According to a recent IDC and Zerto report, 43% of organizations are planning a cloud-first IT strategy as a high priority in the next 12 months. But the cloud is no longer just a one-and-done technology—increasingly, organizations are talking of a multicloud strategy. Indeed, according to Gartner, 70% of enterprises will be implementing such a strategy by 2019.
In many ways, this trend is hardly surprising. Given the scalability, security, cost and flexibility of the cloud, it’s an attractive prospect for any organization. Simply knowing the benefits of the cloud, however, isn’t enough to succeed with a multicloud strategy.
The Conundrum of Many Clouds
Multicloud brings any number of cloud options, both public and private, to businesses. In the public-cloud realm, options range from platform-as-a-service environments such as AWS Elastic Beanstalk to software-as-a-service offerings such as Microsoft Office 365 and infrastructure-as-a-service environments such as AWS and Azure. In addition, private-cloud providers can offer more-specialized and more-targeted end-to-end services that are entirely managed to help businesses meet their objectives with minimal in-house effort and expertise.
The challenge is that cloud-technology choices abound, as do the purchasing options—be it bundled with add-on capabilities such as analytics or just a core cloud platform. So how does an organization decide between one and another, or any combination of clouds?
Each cloud-vendor choice has advantages for a given aspect of the business. They can be cost, flexibility, scalability and more. But these benefits are only realizable case by case; the cloud solution suitable for sharing a sales team’s internal resources isn’t necessarily the right one for a new customer-service AI application.
An organization looking to adopt the cloud should identify the ways in which it consumes critical services and applications before deciding on the best options. This approach applies to both internal and external users—both will determine the impact and practicality of implementing a cloud platform.
Considerations for Moving More Than Just Files
Although using the cloud for file sharing or storage can be straightforward, moving applications from on premises to the cloud is harder: They can’t simply be dragged and dropped into the cloud environment. Some redesigning is necessary to maximize flexibility.
When moving to the cloud, organizations must consider the application’s format, composition and purpose. For example, unlike on-premises applications, many cloud-based alternatives are designed as a collection of individual services, all drawn from data that can reside in an entirely different repository.
Factoring this situation into a multicloud environment comes down to assessing the requirements of each aspect and considering questions such as “How fast must the data be accessed?” and “Which departments need this service for their applications?” Cloud infrastructure deployments must consider individual aspects of each service.
Aside from app migration is the question of making the right cloud provisions for new app deployment and progression. In the recent IDC and Zerto study, 31% of organizations revealed that they’re already running cloud-native apps and 25% plan to deploy more in the next 12 months, meaning app requirements will be a crucial decider in cloud procurement. For example, Azure and EC2 provide automatic auto-scaling, which can elastically adjust the cloud capacity on the basis of application usage. This feature may be particularly useful for web-based services where customer demand leads to bursting and the need to scale up. Auto-scaling encourages applications to perform optimally regardless of changing demands, and it can allow for custom metrics that an organization can define in accordance with its requirements.
Static applications, on the other hand, or those architected for virtual or physical environments, may benefit more from private-cloud services. This consideration also applies if there’s a business case for externalizing the operational aspects of the IT environment.
Ongoing Multicloud Management
Once an organization has selected multiple cloud environments to form a multicloud strategy, the issue becomes maintenance and monitoring. A company’s cloud needs today might be different from those of tomorrow. The plan must therefore be flexible and continually monitored to ensure maximum net benefit. A solution that permits change in line with evolving business needs—all while avoiding vendor lock-in and removing risk—will provide the best chance of success with multicloud and the greatest overall benefit for the organization.
For example, in many cases a company has no way to be sure that an individual cloud platform will deliver on its promises for a specific use case without testing it firsthand. To do so, however, businesses need the confidence that should the platform fail to work out, they can easily transfer their data back on premises or to another provider without extraneous effort.
At the same time, all data and applications must be backed up and protected regardless of their on-premises or cloud environment. Four out of five organizations (78%) protect less than three-quarters of their apps. That leaves a staggering number of applications—most likely critical to some aspect of the business—unprotected. A comprehensive multicloud-management strategy should address this problem.
A Swiss Army Knife for Multicloud Adoption
Success in switching to a multicloud environment, as well as with an ongoing multicloud strategy, boils down to mobility and management: can the organization get applications and data into the cloud? Are they in the right place? Can the services access the data they need to operate? And, even more importantly, can applications and data move somewhere else if needed?
Whichever clouds, public or private, an organization selects, finding a central management platform will be the difference between siloed deployments with data-protection vulnerabilities and an overarching multicloud strategy. Employing such a platform that can help move critical applications with no disruption to end-user services and that’s interoperable among environments will help to solidify IT plans and ensure they’re resilient.
Optimizing applications for the cloud is an ongoing process and requires continuous evaluation. No one cloud or set of cloud environments will meet all of a business’s cost, scalability and flexibility needs. Instead, organizations should look to technology partners and independent consultants that are well versed in combining cloud solutions for the best advice as to where to put what, as well as which solutions can help facilitate these changes along the way.
About the Author
Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn is a technology evangelist at Zerto.