Monolithic, single-cloud and hybrid approaches are beginning to be replaced by multicloud strategies. A new report from Cisco has found that they are becoming much more common, with 29% of IT leaders believing they will have networking capabilities across on-premise, hybrid and multicloud environments within the next two years.
Other recent reports concur. According to the 2020 State of the Cloud report, 93% of enterprises now use a multicloud strategy, and new research from IDC has shown that they are driving massive adoption of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).
A multicloud strategy can provide serious benefits for businesses, but is much harder to manage than single-cloud or hybrid strategies. Here’s how IT managers can work to address the challenges of multicloud management and networking at their workplace.
The Rise of the Multicloud
The multicloud is a broad term used to describe networks that distribute their use of cloud resources across multiple platforms. A business in need of multicloud management may have several apps running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) communicating with an on-premise network via hybrid connectivity. It may also be interacting with other cloud platforms, like Microsoft’s Azure or Google’s Cloud Platform.
The strategy has a few different benefits. It effectively allows businesses to distribute their workload, potentially improving up-time. If one web service goes down, you’ll have redundant resources available to handle some of that workload. A multicloud strategy also allows businesses to take advantage of the strengths of different cloud platforms.
As an example, AWS offers serverless computing, Google Cloud has a strong reputation for AI and machine learning functionality, and Microsoft Azure works well with hardware running on Microsoft’s widely deployed business software. It’s theoretically possible to distribute your business workloads across these cloud services to take advantage of the unique strengths and features of each.
Challenges of Multicloud Management and Networks
Despite available tools, multicloud management is still often a mess for many businesses. In any multicloud situation, a company is managing multiple applications and transferring data across different platforms with various infrastructure and compatibilities — creating major room for conflict.
With a multicloud strategy, businesses are often trying to achieve portability across platforms while taking advantage of the unique features they offer. They use certain cloud services for specific workloads, based on the strengths and weaknesses of each one. However, if you want to keep management consistent across clouds, it gets harder to take advantage of those unique features.
A multicloud strategy can also create significant networking challenges. With a single-cloud approach, you may only need to manage the connection between the on-site network and one cloud platform. With a multicloud system, you’re coordinating connections between multiple platforms and your on-site network, and potentially between the cloud platforms themselves.
There are serious advantages to a multicloud strategy. However, the ways these systems are managed often create more challenges than the approach solves. All-in-one management solutions exist, and IBM’s is probably the most popular. Most major cloud services, aware of the pivot toward a multicloud strategy, offer features designed to help IT workers with multicloud management.
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It’s likely that just one solution won’t be enough for your team to manage its multicloud implementation. They may need a combination of tools and strategies to successfully handle a multicloud approach.
Solutions for Managing the Multicloud
To start, you need to make sure your IT approach is centralized, as with a managed IT service. There’s enough room for conflict in any multicloud plan, and you don’t want to make the problem worse with a disorganized approach to managing IT operations.
Next, you’ll need to select the right tools and solutions for managing your business’s multicloud strategy.
Tools like cloud service brokers (CSBs) and cloud management platforms (CMPs) offer a layer of abstraction that can help you manage differences in architecture. Select a CSB or CMP based on the features your business needs the most. Many of these tools will include some combination of service monitoring, provisioning and analytics features designed to help your team orchestrate management of apps across cloud services. However, not all tools will include the same features or integrate well with your current tech, like pre-existing cloud security architecture.
Containerization can also help you handle some of these conflicts. Tech columnist Matt Asay recommends Kubernetes-based tools, like Red Hat Open Shift, as a possible way to cut through some of this chaos. Because this approach takes the minimum from each of these platforms, you will be able to avoid most of the headaches of managing workload across several cloud platforms.
While you won’t be able to benefit from some of the advanced features cloud services offer with this approach, you will be able to distribute your workload across cloud services. If there’s a hiccup in AWS, you can keep your services running by shifting some of that work to another service.
With any approach, you will want to extensively test your approach before you go live. Simulate workloads, perform security testing and generally see how the management tools you’ve selected hold up under pressure.
By the end of this, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not these tools fit your needs or if another combination may be a better option.
How IT Staff Can Handle a Multicloud Strategy
Multicloud strategies are quickly becoming much more popular and are likely to become commonplace in the future. These strategies can offer significant benefits for businesses — like improved service reliability and access to unique cloud platform features. However, they also create serious challenges for the IT departments that need to manage the implementation and networking of these approaches.
Differences in cloud infrastructure can make coordinating services across different platforms challenging — or, without the right tools, almost impossible. IT staff at businesses that want to move to a multicloud approach should be aware of the options they have when it comes to multicloud solutions — including CSBs, CMPs and containerization software.
They should also be prepared for extensive testing of potential multicloud management tools. The effort will be well worth it.