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Multi-cloud deployments challenge customers, partners

The complexity of operating multiple clouds has opened opportunities for consultants and service providers, who aim to instill a more holistic management approach.

Organizations grappled with a wide variety of cloud options amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush to adopt on-demand technologies.

As a result, multi-cloud deployments proliferated, creating complex cost and management challenges. Often, the rapid move to the cloud lacked adequate planning and resulted in headaches for IT professionals. Many organizations saw their cloud spending go up -- and their efficiencies go down.

Service providers in 2021 have been busy helping their customers sort out these cloud situations, providing operations and management expertise. Looking ahead, they see opportunities in security, data consolidation and strategic cloud planning.

Customers' multi-cloud challenges

One of the common architectural mistakes organizations made adopting cloud during the pandemic was "ignoring common cloud services that span applications and migration projects," said David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting. Most of these projects functioned autonomously, with teams selecting their own cloud-native security, governance, database, storage and other technology layers that they considered best-of-breed for their unique use case, he noted.

David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte ConsultingDavid Linthicum

However, "if there are dozens of these projects occurring in the mass rush to get to the public clouds, there is little or no planning as to how to operationalize all these different technology layers and do so across cloud providers," Linthicum said.

He defines "operationalize" as the creation of consistent approaches to all aspects of cloud, including traditional systems operations.

The top challenge now, according to Linthicum, is dealing with the complications arising from the lack of multi-cloud planning. "Since there is little or no common control or architecture that exists within and between these decoupled projects, there is no longer-term plan around how to operationalize a technology portfolio that is overly heterogenous and overly complex."

Jeff DeVerter, chief technology evangelist at Rackspace Technology, said the biggest mistake he saw organizations make, by and large, was moving data without a lot of governance. "They did a lift and shift," he said.

Jeff DeVerter, chief technology evangelist at Rackspace TechnologyJeff DeVerter

If a company moved an on-premises SQL Server, for example, it became a SQL Server in the cloud, DeVerter explained, noting that many organizations failed to optimize the new capabilities designed for a modern cloud environment.

"The goal was primarily to get data in the cloud and now; organizations have to figure out how to architect a cloud solution belatedly," DeVerter said. This requires restructuring the data for a cloud-native database system that makes sense for the cloud they have chosen.

Paul Wilkinson, executive vice president of growth at 1901 Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, agreed the lift-and-shift approach was often done "without looking at application rationalization and harmonizing business processes."

Paul Wilkinson, executive vice president of growth at 1901 Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of LeidosPaul Wilkinson

That method leads to over provisioning in some cases. If an organization had 400 servers in on-premises data centers, they provisioned 400 in the cloud, Wilkinson said. But the problem with lift and shift is that customers miss out on the cloud benefit of being able to scale compute and storage resources up and down as needed. This is often a new paradigm for people and they aren't taking advantage of that elasticity, he said.

In 2021, organizations began focusing on how to manage their multi-cloud deployments consistently and effectively, DeVerter said. "For every cloud provider you have, you have to manage monitoring, security, ticketing, backup and recovery for all the assets you have."

When an organization has a single cloud, management is a lot easier because there is a single interface. "When you have to manage across multi-clouds, you have to manage multiple interfaces and you have to know down to the individual component what is running in each of those clouds," he said.

From a cost and compliance perspective, organizations also need to know when something was running but is not any longer, because assets are typically spun up and down based on demand, DeVerter added.

Another challenge 1901 Group saw was with how identity and access management was architected. Logging into a cloud and getting access to resources "was turned on its head," Wilkinson said.

Traditionally, employees logged in to the network through a firewall, but in a multi-cloud environment, there is no centralized management, he said. This is a challenge that customers are trying to address today with a policy-based or zero-trust authentication model in a more centralized manner.

Partners' multi-cloud opportunities

This is where partners come in. They can be most helpful in working with clients to define common services that can span applications, data sets and clouds, Linthicum said. "Doing so will simplify operations and provide better services to the applications, data and humans."

MSPs and cloud providers have spent 2021 ensuring that organizations are using the right clouds and consolidating them, DeVerter said. That work is ongoing. One of greatest values partners can provide is helping clients adopt new technologies "which oftentimes, bring greater capabilities and efficiencies and lower costs," he said.

Improving an organization's security posture should be the main priority for partners next year, DeVerter said. Moving to the cloud provides "a serious bump up in your security posture because you're now riding on a platform that is designed for security and has security built in at its core layers." That said, an organization's security posture isn't necessarily perfect, he added.

"You can still leave a front door open and have a [virtual machine] that is unpatched," DeVerter said. Partners should be helping their clients transform with more cloud-native apps, especially ones with a security focus, he said.

Without this planning and strategic use of technology, cloud computing will end up costing more and will not deliver on the business value.
David LinthicumChief cloud strategy officer, Deloitte Consulting

Data projects are also key. With data now in the cloud, partners should help clients use new technologies so they can consolidate data sets and have greater visibility across all their data assets, DeVerter said.

Partners can also help clients understand the various choices available to developers and architects when deploying workloads to public clouds, Linthicum said, noting they can be deployed "in a matter of minutes, given the self-provisioning features of public clouds."

Linthicum said 2022 "will be the year that we begin to focus on more cloud computing strategies, such as holistic cloud computing security and governance that includes all public clouds, private clouds and even legacy systems. Without this planning and strategic use of technology, cloud computing will end up costing more and will not deliver on the business value."

While the need to migrate fast in 2020 was justified, the "lack of cross-coordination of cloud projects will lead to a cost profile that most enterprises will find unacceptable," Linthicum noted. The remedy will require building multi-cloud systems that are sustainable over the longer term, he said.

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