For the enterprise, the future of the cloud is in multiplicity. In their latest “state of the cloud” report, Rackspace has identified hybrid and multi-cloud implementations as “today’s strategy of choice for the enterprise” given that the majority of respondents either already have an existing multi-cloud infrastructure (77%) or are planning for hybrid clouds (47%). Although I agree with the overall premise of that conclusion, I am reluctant to accept that enterprises are adopting a multi-cloud “strategy” by choice – rather, I believe that enterprise multi-cloud adoption is driven largely by necessity and /or by “accidents” (aka unsanctioned “Shadow IT” clouds).
Today, the majority of IT organizations are struggling for survival, they realize that in order to stay relevant they must transform from a mere technology integrator to a business innovator and enabler. As a result, they have very little desire to be sucked into complex and resource intensive cloud integration work and would happily settle for a single cloud – it is simpler to manage and quicker to provision. On the other hand, enterprises also recognize that the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all and that their requirements cannot all be met by a single cloud provider and/or cloud deployment model. Moreover, most of them already live the multi-cloud reality: a fragmented cloud applications environment born out of hasty cloud deployments – either by enterprise IT or lines of business. So, multi-cloud deployments are, and will continue to be, the norm and IT organizations have no other option but to embrace them.
As enterprises start wrestling with multi-cloud deployments they are bound to come to a few important conclusions:
Adopting a multi-cloud deployment can help organizations attain an effective cloud strategy. A multi-cloud infrastructure can improve business continuity through geographical and platform diversity, can enhance a solution’s resiliency and cost effectiveness, and can help avoid vendor lock-in while leveraging vendor competition to achieve better features and cost options. In addition, the ability to distribute and move workloads across cloud providers and deployment models (private vs. public) enables organizations to quickly adapt their applications architectures based on risk, cost, and efficiency constraints.
Multi-cloud deployments are complex and don’t always return value that is comparable to their level of complexity – So, achieving a positive ROI from multi-cloud deployments requires greater effort and substantial planning. Consuming cloud services from multiple providers presents a unique mixture of commercial and technical challenges.
On the commercial front, IT organizations have to administrate and integrate multiple relationships that come with disparate cloud providers along with their respective SLAs and pricing models. Multi-cloud deployments and the expanding value chain of cloud services further complicate SLA management – it is not uncommon for cloud providers to rely on each other to deliver a portion of their cloud services (e.g. a SaaS provider sourcing its own cloud infrastructure from a third-party vendor). When dealing with cloud SLAs It’s important to focus on end-to-end service delivery and strive to manage the SLAs across the cloud provider’s supply chain. In addition, since service delivery depends on multiple providers, standardization of terminologies in the SLAs is critical for success. Finally, it is important to point out that consuming services through a multiplicity of cloud providers (especially within one application stack) can render responsibility boundaries (client-provider and provider-provider) very blurry. As a result, IT organizations should focus on establishing greater clarity of ownership and accountability across cloud providers that are part of a service delivery chain.
Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll look more closely at multi-cloud integration. In the meantime get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss cloud readiness.