Rajesh Dangi is the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of NxtGen Datacenter and Cloud Technologies. A NxtGen veteran, Rajesh joined the company as the Head of Managed Services to set up and ramp up the office which provided Pre-Sales Support, Solution Engineering, Technology Validation, Remote Infrastructure Management & 24×7 Service Management. He then moved on to become the Vice President of Business Unit, subsequently Chief Technology Officer, prior to his current role at the organization.
Over the last decade, Cloud Computing’s footprints on the enterprise digital landscape have seen fast-paced adoption for digitization and digital transformation of several business processes and business models ranging from applications, the internet of things, media, and SaaS-based digital services. With strong emergence of public, private, hybrid cloud models converging into multi-cloud environments added tremendous value to the business on one hand and introduced complexities in managing the multi-cloud environments on the other hand. Integrating different tools and techniques to bring all these different cloud models as a single heterogeneous architecture still remains a challenge.
Most of the business leaders are at ease now taking cloud computing on the big table, thanks to the regime and reality of ‘Multi-cloud”, as per the report published by Allied Market Research, the global multi-cloud management market was accounted for $1.19 billion in 2016 and is anticipated to garner $6.81 billion by 2023, registering at a CAGR of 28.4% from 2017 to 2023. The growth forecast was not even on the radar of market researchers a decade ago…
What is Multi-Cloud, and Why it is difficult to manage?
Multi-Cloud is actually a practical situation arising out of aspiration of enterprises for cloud-first strategy adoption leading to distribution of planned and unplanned cloud assets, software, applications, associated toolsets, etc. across several cloud-hosting environments or cloud service providers (Read, CSPs), a pure situational convergence of cloud deployment models and services associated with each of the subscribed or inherited cloud services running in for an enterprise as a whole. Also a collective paradigm of cloud strategies, externally hosted or on-Prim hypervisors, SaaS-based services loosely coupled with each other forming a workflow of desired outcomes, so to say!
Manageability, Metering, and Multi-tenancy are the key feature tenets of the multi-cloud environment at least from the stakeholder expectations front; forget for a minute then back end infrastructure powering them or the hypervisors, orchestration technologies, and integrations thereof, Multi-cloud is thus a reality to deal with for any enterprise today. For example, running workloads of different cloud platforms ( yes, they all do come with sundry expenses) requires not only skills but also costs money and time if not thought through well. Even simple resource provisioning on the cloud can become a costly affair if CSPs use different methods or measures for metering the usage and add complexities since their portals, APIs, and processes are drastically different. Leave alone the challenges to provide an interoperable security fabric across these multiple cloud platforms for effective governance else naturally exposing the enterprise digital assets up to a wider range of possible attacks and vulnerabilities, things in this GDPR era no enterprise can afford to ignore.
There are strategies on the multi-cloud architecture and deployment approaches using active-active or active-passive setups of a particular set of applications or components thereof running on different locations/zones from different service providers yet synthetically stitched together along with third party entities ( read, payment gateways, eKYC, or API based authentication services, etc) with respective data sources. The digital vaults, collaboration/media engines, master data management, IDP/PIM/PAM/SIEM services for interoperability on multi-cloud are some of the pieces of the puzzle still remain as challenges for few borderline use cases, yet largely we can assume the multi-cloud today is well stitched and a good working example for many.
What are the benefits, are there any?
Yes, of course. Multi-Cloud provides many advantages and expands opportunities to quickly react and adapt to market dynamics and enabling rapid deployment and scalability so to say. Here are a few pointers that you must contemplate …yes not just consider since most public clouds these days are becoming one-way streets with no return paths or policies. Apologies for being cynical but that is the fact we have witnessed when one enterprise wants to migrate from one public cloud to another, the engineering efforts required at times need board approvals, you got it right?
Feature & Cost Advantages – with a shoulder-to-shoulder competition, public cloud providers are innovators not by choice but for survival, keeping pace with the market via emerging technologies, automation, etc as associated service offerings to remain relevant. Multi-cloud gives you more choices and quicker turnaround to help you react faster to market changes, reduce turnaround times via built-in or low code service/feature adoptions. All cloud vendors have their own set of strong points and offer pay-per-use features to differentiate them and making them the best choice for a specific need thus at times leveraging several clouds from different vendors lets you combine each strongest option, cost optimization, and get relevant features on demand.
