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How to build a successful multi-cloud strategy

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How to build a successful multi-cloud strategy

Multi-cloud strategy implementation 

If you’re thinking about moving to the cloud, considering a multi-cloud strategy can improve your availability and eliminate vendor lock-in, but its success is not always a surety.   

But first, what even is a multi-cloud strategy? 

Put simply, a multi-cloud strategy is the use of two or more cloud computing services together in a business environment.  

It could be the implementation of multiple software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) as well as a mix of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) environment, which is the most common case today with business using a mix from environments like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.  

So, isn’t its success a surety?  

A successful multi-cloud strategy depends on the sound knowledge of the operational aspects of each cloud platform you choose and how it works together to help you achieve the business outcomes you need. So, with this article, we aim to help business owners and decision makers understand what an effective multi-cloud strategy looks like so you can succeed on your multi-cloud strategy.

Building a multi-cloud strategy 

Here’s a step-by-step framework for an effective multi-cloud strategy. 

  1. Why multi-cloud?
  2. Determine KPIs and goals
  3. Cloud expenditure
  4. Develop a roadmap
  5. Create a cloud portfolio
  6. Factor in securityand governance 
  7. Select your public cloud vendor
  8. Planfor the future  
  9. Roles and functionalities
  10. Choose acloud management platform (CMP) 

 Evaluate why multi-cloud? 

While cloud computing provides several business benefits, defining what your requirements are is important while planning your multi-cloud strategy. Ask yourself questions like:   

Do I want to accelerate application delivery? 

With cloud, IT teams are enabled with nearly instant access to compute resources that accelerate applications’ delivery speeds. 

Do I want to improve IT efficiency? 

With cloud, you improve your IT team’s operational efficiencies by reducing infrastructure costs and enhancing team efficiency. 

Do I want to reduce infrastructure expenses? 

When your resources get access to lower-cost compute resources and right size capacity as per usage, the expenditure on infrastructure significantly goes down.  

Do I want to steer automation? 

Automation and self- service capabilities make IT teams far more efficient. Cloud management systems make automation of multiple manual processes possible. 

Do I want to reach new markets? 

The high speed of accessing the public cloud, together with the ability to offer services and products in new geographies has enabled organizations to reach new customers and open new markets.  

You must also have answers to questions to basic infrastructure management requirements like: 

  • What are my technical requirements? 
  • When do I want to complete this project 
  • What is my budget for the project 
  • Should I build the environment in-house or outsource it 

This guideline should help you take the initial decisions and have you ready for the process early on. 

Determine KPIs and goals 

The next step in the process is determining the end goal of your multi-cloud strategy. Most businesses will have up to 3 core goals or benefits as to what they stand to gain from their multi-cloud strategy. 

Avoid vendor lock-in – When IT teams standardize a particular technology, it could invariably lead to lock-in to a particular vendor. To avoid this circumstance, you can maintain a multi-cloud approach which allows you to choose and move among different cloud vendors and environments.  

Faster application delivery – Multiple cloud vendors can give you instant access to computer resources that speed up your application delivery. So, if your deployment goal is speeding up the rate of application development, a multi-cloud strategy is one to consider.  

Reaching new markets – When you want to ensure optimal performance in new geographies, a multi-cloud strategy helps you with high public cloud accessing speeds, coupled with the ability to offer new services and products.  

Reduce costs – Access to lower-cost compute resources and reducing unused excess capacity lets cloud providers reduce costs.  

Improve IT efficiency – Cloud computing expands the role if of the IT infrastructure team from just provisioning hardware to providing infrastructure services.  

Cloud expenditure 

When you define a spending budget and device methods to stay within the allocated resources, you can say your multi-cloud strategy is working well. However, it is not always possible to keep changing cost factors in check.  

A multi-cloud strategy specialist like Nuvento can help you in managing cloud costs and sticking to your spending plan. An optimization plan would include: 

  1. Automating provisioning
  2. Providing accurate cost tracking andspendreporting 
  3. Alerting you in case of unnecessary spending
  4. Creating a structure for accounts and bills
  5. Identifying saving opportunities
  6. Enforcing governance rules

Develop the roadmap 

If you are thinking, “how am I going to get started on this journey?”, here are a few pointers. 

  • Evaluate your current applications and their clouds. 
  • Understand what capabilities and features you need for improving performance. 
  • Evaluate the suitability of the cloud for different apps and workloads.  

To develop a more robust roadmap, you must also answer other critical questions like:  

  1. Which of my appsrequire high availability?
  2. Which of the processes should be the most protected?
  3. Which aspects need flexible scaling capabilities?

Here, you also need to concentrate on costs to avoid needless spending.  

Understand that a multi-cloud strategy will have a direct impact on all core IT processes so ensure your teams are aligned with your multi-cloud strategy plan.  

It is critical to: 

  1. Know what their applications usage, processes and operations are like. 
  2. Ensure you and your teams have the same level of understanding on how the multi-cloud environment is going to work and prepare well for that shift.  
  3. Have a plan for migrating on-prem services to the cloud/make modifications to apps so that they are cloud-friendly. 
  4. Lay down rules for developing, testing and running apps that will interact with multiple cloud services.  

Create a cloud portfolio 

Creating a cloud portfolio means: 

  •  Determining the number of cloud providers you need. 
  •  Choosing between a homogenous or heterogeneous model 

Determining the number of cloud providers you need 

When you build a multi-cloud environment, you need at least two public cloud providers, and you also must factor in if a private cloud can benefit the environment. 

Choosing between a homogenous or heterogeneous model 

A homogenous model includes several clouds from the same vendor and a heterogeneous model includes public and private clouds from different vendors.  

Also, consider if you need IaaS, PaaS or SaaS for your portfolio and make these decisions based  on your IT team’s skillset. You also need to consider which cloud your team is experienced in  and choose your providers accordingly. 

