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Multi-Cloud Environment—The Next Stage in Cloud Evolution

The right multi-cloud strategy promises greater efficiency, delivers self-service for users, and ensures proper oversight of multiple business disciplines.

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Xavier Arnau

With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), public cloud, and hybrid clouds firmly established as components of the modern IT infrastructure, the next evolution is multi-cloud computing, which combines myriad cloud technologies to meet the changing needs of business.

Often confused with hybrid cloud, multi-cloud computing encompasses more than one public cloud and is generally thought of as an implementation and management strategy. Multi-cloud is not a specific technology portfolio and typically spans multiple vendors. In comparison, hybrid cloud is an underlying architecture that melds private and public clouds. Most enterprises turn to a multi-cloud approach to avoid dependency on a single public cloud provider. Adopting a multi-cloud strategy is also driven by shadow IT, where individual groups engage services from different cloud providers based on their specific application and workload needs. 

IDC predicts that over 85% of enterprise IT organizations will commit to multi-cloud architectures by 2018, according to its Worldwide Cloud 2017 Predictions research. Another survey by RightScale found enterprises running an average of 1.8 public clouds and 2.3 private clouds, an indicator that multi-cloud strategies are quickly gaining traction.

One of the upsides to a multi-cloud approach is accelerating innovation. By optimizing a coordinated mix of cloud-based technologies, IT organizations can enable different departments and user communities to adopt next-generation applications and workloads as part of digital transformation. This provides the flexibility to run them where they will perform best. For example, an e-commerce digital business initiative might require a cloud platform that is tuned for maximum scalability while another data-intensive workload might demand a cloud platform built specifically to harness large pools of storage.

Service Broker to the Business

As organizations mix and match multiple clouds for digital transformation across applications and workloads, they can lose sight of the big picture. This can create problems that range from gaps in visibility to data governance woes if organizations neglect to adopt a holistic approach to multi-cloud management.

“A line-of-business department licenses a specific vendor’s cloud environment and doesn’t want to move off because they have become accustomed to using that specific cloud platform, or it may become a de facto standard within the company,” explains René Bostic, technical vice president, IBM Cloud, North America. “Over time, additional departments adopt different cloud technologies and they don’t necessarily understand how the various cloud offerings fit into the broader corporate IT architecture.”

CIOs can take charge of how multi-cloud evolves in their organizations by taking a strategic approach. CIOs should first understand the requirements of the business and coordinate with the CFO to get the full financial picture of multi-cloud efficiencies and tradeoffs. They should also prioritize engagement with a credible partner that can help facilitate management of the disparate environment at a holistic level.

Perhaps the most important step to ensuring a successful multi-cloud chapter is for CIOs to establish IT as the broker of all cloud services. With the right set of solutions and the proper partner, IT organizations can create an efficient multi-cloud environment that mitigates error-prone, manual processes; delivers a self-service user experience; and provides oversight of highly critical disciplines that cross the boundaries of multiple clouds.

“The IT organization has to come forward and become a broker of services across multiple cloud environments so departments don’t have to worry about security, scalability, and governance,” Bostic explains. “That’s how CIOs can step in and show their strength.”

To learn more about IBM’s approach to multi-cloud, click here