Geo Coverage & Availability – With maximum users connecting and transacting from mobile phones, the geographic location of enterprise workloads really matters, especially if you target an international presence, your customers want fast performance, lower latencies, round the clock availability thus multi-location or multi-region cloud providers will get a seat on your multi-cloud strategy. Of course, there are alternatives like CDN and ADNs’s, etc to cater for your static content, yet it is important to pay close attention and keep content and context together as most of the business models leverage global presence, natively offered by digital services and demand redundancy across all the functionalities of an application of the digital services they consume or subscribe.
Technology Relevance – This in my opinion is the most important aspect, in today’s technology advancements cloud providers upkeep their tech stacks fully upstream and updated on security patches, system services etc on their infra and service components, this still remains a tight rope walk for may enterprises due to lack of automation tools and advisory subscriptions, thus staying hosted on the cloud platforms saves enterprise of this misery, a true example of risk mitigation by subscription, I must say.
Multi-cloud management, what to look for?
We came to the crux of our discussion, there is no silver bullet here, Cloud governance, effective resource control, and structured change management must remain with the user enterprise. Multi-cloud demands governance and the ability to detect and identify risks and manage them effectively to keep all moving parts moving. Imagine you riding a train, although you are on a dedicated track, you cannot keep your eyes off the track. There are few aspects you as an enterprise must look out for and govern effectively…
Security and Backups – The first and foremost area is the security of data and the code towards integrity and availability, keeping backups of all digital assets ( Read, Data, Code, and Configurations) secured in case of any incidents helping you to reach and respond with alternatives to build and run critical workloads.
Integration, Flexibility, and Scalability – makes the multi-cloud management effective to implement security, scalability, and portability, identify the gaps and ensure you have workarounds and flexibility in place for inter-cloud operations and third party feature integrations. The onus on the seamless operation across multi-cloud should be the singular goal for effective adoption.
Engagement Model & Vendor Lock-in – always have an exit path clearly stated on the engagement model to help you migrate from one cloud provider to another, unfortunately, most developers tend to code focusing on single public cloud or hypervisor features in mind and tightly integrate to their code/applications thus creating exit barriers, the ideal code must be cloud-neutral or have separate sidecars for integrations away from the core business logic for effective isolation and feature proofing, etc. Data portability and migration is an important topic and warrants may be a separate discussion, yet very critical if in case you wish to migrate the data from one cloud to another to choose a data source not fully supported by your current cloud provider, Sponsors must keep such tenet duly addressed in the engagement model before singing off the contracts else migration and data ingress or egress will become major blocker or barrier on cost, time and viability.
Capacity & Resource Metering – Multi-cloud is the toughest to assimilate the cost assessment unless you have effective monitoring on the resource usage, accurate forecasts, etc. accidental automation may scale up your resources and ‘forgets’ to scale down thus impacting your bottom-line quickly going out of budget for pay per use models. The resource metering across multi-cloud impacts capacity planning committed SLAs,
Service availability and performance expectations thus need regular review and assessment.
Skill gaps – Multi-cloud is multi-tech and multi-domain thus having the right skills across your cloud computing technologies and administer them will be a tight rope walk, you may not have all the required skills, and keeping them fully engaged will also be difficult in case you have smaller footprints across multiple cloud providers. It will be prudent to leverage external managed service providers/cloud service partners having identified skills and engage them via objective-driven SoW’s, that works well when you keep growing and de-risking effectively.
Leadership & Governance – having robust governance towards technology, data management, change management, and vendor management at the leadership level at CDO/CISO & CIO makes things easier for multi-cloud management, keeping eye on the utilization, relationships and KPIs set forth in the engagement model for design, deployment, and support of multi-cloud must be engraved into the DNA of the functional leader sponsoring multi-cloud strategy. The buck must stop at the accountable leader empowered by the board and duly document in each cloud contract.
In Summary, multi-cloud management is an ongoing aspiration and journey that demands agility, performance, and cost arbitrage without compromising on each front, enterprises must have clarity on the objective, consciousness on cost, technology landscape/adoption, and desired outcomes.
As the technology landscape keeps evolving along with newer cloud models, cloud-native applications, data insights, and progressive regulations/statutes, etc enterprises will be always on the lookout for one-stop-shop solutions they are used to quickly engage and try and respond to the business dynamics or expanding digital presence to help connect with consumers and co-creators / partners without losing the relevance and context, what say!