How to leverage multi-cloud strategies, from deployment to security

When new technologies swoop in and change the business landscape, a common pattern emerges. It begins with adoption, which can initially be slow and only implemented by innovative organisations and agile start-ups. Next it’s maturity, where the early adopters will be able to take their applications to the next level in a bid to further extend their competitive advantage. Cloud is a great example of this. Those that were quick to adopt it a decade ago are now experimenting with the next stage – multi-cloud strategies.

The simple explanation for this is vendor lock-in. No business wants to be dependent on one single vendor, especially with more and more businesses jumping ship from monolithic architectures to open-source alternatives. Cloud models are often prone to lock-in, as enterprises exert little control of both the software itself and their data. It’s no surprise so many organisations feel uncomfortable at the thought of being entirely at the mercy of their cloud provider, which is why many are now on the hunt for flexible deployment models – hence the rise of multi-cloud.

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Reasons to adopt

One of the main selling points of going cloud-agnostic is the greater assurance of business continuity and service uptime. Disruption can occur at the hardware tier (servers, networks, storage devices) or at the software tier (bugs in OS, routers, or device drivers). It goes without saying that extended periods of downtime are something all digital businesses must avoid, and multi-cloud’s greater protection against such outages makes it an approach worth investing in.

Beyond this, multi-cloud is valuable in ensuring organisations are prepared for future changes in cost (capex and opex). For instance, there are no long-term ties to multi-cloud strategies, so if running a public cloud unexpectedly costs more than the organisation can afford, it’s neither complex nor costly to back out. Instead, organisations can expand their own datacentres and run their applications in their own private cloud through these datacentres – all with little extra effort.

The same can be said for compliance. Say a regulation changes and an organisation needs to transfer some of the data (and the workload that comes with it) from the public cloud to a secure on-premises environment to comply with security and privacy demands. Multi-cloud strategies enable this, since the organisation can control the location and movement of data and workloads. It’s much easier to choose another cloud provider that meets the required standards or, alternatively, they can transfer the data themselves to their own private cloud.

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That said, multi-cloud strategies do have their downsides (what technology strategy doesn’t?). A lack of standards and portability are the biggest issues. Put simply, since organisations require careful architecture, they must ensure they don’t influence the proprietary capabilities of particular cloud vendors. Naturally though, as more technologies and vendors grow and work in partnership, the increased innovation at the cloud manageability tier will address this.

The road to implementation

Multi-cloud management may be changing all the time, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t important steps for all organisations to consider. As enterprises first assess their multi-cloud options, they should keep in mind the following considerations:

Deployment/management: Deploying and managing across multiple cloud infrastructures is vital, which is what makes having one manageability platform so desirable. This isn’t a simple task, however, thanks to each cloud provider’s different virtualisation tiers and levels of managing them. Deploying and managing the private cloud is also a key platform capability, so an important consideration for the platform is the seamless movement of services and workloads between public and private cloud deployments.

Tooling for productivity: Once you’ve thought about deployment and management, ease of use should be a top priority. No organisation wants tools that increase time-to-market and do little but make life harder for the user. This is why a multi-cloud platform must be easy to use for both the operations and development teams – so that configuration, deployment, and scaling of services is made as straightforward yet effective as possible.

Monitoring & diagnostics: Another stumbling block the cloud presents is failing to shutdown services, an issue costing businesses thousands of pounds every year. To combat this, they should make monitoring tools – which alert as well as provide a delegated administration capability – an integral part of their multi-cloud strategy. Diagnostic tools are also vital, since they provide visibility into the infrastructure tier, which is an invaluable asset when troubleshooting the most complex issues.

Security & governance: Recent years have seen the web provide far easier access to customer data and confidential information, so it’s vital the multi-cloud management platform enables fast rollout and implementation of security updates – whether that’s at the infrastructure, platform or application tier. Rule-based governance of data and services is another requirement of the platform, as it gives businesses greater control of how they move their data across geographic boundaries, not to mention helps them comply with regulatory standards.

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When keeping these considerations in mind, the shift from the private cloud to hybrid and now multi-cloud technology will see the latter become the de-facto standard for enterprises aiming to optimise workloads and avoid vendor lock-in. While data may be stored in private, public, or hybrid clouds and on-premises systems, effective management and security of this data is essential – regardless of the environment – and the organisations that capitalise on this will be the ones that reap the rewards multi-cloud has to offer.

Written by Perry Krug, architect, office of the CTO, Couchbase

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