Multi-Cloud Strategy: Challenges and Impediments to Adoption (Part 1 of 3)
BY VISHAL DESHPANDE
Cloud adoption is becoming a common IT strategy among enterprises and government agencies. Creating a multi-cloud strategy when considering cloud adoption, in concurrence with setting governance structures and data security architectures is crucial. When implemented correctly, organizations are able to maintain their cloud instances in a single security architecture, securing the movement of data across applications, ultimately reducing cybersecurity risk. In Part 1 of our 3 part blog series, FI’s Vishal Deshpande explains why organizations need to begin to plan for using multiple cloud service providers, and what challenges they may face in adoption.
What is a Multi-Cloud strategy and why it is needed?
Multi-cloud is the use of cloud computing and storage services from two or more cloud service providers for enterprise application needs. A Multi-cloud strategy is choosing to be multi-cloud by design. This series explores how establishing a multi-cloud strategy from the ground up benefits organizations, allowing them to integrate services from various providers while staying within the established data governance and data security controls.
Organizations today are already dealing with multiple cloud platforms and services in the form of Office 365, SharePoint, Salesforce platform services, and normally some form of managed cloud infrastructure. With cloud adoption and cloud-first strategy becoming central to organizations’ IT landscapes, many organizations are looking at multiple cloud vendors for their cloud resource needs. Organizations realize that each cloud provider brings unique capabilities to the table – some are better at the core infrastructure resource provisioning and data management capabilities while others provide better data analytics and machine learning services. Organizations are also looking to avoid vendor lock-ins imposed by a single-cloud stack strategy and balance the cloud costs by exploring multi-cloud strategies.
“Wells Fargo’s plans to be a digital first bank revolve around multi-cloud infrastructure involving Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Under the new multi-cloud strategy, Microsoft Azure will handle compute and cloud infrastructure for critical workloads while Google cloud will be used for complex workloads involving machine learning and big data.” – ZDNet
The use of gov-cloud and public-cloud environments by organizations can also be considered multi-cloud since these are essentially two separate and isolated cloud environments that can be provisioned under a single or multiple cloud vendors.
Organizations look to implement multi-cloud strategies for the following reasons:
- Improved disaster resiliency and risk mitigation – Organizations using a multi-cloud strategy for their disaster recovery are more resilient to outages. While many cloud vendors provide a distributed DR with the systems spread across different geographic regions, there exists a possibility of an outage at the cloud provider level like an S3 outage which will make it impossible to get your backups stored in S3 or an attack at the cloud provider that forces the organizations to take their systems offline to ensure their data and systems security. Deploying critical systems across multiple cloud services provides additional fault tolerance. This strategy minimizes the threat of extensive data loss or downtime due to component failure in the cloud. The use of a multi-cloud strategy reduces an organization’s exposure to a single point for failure.
- Flexibility and freedom from vendor lock-ins – Each cloud provider has special features and abilities. The use of a multi-cloud strategy provides organizations with choices to pick the best services for their needs from multiple cloud service providers.
- Greater marketability for their products – For product-based organizations, having the ability to make their products available on multiple cloud platforms improves the marketability of their products.
- Innovations – Leveraging a multi-cloud strategy allows organizations to use the best-in-class services from multiple cloud providers to suit your business and project goals.
- Cost and performance balancing – Organizations are able to strike a balance between cost and performance using a combination of best price options and best performance offerings from the cloud vendors. For example, you can choose between Azure’s low priority VMs, AWS spot instances, or preemptible VMs from Google for some low-priority applications and short-lived services and switch to reserved instances from these cloud providers for critical long running jobs.
- Mergers and acquisitions – A merged entity may find itself looking at different cloud platforms due to the choices of the organizations being merged into one.
- IT Service providers and Integrators – Service providers must often deal with different cloud platforms for different customers and would benefit from having a multi-cloud strategy that can bring the best practices and lessons learnt across multiple cloud vendors.
Challenges and impediments to adopting a multi-cloud strategy
While organizations recognize the challenges that a single cloud strategy represents, they still delay the implementation of a multi-cloud strategy. One deterrent is the complexity of data governance and security controls required to adopt a multi-cloud strategy. Due to this, organizations currently evaluate integration of cloud services from multiple providers on a need basis. What they miss out when doing so is the application of data governance and security controls that they choose to relax for a one-off project. This leads to the concept of “Shadow IT” where business units end up adopting and using cloud technology stacks for their needs independent of the organization’s IT department.
While there are definite benefits to adopting a multi-cloud strategy, there are also certain impediments.
- A single cloud strategy is often simple and easy to implement and manage and can be done by a single team within the organization.
- A multi-cloud strategy brings additional complexities for security and governance. The security and governance controls need to be spread across all the cloud platforms used by the organization and must account for the variance in the setup of these for each platform.
- Managing data across multiple cloud platform becomes challenging. The questions on data ownership and data locations as well as access controls from applications running on different cloud platforms become critical. Multi-cloud environments complicate the designing of the data process and control flow structures across these platforms.
- Monitoring for key performance indicators becomes challenging in a multi-cloud environment as each cloud provider has their own toolset for monitoring and troubleshooting. There is a lack of a consolidated monitoring platform for centrally managing the cloud resources across multiple cloud providers.
- There is lack of consolidated billing as each cloud provider bills the organization separately and it becomes the responsibility of the organization’s finance and procurement department to manage the costs from different cloud providers.
- Finding the right people for the job is challenging in a multi-cloud environment as most cloud systems and interfaces vary. Finding people with knowledge of every cloud system is challenging.
Despite the impediments, organizations still need to consider a multi-cloud strategy for their cloud adoption as there are compelling reasons and solutions to each impediment. For example,
- The simplicity of single-cloud strategy is offset by the freedom from vendor lock-ins and greater resiliency to disasters that you get from multi-cloud architectures.
- For security and governance, organizations need to form a collective team comprising of the stakeholders and subject matter experts from different cloud platforms that can create a comprehensive security and governance control structures for cloud resource provisioning and management that spans all cloud environments.
- Having a central data lake that shares data between cloud environments allows organizations to use the best cloud resources from multiple cloud providers to their advantage. Federated Data driven service design is critical to adopting a multi-cloud strategy. This creates a common interface for all data query and reporting requirements that can be integrated into applications running on different cloud platforms.
- Central monitoring can be achieved using external third-party tools like Splunk SIEN and Elastic SIEM platforms that can collect logs and performance metrics from resources spread across multiple cloud platforms.
- If the use of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) is part of your cloud strategy, then the MSPs can provide the organization with consolidated billing.
- When adopting multi-cloud approach, you need to consider cloud specific specialists for the cloud vendors you work with. Additionally, it is a good practice to establish a cloud Center of Excellence (CoE) within the organizations that includes the cloud specialists from each of the cloud platforms you work with.
Now that we understand the importance of a multi-cloud approach and the challenges associated with adoption, how does your company/agency go about establishing an organization wide multi-cloud strategy? We invite you to learn more by joining us on October 20th for part 2 of our blog series.
If you are interested in learning more about how FI Consulting can support your organization in developing a successful multi-cloud strategy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 571.255.6900.