By on October 29, 2019

Meeting the Multi-Cloud Management Challenge

Corporations are diverse. Consequently, the software needed to support business units tends to vary. In fact, more than eight out of 10 corporations now run multiple cloud solutions, according to Forrester Research. With recent outages across major cloud providers making news and impacting millions of customers, organizations are rightfully assessing how a multi-cloud approach can mitigate downtime risk. In this new environment, one challenge is managing the different cloud solutions. Right now, most management tools have shortcomings, so organizations need to focus on solutions that support microservices, which will help to consolidate management information.

As the name suggests, multi-cloud means that organizations rely on more than one public or private provider. Appli­cation and system services are delivered across multiple private and public clouds that contain a combination of multiple vendors, multiple cloud accounts, multiple cloud availability zones, multiple cloud regions, and multiple premises or public data centers.


Why Deploy Multi-Cloud? 

Companies deploy numerous cloud solutions for many reasons. This approach often helps them save money and reduce IT maintenance needs. Multi-cloud environments empower enterprises so they address business goals. An organization can take advantage of the speed, capacity or features offered by a particular provider, their own private cloud or a cloud solution geared to a particular geography or vertical market. 

Application needs commonly drive such decisions. Managers choose specific services from each cloud that mesh with department needs. Forrester reports that embracing multi-cloud delivers business value by helping the units perform their work more efficiently. However, one cloud solution may be perfect for one aspect of the enterprise, but no single cloud does everything well. This limitation leads to companies deploying multiple cloud solutions.

In addition, some enterprises want to avoid too much depen­dency on a single cloud provider. They worry that they may become locked into one set of solutions, which increases costs and sometimes offers limited functionality.


Multi-cloud also meets various business needs:


  • Proximity: Multi-cloud increases system performance. In some cases, cloud users are thousands of miles away from the data center. When a vendor runs work­loads closer to the customer’s locations, the potential for poor re­sponse times diminishes.


  • Failover: High availability is another consideration. Public cloud vendors are building out some of the world’s largest, most sophisticated data centers, have invested billions of dollars and developed sophisticated resiliency functions so enterprises are pro­tected from unexpected outages. Multi-cloud as a failover solu­tion allows organizations to have available, highly scalable backups for data, workflows and systems if their primary servers are knocked offline. Such capabilities are important when companies must adhere to local data sovereignty laws. In some cases, government or industry regulations have been enacted, so backup and recovery processes must be in place for all digital content.


  • Shadow IT: Shadow IT, which occurs when business units buy IT services without IT input or authorization, is another contributor to multi-cloud adoption. The rationale in these cases is that department managers view IT as non-responsive to their needs. Embracing multi-cloud enables IT to gain insight into department use of unauthorized computing services.


Drawbacks of a Multi-Cloud Strategy

While a multi-cloud strategy offers a plethora of benefits, it has weaknesses too, and many of them relate to its complexity. Companies have deployed more than one cloud solution but manage them autonomously. In essence, they have one set of management tools for each cloud.  With this approach, they waste human resources, are unable to move workloads to the best platform and sometimes pay more for their services than they should. For instance, corporations sign contracts with various providers and do not gain economies of scale. 

Another drawback of multi-cloud is the difficulty of integrating information from the vari­ous cloud solutions. Each management system has its own set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). As a result, management becomes challenging from numerous perspectives: tasks, business processes and security. Security can be especially vexing. Having multiple clouds means that the organization cannot apply its firewalls in the multi-cloud consistently, so holes may emerge for hackers or viruses. While a multi-cloud strategy limits the potential ef­fect of a DDoS attack, it can leave an organiza­tion vulnerable to other types of attacks. 

Multi-cloud management tools are now a work in progress. In most cases, vendors focused on improving their own solutions and have been slow to integrate their solutions with competitors’ management products. This shortcoming forces customers to take on a great deal of complex systems integration work – a burden that most enterprises are unable to bear.

Another multi-cloud challenge stems from the reality that the cloud solutions run in different software environments. Organi­zations want to move their cloud applications across a wide range of potential deployment models when business drivers shift. Right now, that goal means taking on very challenging integration work.


Addressing Multi-Cloud Management Challenges

So, how can an organization reap the benefits that multi-cloud offers without being burdened by its limitations? Adopting a platform that supports based on microservices and containers makes it easier to deploy and benefit from a multi-cloud environment.

Microservices software development creates single-function modules with well-defined interfaces and operations. They are the opposite of traditional, monolithic application design. Microservices break applications into small, composable pieces, which make it easier for developers to build, deploy and maintain software. In a microservices architecture, each component is continuously developed and separately main­tained. In essence, the application becomes the sum of its constituent components.

In addition to componentization, microservices allow organizations to develop software faster and more reliably. Smaller codebases are easier to maintain than large systems. Finally, since the services are separate, testing specific inputs for outputs is also easier. 

Corporations are deploying multi-cloud solutions to improve business performance. The popularity of this approach creates management challenges. In most cases, these systems are managed autonomously, which results in numerous inefficiencies. By deploying a management solution built with microservices, corporations gain the benefits that multi-cloud offers without being weighed down by its limitations.