Welcome to the multi-cloud era
Remember when Apple generated headlines by moving its iCloud service to Google’s Cloud Platform? It happened in March 2016, and the move made news because Apple was also using AWS and Microsoft Azure. Apple wasn’t choosing Google over AWS or Azure, it was deliberately diversifying.
When Apple doubled down on multi-cloud, it was already in good company. Since then, multi-cloud use has only grown. According to Rightscale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Report, 85 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, up from 82 percent in 2016. The average user runs applications on four clouds — up from three in 2016 — while experimenting with four additional clouds.
Why the big shift?
Why has the multi-cloud strategy assumed such a central role in enterprise IT transformation? It’s simple: multi-cloud is a smart way to consume enterprise cloud services, offering differentiation opportunities in both business and technology. In a recent blog post, Rackspace CTO John Engates outlined the following advantages of a multi-cloud strategy:
- Best-of-breed infrastructure. Multi-cloud solutions enable you to choose the services best-suited for your specific workloads, helping to ensure optimal performance.
- No vendor lock-in. Investing in multiple cloud providers means you can choose where to run cloud workloads, minimizing the risk of price hikes and other vendor lock-in issues.
- More effective disaster mitigation.Utilizing multiple clouds reduces the risk of widespread data loss and downtime, because local failures don’t impact workloads.
- More geographical data flexibility. Leading cloud providers have a global reach, but a multi-cloud strategy still makes data sovereignty compliance much simpler.
Powerful, not easy
You can see why a multi-cloud strategy is an important IT transformation goal, but it’s not easy to transition from on-premises or single-provider IT to multiple cloud providers. Most of the challenges stem from technical complexity, so if you don’t have expertise in-house, you’ll need to hire cloud engineers or engage a managed services provider. Whichever you choose, be sure you have the right expertise before embarking on a multi-cloud journey — the worst-case scenario is an expensive, disruptive initiative that ultimately fails.
Here are some key guidelines to keep in mind as you move toward multi-cloud:
Don’t be an accidental adopter
The uncomfortable truth is that business units often bypass IT protocols and self-provision cloud services. Businesses prize agility, and business leaders won’t always wait for IT to act on resource requests. Accenture found that 60 percent of executives say IT doesn’t significantly influence their choice of cloud services. But ad hoc solutions pose obvious problems — suddenly you’re juggling different workloads across different cloud services using different tools, and those tools may lack critical functionality. Implement a multi-cloud solution deliberately and intelligently to avoid this trap.
Choose the right providers
Determine your business and technical needs, and match those needs to specific cloud capabilities. As Engates puts it, “You need cloud experts who understand the wide array of services offered by leading providers, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they map to your specific needs.” A traditional Microsoft shop might consider Azure; firms with highly demanding apps might consider a Rackspace ObjectRocket DbaaS solution; and AWS Kinesis might be a good option for real-time streaming data.
Integrate, integrate, integrate
A multi-cloud strategy works best when organizations integrate services from multiple providers. That might mean backing up data between clouds, using one cloud for BDA that informs app development on another, or leveraging micro-services. CIO magazine analyst Joe Weinman counsels against multiple disconnected services — “or, worse yet, multiple providers offering similar capabilities, bought by different divisions without even minimal coordination.” Multi-cloud integration can be extremely complicated, involving web APIs unfamiliar even to technical employees. Make sure your firm has adequate expertise and ideally can support a multi-cloud environment with both breadth and depth of expertise to support your needs.
Manage many clouds as one
A multi-cloud environment means managing multiple providers, but you want it to look like you’re only managing one. “Cloud services have APIs that let users deploy and manage their applications,” says Tom Nolle, president and principal analyst at CIMI Corporation. “Look at your potential providers’ APIs and formats and see whether they offer at least one compatible subset.” That way, Nolle says, you’ll be able to manage all your clouds with one tool set. Keep in mind that many managed service providers offer a single-pane-of-glass console that can control multiple clouds.
Win your IT transformation
There are many paths to a harmonious multi-cloud environment. You might start by transitioning a few on-premises workloads to colocation facilities, or by leveraging managed services from a single provider. Or you might need to integrate existing cloud services commissioned independently by impatient business leaders.
Whatever your path, Rackspace offers start-to-finish guidance. We’re not just cloud experts — we’re IT transformation experts. We’ll help you implement multi-cloud solutions and understand how those solutions fit into the larger context of successful enterprise IT transformation.
Check out our interactive infographic, “Navigating the Treacherous Terrain of IT Transformation”, to get a quick feel for common IT transformation challenges.
Then dive deeper with our new ebook, “The CIO’s Survival Guide to IT Transformation”, which outlines our proven strategy for IT transformation success.