governance and control.

If it were easy…

What’s preventing every organization from adopting a true multi-cloud approach today if it’s that simple? The reasons range in scope from internal politics, to changing business requirements, to the slow pace of solutions in the market to enable it. From a technology perspective, there are layers of complexity involved that underscore why it’s taken us this long to get here. To achieve a true multi-cloud approach, we must address four areas of cloud interoperability:

1.     Management & Provisioning

2.     Network Connectivity

3.     Security & Protection

4.     Data Access

While we can’t cover these topics in detail in this post, we can give a brief overview of each of the areas to get you thinking:

1.     Management & Provisioning. A unified management and orchestration layer is required in order to both provision and manage the life-cycle of workload. If separate tools are required, separate teams may be required as well, and this increases cost and complexity rather than streamlining operations and driving cost savings. This common management layer should also provide visibility for the operations team.

2.     Network Connectivity. You must have ubiquitous network connectivity to allow the right workloads to communicate while at the same time preventing any unauthorized access to the workloads that don’t. If and when the workloads move from one cloud to another, off-premises to on-premises, these polices must follow in order to remain agile.

3.     Security & Protection. As a variety of workloads are spread across multiple platforms, both on and off-premises, IT requires the ability to not only protect the data, but also control access to it. As your consumer-facing footprint increases, so does your attack surface. Ultimately, you can outsource the responsibility, but you can’t outsource the accountability.

4.     Data Access. As noted earlier, a variety of services will be required to enable digital transformation, and this includes a mix of traditional applications and non-traditional sources, such as social media. The inability to exchange information freely can severely hamper your ability to create the applications required to transform.

What’s my next move?

This may seem obvious, but in order to stay competitive you must think and act like a startup. And that means a culture shift from the top down to enable speed and flexibility, full stop. In today’s age of ever-evolving technology and a budding digital economy, viability demands you break free from the idea of a multi-year technology roadmap. Instead, concentrate on an innovation plan over the next 12–18 months realizing that that plan must include the ability to move quickly and have the flexibility to change course at any given moment.

Be proactive and reach out to the different lines of business to understand their short and long-term needs, determine what you can deliver and broker the remaining. By partnering with the business, you’re better able to understand potential risk and implement proper controls. Standing in the way only further delays the transition and impedes greater organizational goals.

While it’s difficult for most well-established organizations to make this transition, it’s a must if you plan to survive in the long term. This may sound like dire consequences, but it’s the reality as new startups looking to create new markets and disrupt existing ones are cropping up every day around the world.

Chris Cicotte is the Director of Cloud Marketing for Dell Technologies, focused on telling the story of our customers’ success as they execute against their cloud strategy to power their digital transformation. When he’s not cycling on the road or driving his Jeep off-road, he prefers to spend time with his wife and three children. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chris_Cicotte.

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