The antidote for multi-cloud complexity is unified management

Start counting off multi-cloud benefits and you soon run out of fingers:

  • Avoid vendor lock-in
  • Match the right tool for the job
  • Democratized access to stakeholders
  • Balance performance and cost

Of course, there’s always a catch. For multi-clouds, one of the big gotchas is complexity. A recent MIT Technology Review/VMware study (pdf) found that 57 percent of the senior IT managers surveyed report technical and skills challenges were “critical learnings” from their multi-cloud implementations. This was topped only by security (62 percent) and integrating legacy systems (59 percent). Mark Baker reports on the study on Computer Business Review.

Source: MIT Technology Review Custom

What to do when you reach the multi-cloud ‘tipping point’

Sooner or later, your multi-cloud setup will reach what David Linthicum refers to as the “tipping point” at which “the number of services you use exceeds your ability to properly manage them.” In a TechTarget article, Linthicum writes that the exact tipping point varies based on your company’s size, the complexity of the services you use, security/governance matters, and your staff’s skill set.

Linthicum lists four factors that indicate your multi-cloud will benefit from a third-party cloud management platform such as Morpheus:

  1. Are your developers unhappy about how long it takes for them to allocate resources to their applications?
  2. Are your managers uncertain about who is responsible for the security of specific cloud resources?
  3. Are your users griping about performance glitches, many of which are caused by applications not getting the cloud resources they need?
  4. Are you unable to charge back cloud costs to the appropriate departments and users?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should consider using a multi-cloud management platform (CMP). Your developers benefit by being able to allocate various cloud resources to their apps directly and on-demand via GUI or API/CLI. A CMP also makes it easy to track who is provisioning specific resources and confirm that they are properly securing the workloads.

The smart folks over at Gartner have spent hundreds of hours talking to customers and vendors to come up with what is a pretty slick framework to think about the CMP space. In their “wheel” you can see the core categories of capability. There are tools that provide one of these capabilities across multiple cloud platforms. There are also tools that provide a range of these features within a narrow set of platforms. And then there are the unicorns… truly multi-function and multi-platform CMPs such as Morpheus.

Source: Gartner Evaluation Criteria for Cloud Management Platforms
Your multi-cloud strategy must meet the needs of multiple stakeholders

In the modern multi-cloud world, companies need a way to move between public and private clouds quickly, simply, and reliably. The only way to accomplish this is by cutting through the inherent complexity of multiple individual services, as BusinessWorld‘s David Webster explains. The key is to shift your focus to collaboration: place the customer experience in the center by creating “new customer engagement models.”

Improving the customer experience, managing costs, and enhancing DevOps velocity are all possible with the right multi-cloud orchestration approach, one that treats Infrastructure teams, Developers, and Business users as equal citizens. Collaboration and partnerships are easier to establish when all parties share the platform that delivers the apps and underlying analytics that drive the business forward.

These personas have different needs however, so it’s key to strike a balance that delivers on their key need without compromising that of the others. For example, IT operations teams have KPIs around security and service levels which tends to lead to more conservative approaches to technology adoption. Developer teams on the other hand, are all about velocity and continuous innovation. Business teams care about differentiation and innovation but not at the expense of reputation or cost.

Business and IT Operations: Security, cost, and cross-cloud management

TechRepublic‘s Alison DeNisco Rayome reports that 86 percent of cloud technology decision makers at large enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy. The benefits cited by the executives include improved IT infrastructure management and flexibility (33 percent), improved cost management (33 percent), and enhanced security and compliance (30 percent).

Transitioning to a cloud-first IT operation is bound to entail overcoming inertia, adjusting to changing roles, and learning new skills. Realizing multi-cloud benefits requires overcoming challenges in three areas in particular, according to CloudTech‘s Gaurav Yadav:

  1. Public cloud security. While the security of the public cloud is considered robust, the transit of data from on-premises infrastructure to the public cloud needs to be carefully planned and implemented.
  2. Cost accounting. Multi-cloud commoditizes cloud resources by letting users choose the services that best meet their specific needs. To accomplish this, enterprise IT must transition from vendor-enforced workflows to a vendor-agnostic infrastructure.
  3. Unified cross-cloud view. The goal is to give users a single management platform that lets them visualize and implement workloads using multiple cloud services that are viewed as a single resource rather than as “isolated entities.”

Developers: New kids with new demands

What do developers need out of the multi-cloud management equation? They are interested in full API/CLI access, infrastructure as code, and speed of deployment. As David Feuer writes on Medium, the proliferation of developer products and services is matched by increases in use cases and backend technical complexity. Feuer recommends building your multi-cloud strategy from the ground up, putting APIs and developers first.

Developers want to use cutting-edge tools to create modern apps. The results of the 2018 Stackoverflow Developer Survey show that when choosing an employer, developers’ second-highest priority — after salary and benefits — is the languages, frameworks, and other technologies they will be working with. Considering that more than half of the developers surveyed have had their current job for less than two years, it pays for companies to give talented developers access to the tools they need to excel.

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