Factor in security and governance 

Cybersecurity and governance should be central to your multi-cloud strategy, and you need to  work on it from  the very beginning.  

You need to decide if you want your cloud service provider to cover the security aspects for you  or whether you can manage it in-house. As well as who’s going to access what in your cloud  environment. Ensure you factor in compliance and regulatory aspects as well.  

Think of: 

  1. Security control systems for each environment you choose, special security options
  2. What are the cybersecurity best practices that the team needs to follow
  3. Which are the tools to use for a safe multi-cloud environment.
  4. Defining governance requirements

Now is when you can create a policy for cloud security – a formal guideline that defines how  your company will operate in the cloud.  

Select the cloud vendor 

Now that you’ve decided your goals and identified what your business needs, identify who’s going to help you build that perfect multi-cloud environment for your business. Everything from the environment’s performance and cost savings is very dependent on this step.  

Find providers that fit your budget and then match your requirements with the vendor’s offerings. 

Most vendors offer free trials and assessments, so you can test the waters yourself to see if it is a good fit. Set up trials to see how operations run before committing to anyone for the long-term.  

For optimal performance, go for a provider who is a direct partner of the largest cloud services providers and with this you ensure your multi-cloud environment is operating at a high level.  

Plan for the future

When you adopt a multi-cloud environment, it is not going to be a ”do it one time and leave it”  process. You must be ready for changes in the market and that means keeping your systems  healthy for the future too.  

Ensure you strategy accounts for: 

  • Any new business changes in your environment 
  • Deployment of new applications 
  • Adoption of new solutions and technologies 
  • Expansion of the workforce 
  • Geographic and other changes 

When planning for the future, ensure your vendors and hosting partners are onboard too. Besides ensuring providers match your current requirements, know that each third-party vendor must be a part of your long-term multi-cloud strategy plan. 

Roles and functionalities 

Because of the nature of the setup of hybrid and multi clouds, it requires more expertise than  any other cloud deployment type. The staff in your team or your partner team needs to know  how to manage the system to ensure scalable performance. The team should be exceptional at: 

  • Multi-cloud management  
  • Cloud monitoring 
  • Automated provisioning 
  • Horizontal scaling 
  • Native cloud services 
  • Cloud security 
  • Disaster recovery 

Companies must build a powerful cloud team when deploying multi-cloud and the team should  consist of a: 

  • Cloud initiatives lead 
  • Cloud architect 
  • Software developers 
  • Cost management specialists 
  • Project and program managers 
  • Operations executives 
  • Application developers 
  • Integration and networking specialists 
  • Security specialists  
  • Finance executives 

Enterprises can even build their own cloud centers of excellence (COE) that would have fully  staffed teams of experts who can drive cloud transformation throughout the organization.  

Choosing a cloud management platform 

A cloud management platform can give your teams centralized access to all your multi-cloud environment. It’s more like a single window from which you can view your enterprise cloud environment.  

With cloud management platform, you can: 

  • Monitor and forecast costs, inventory usage and cloud resources usage 
  • Setup alerts for usage  
  • Get cost optimization recommendations 
  • Orchestrate and balance workloads  
  • Move workloads between different cloud environments 
  • Setup a service catalog capability and automate your processes 
  • Monitor third-party integrations and manage tools 

The cloud management platform should work along with the tools the team uses so ensure the platform works well with your current tools. 

So, now that we’ve seen how to build a strategy, let’s look at the best practices of building a successful multi-cloud strategy for your enterprise. 

  1. Create a strategic operational agenda and plan

It is good when you have strategic plans in place, but how many of them are executed to perfection remains a question at large. There is a high risk of non-performance while dealing with an infrastructural strategy, which is what multi-cloud basically is.  

To ensure the systems are optimally performing, CIOs and IT leaders must continuously communicate and educate the board, the C-level execs and staff on why the project is critical and explain what defines an achievement in the plan. 

  1. Re-look at vendor and contract management every year

When multi-cloud architecture involves contracts with external IT vendors, it comes at a cost. Review it every year and assess vendor contract performance and costs, and negotiate any adjustments that you need any. 

Have an understanding of what each cloud vendor’s flexibility is when sharing or transferring information is concerned. Also evaluate your vendor’s commitment to assisting you to migrate data or applications to another cloud, if you need it.  

  1. Return on investment

When you plan to use multi-cloud solutions to offset internal data center costs like hardware and facilities, also consider the additional costs for network, security, bandwidth that your environment will take.  

It’s not easy to have the same visibility of true costs with a cloud provider as you have in your own data center. So, have in place a robust cost management plan in your cloud management platform.  

  1. Ensureuptime and business continuity

When you assign your IT upkeep to your cloud vendor, it is on the vendor to keep your systems up and running. So, have thorough discussions with your vendor on managing business continuity should there be a downtime.  

Also, if you are using SaaS vendors without their own data centers, you may not be able to directly communicate with the data center provider if mission critical systems go offline. Instead, you must ensure you communicate with the SaaS provider to ensure systems stay up and running.  

And in a multi-cloud strategy, it also helps to arrange for an alternate data vendor in another geography to serve as a backup site should there be a regional disaster.  

  1. Data protection and privacy

Always have universal processes and a cohesive plan for mitigating risk. Security controls greatly  vary depending on vendors. And while they offer data security and privacy, there is significant  difference in how they are managed and deployed and here – having a universal process helps! 

Conclusion

Like it or not, a multi-cloud infrastructure is the best path forward for almost any organization. While the challenges mostly pertain to managing the environment, the benefits it provides certainly outweigh the disadvantages. 

So, follow the multi-cloud infrastructure building strategy and get an experienced cloud services vendor to support you in your projects.