In today’s world of constant innovation, enterprises are increasingly using a variety of IT platforms to meet their growing business needs. This variety allows businesses to run their workloads where they make the most sense, rather than being tied to one provider or delivery model.
We see this firsthand at Rackspace in the cloud space. Most of our upper mid-market and enterprise customers run their workloads on multiple clouds — public cloud, private cloud, managed hosting or multiple flavors of each from different cloud providers — either by design or through changes and growth over time.
According to the most recent Rightscale State of the Cloud Report, we’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of enterprises now rely on a multi-cloud strategy. Add in the legacy workloads still running across different technology platforms in corporate data centers, and you get a complicated mix of different IT systems and deployments all working in tandem.
Given that this is a fairly new trend in the market, customers and colleagues frequently ask for a breakdown of this multi-cloud shift. Here are five common questions, and answers, about pursuing a multi-cloud strategy:
1. Why are more enterprises adopting a multi-cloud strategy? A multi-cloud strategy gives enterprises the flexibility to run their workloads where they perform best —whether on a public or private cloud platform, or a managed hosting environment. They have realized that not all workloads are created equal, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” platform for business needs. Security, regulatory and data governance needs, among others, may require companies to leverage private cloud or managed hosting solutions, while applications with variable, sometimes high-bandwidth traffic may require the pay-as-you-go scalability of a public cloud solution.
Therefore, companies are seeing, and will continue to see, the need for multiple public and private cloud platforms, as well as the need to manage across all environments.
2. What are the benefits of adopting a multi-cloud strategy? A multi-cloud approach can offer greater control and additional cost savings over a single cloud platform. The multi-cloud model can maximize return on investment by increasing leverage with vendors, prioritizing core business areas and moving agile applications away from legacy enterprise systems to highly elastic cloud solutions.
Operating with a single vendor can make it easier to get locked in with that one provider. A multi-cloud approach helps minimize the risk of vendor price hikes and other vendor lock-in issues, enabling users to choose the services best suited for specific workloads.
Other benefits of adopting a multi-cloud strategy include increased geographical data flexibility to make data sovereignty compliance simpler and more effective disaster mitigation, which reduces the risk of widespread data loss and downtime.
3. What are the challenges of adopting a multi-cloud strategy? It can be complex to manage across multiple cloud environments, as many companies lack the expertise and resources needed to build and operate cloud environments on multiple platforms in a secure and cost-effective manner.
In 2017, a report commissioned by Rackspace found that enterprises around the world were losing out on more than $250 million a year due to a lack of cloud expertise. The study also found that the cloud skills gap is hampering creativity, with two thirds of IT pros saying they would be able to bring greater innovation to their organization with the right cloud expertise.
In addition, companies have trouble hiring and retaining all the expertise they need to manage multiple, complex, fast-changing cloud technologies. In the Rackspace survey, 44 percent of IT pros said they spent more time managing their organization’s cloud services than initially expected, diverting their attention from more impactful activities.
Many enterprises want to benefit from a multi-cloud strategy and optimize on a workload-by-workload basis, but in a simplified delivery model. In order to mitigate these challenges, businesses should look for a next-generation managed service provider that can act as the glue across cloud platforms and, in the end, offer a fully integrated experience, a single pane of glass, from billing to support to an integrated portal.
4. How do I manage security in a multi-cloud world?
Security is such a prevalent concern, it often consumes much of my time with customers. And, security in a multi-cloud world can be complicated.
Security teams must think of themselves differently in today’s multi-cloud world, truly operating as an extension of the business. Security analysts should not only make sure the business is meeting customer outcomes through business enablement, but they also must be able to respond to attacks when they happen.
This requires a thorough understanding of the data being protected and its importance and impact to the business, and can only be delivered by analysts as skilled as the hackers they are defending against. They must also be agile enough to respond appropriately and immediately. Such an operation will make adversaries’ work more complex, expensive and more likely to fail.
Many businesses don’t have this level of expertise in-house. A managed service provider can offer simplicity in securing multi-cloud workloads since they have a birds-eye view of all workloads, as well as deep expertise in each individual platform.
5. What are the key features to look for in a multi-cloud management platform? Companies want a cloud provider who can broker contracts with other service providers and deliver multiple cloud services, such as backup and recovery, cloud readiness assessment, migration services and premium support.
Companies also look for a trusted partner with the expertise to manage all public, private and managed-hosting platforms with integrated services like reporting, analytics, billing and professional services on top.
When evaluating managed cloud providers that can assist with multi-cloud management, companies should look at the providers’ in-house expertise, including their bench of certified professionals, customer references and track record as well as the breadth and depth of their industry partnerships. These features are good indicators of the providers’ ability to integrate, manage and advise the customer in their multi-cloud journey.
Integration and management costs can cancel out price differences among providers and in some cases, these costs could even outweigh the cloud services’ benefits.
Regardless of these questions, one fact remains true: businesses are realizing the performance benefits of a multi-cloud environment. We will continue to see enterprises push the envelope on use cases for multi-cloud strategies, and we will continue to see cloud and managed service providers offer products and services that help overcome challenges and optimize environments.