Insights into multi-cloud from the field


Photo of Justin Bahler

Justin Bahler

Managing Consultant LinkedIn

When I joined Telstra a few years ago, one of my first tasks was to develop a multi-cloud hosting strategy for a large utility company. The C-suite were set on multi-cloud, but I steered them away, flagging it up as an early adopter’s market with little to gain in benefits and a lot to pay to establish it. How times have changed!

With apparent uncertainty about its direction but good intentions for its strategic vision, multi-cloud was a risky play four years ago. Hopefully, they took my recommendation to perform an annual review of their cloud strategy and adjust it according to market forces. Since then, I have run several projects designing and building multi-cloud estates.

According to a recent report, 89% of respondents reported having a multi-cloud strategy, and 90% are taking a hybrid approach by combining public and private clouds.

Here are some insights from the field on how multi-cloud is making its mark and why multi-cloud infrastructure is the future of enterprise IT.

Multi-cloud is everywhere

Some organisations are running multiple IaaS providers, such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, and most are running some sort of cloud SaaS service from different vendors. Multi-cloud IaaS is on the ascent. Gartner, for example, is forecasting the IaaS market to double from $64.8 billion in 2020 to $121.62 billion this year.

If you are under the illusion, you don’t run any cloud, then you may have an unsanctioned service – think third-party cloud storage services.

Establishing multi-cloud is cheaper than ever

There has never been a better time to adopt multi-cloud. Integrators now automate most landing zone builds, especially AWS and Azure. This means there is much less requirement for large-scale bespoke deployments requiring workshops and layers of design.

A semi-automated design and release cycle has reduced the work-hours needed and, therefore, the costs that inhibited cloud enablement in the past. Add to that multi-cloud connectivity services like Telstra Programmable Network (TPN) and Telstra Multi-Cloud Network (MCN) that can bolt onto MPLS networks, which means adding additional clouds to the core network backbone is now a simple process.

Security is non-negotiable

Laying new cloud foundations means new security controls that must be assessed and implemented to protect an organisation on its cloud journey. This requires deep domain knowledge and broad security expertise to handle these new controls.

Organisations need to protect themselves from the many pitfalls of a poor security posture by considering their capability for implementing new technology while also understanding that security expertise is non-negotiable.

New costs can emerge

Organizations need to be prepared for new costs emerging. Some software vendors charge licensing premiums for hosting their software on other clouds. Additional costs for data leaving the cloud to go to another cloud are extra costs that didn’t exist before.

Managing fluctuating prices between cloud vendors for positioning workloads is an ongoing challenge for organizations and one they need to prepare for.

Workload portability is not quite there yet, but it’s close.

True workload portability comes at a cost. It needs deep knowledge of multi-cloud databases, compute and application design.

Containerisation is one much-touted method. However, it is important to remember that turnkey multi-cloud containerisation platforms are still emerging. Another route is via lifting workload portability up into the application code and using microservices.

The truth, however, is that both these roads are beyond the skillset that most organisations have in-house.

Just having multi-cloud does not give you a competitive edge

Picking and choosing the best-in-class cloud services no longer gives organisations a lead over their competition. Instead, organisations need to be looking at the industralisation of their multi-cloud estate.

Industralisation of the cloud means having a single pane of glass to gain full visibility on the cloud estate and enable enhanced security. To support business agility, it must also offer up distributed resources and development teams but be capable of delivering on centralized policy and governance via vendor-agnostic tools and processes. Finally, it must allow you to apply holistic multi-cloud expertise to manage people, processes, and technology.

A multi-cloud strategy provides freedom of choice

Multi-cloud is now more accessible than ever before and provides organisations with a newfound freedom to use the best possible cloud for each of their workloads. But to be successful, a multi-cloud strategy is imperative, one that embraces governance, visibility, and automation across the entire cloud estate.

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