by Marc Wilczek

Mastering multi-cloud scenarios

May 01, 2018
Cloud ComputingCloud ManagementHybrid Cloud

Roughly two-thirds of enterprises plan to have some type of multi-cloud environment by 2019. But getting there is still a challenge.

cloud computing business services
Credit: Getty Images / motionxcom

In step with the trend toward digital transformation, the global public cloud services market is projected to grow by 21.4 percent in 2018 to total $186.4 billion, up from $153.5 billion in 2017, according to research by Gartner.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is the fastest-growing market segment; it’s set to grow by 35.9 percent in 2018 to reach $40.8 billion. As the digital trend matures, more organizations are moving from hybrid to multi-cloud scenarios spread across a number of different providers. Since cloud computing is all about scale and volume, the market leaders will only become more dominant and make it ever harder for new kids on the block to grab a slice of the pie.

According to Gartner’s estimates, the top 10 providers will make up nearly 70 percent of the IaaS market in three years’ time, up from 50 percent in 2016.

Wanted: Simpler models

“The increasing dominance of the hyperscale IaaS providers creates both enormous opportunities and challenges for end users and other market participants,” says Sid Nag, research director at Gartner. “While it enables efficiencies and cost benefits, organizations need to be cautious about IaaS providers potentially gaining unchecked influence over customers and the market. In response to multi-cloud adoption trends, organizations will increasingly demand a simpler way to move workloads, applications and data across cloud providers’ IaaS offerings without penalties.”

Cloud computing was initially intended to simplify IT through standardization, consolidation and centralization. However, today’s enterprises are operating in more fragmented IT landscapes that combine both on-premise resources in addition to a variety of private and public cloud providers. Recent findings from Microsoft and 451 Research indicate that nearly one-third of organizations work with four or more of the latter.

 “More than ever before, customers are looking to a single trusted advisor to provide transformation-oriented managed services and hybrid implementation,” says Melanie Posey, Vice President at 451 Research, in a related Microsoft blog post. “Customers are looking to service providers to not only transform IT but also transform their entire business – to rewire the building and support new requirements, all while keeping the lights on.”

Greater choice produces serious complexity

Sixty-nine percent of respondents plan to be operating implement some kind of multi-cloud environment by 2019, according to a 451 Research press release. However, innovation and new pricing schemes are making things ever more complex and the cloud landscape more challenging to navigate than ever.

As organizations adopt multi-cloud approaches, new challenges have begun to rear their heads. Most notably, IT administrators are finding that security, agility, performance, and costs can be difficult to manage or control across varied cloud platforms. Making matters worse is that maintaining consistent regulatory compliance, confidentiality, and data segregation now eats up more time and money than ever before.

Overcoming speed bumps

To tackle the above problems, enterprises work on putting into place policies and decision frameworks that simplify the cloud landscape, consolidate purchasing power and workloads, manage data and applications, and enforce tight security.

Selecting the right target platform

While multi-cloud environments are becoming standard practice, remember that each target platform comes with different pros and cons. Thus, it’s essential to implement a decision framework that maps needs against pre-approved target platforms to ensure a quick, trouble-free migration.

Achieving Agility

As applications are moved to the cloud, they require differentiated and dynamic services to keep them up and running smoothly. As a result, many firms are using agile development frameworks to accelerate time-to-market by combining development, quality assurance and operations tasks. Mircoservices and containers can be used to great effect in these areas.

Delivering Network Performance

Being able to run, migrate, scale, and spin up cloud resources at any time means that the solution must offer quality failover and performance. Today’s routing solutions require large computing resources to scale up to the number of tunnels they can maintain at once, which can be extremely costly.

Keeping a Lid on Costs

Some public cloud providers claim to offer cost-effective virtual machines, but for network-intensive applications, the price of data transfer into and out of the cloud can quickly skyrocket. Users are often clueless how much data they are using and how much it costs to deliver it to the cloud. Whether it’s about super-sizing an environment or setting aside high-performance storage for non-critical data, managing the cost effectively remains a major challenge. Capacity planning and monitoring are essential tasks.

Ensuring Security

Whether it’s about access management, denial-of-service attack mitigation, web application firewalls, threat intelligence or encryption, cloud computing needs rock-solid, cloud-based security. Since cloud providers offer different uses and connectivity options, there’s a need for continuous security, advanced identity and access management, sophisticated logging capabilities, and stringent policy enforcement across the entire IT landscape.

For today’s cloud buyers, the world is a cornucopia of capabilities and possibilities – but it comes at the price of greater complexity. Workloads and applications have complex architecture, storage, data management and networking requirements — they are simply not interchangeable, like car parts.

Cloud platforms are helping organizations grow and manage their global computing infrastructures rapidly and efficiently, while minimizing capital expenses and delivering a superior end-user experience. The downside happens when multiple cloud platforms come into play: used together, they can create unique challenges to security, performance, agility, and cost. Service providers untangling this complexity will give themselves a serious competitive edge; cloud buyers are eagerly waiting for it.