Creating a More Strategic Multi-Cloud Environment

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Creating a More Strategic Multi-Cloud Environment

Today, cloud decision-making parallels the process for selecting and implementing other major technologies. Here’s why large and midsize organizations usually select multiple public cloud vendors.

The way organizations approach the public cloud is changing. Instead of selecting cloud vendors based exclusively on cost, familiarity or feature-by-feature comparisons, savvy decision-makers are creating multi-cloud environments that align with larger technology and business strategies — a move that has serious implications for CIOs and other stakeholders.

The shift to multi-cloud

In the first wave of public cloud migration, it was common for business units to test the waters with a cloud vendor. Over time, they eventually tied themselves to that vendor based on convenience and ease of use.

When AWS emerged as the first mature public cloud, it offered easy access to an impressive range of services and cloud opportunities. Many business units and organizations tried AWS and stuck with it, primarily because they were already familiar with the vendor and the platform.

But in today’s business environment, cloud decision-making parallels the process for selecting and implementing other major technologies. And like other technologies, large and midsize organizations usually select multiple public cloud vendors. Here’s why:

  • Less Risk. By selecting multiple cloud vendors, organizations reduce risk and gain bargaining power to play vendors against each other. The champion vs. challenger model offers a way for organizations to make the most of their public cloud investments.
  • Range of Services. Cloud providers are building unique services on top of their core offerings — services that differentiate them from other providers. AWS is distinct for its breadth of services. Google is making a name for itself around machine learning and Azure is making advancements in IoT. These are just a few examples; each of these vendors, and others, are rapidly expanding their range of services. Going forward, the trend toward specialization will continue, making a multi-cloud approach a strategic imperative.
  • Vendor Partnerships. In some cases, cloud vendors are partnering with other technology providers to create unique ecosystems to meet evolving enterprise needs. For example, the recent announcement about VMware on AWS gives existing VMware customers the ability to extend their own data centers into the cloud and seamlessly move workload back and forth. Additionally, Microsoft was part of a $253 million investment round in software development company Pivotal. The investment addresses the need for Microsoft users to better leverage Cloud Foundry, a popular service to manage software on Azure.

For the most part, all of the major cloud providers offer coverage across all regions. But depending on the specific region and services you’re looking for, certain cloud vendors may have a regional advantage — another reason why a multi-cloud approach is appealing to many organizations.

Best practices for developing a multi-cloud strategy

The transition to a coherent multi-cloud environment is an important milestone for your organization. But it also introduces new risks and challenges. At a minimum, your organization’s multi-cloud strategy should include several best practices designed to help you make the most of your cloud investments.

Pay attention to governance.

Many organizations never realize savings or the goals they hope to achieve from public clouds because they lack proper governance. When you develop a multi-cloud strategy, governance becomes even more important because you have to track the costs and efficiencies so you can make the right decisions for the organization.

[Related: 10 ways fog computing extends the edge ]

The use of multiple cloud vendors enables you to create a champion vs. challenger model in which the challenger can serve as a force to drive down costs and improve efficiency. But unless you’re closely tracking the value each vendor provides, you won’t be able to make informed decisions about transferring more workload to the challenger.

Avoid decisions based on feature-by-feature comparisons.

It’s a mistake to select cloud vendors based on a feature-by-feature comparison. Feature sets change daily, making it difficult to perform accurate comparisons. But more importantly, a strict feature-by-feature comparison doesn’t tell the whole story and can result in the selection of a vendor that isn’t the right fit for the company’s business strategy.

[ Related: Fog and Cloud Computing: Working Together ]

Any cloud vendor selection process needs to consider a wide range of variables. Current applications, future applications, the option to pursue an open source framework — these and other strategic decisions should factor into the decision much more than a feature-by-feature approach.

Focus on the real value of the public cloud.

Cost considerations are typically the motivating factor for migrating to a public cloud. But the real value isn’t less expensive infrastructure — it’s the agility, flexibility and ease of use afforded by innovative new services not available on premises.

In summary, a multi-cloud strategy requires business leaders to think beyond cost. They must examine the opportunity holistically based on their current assets, technology ecosystem and business strategy. For example, are you a Microsoft shop or open source? Do you want to move to a cloud native strategy? What bets are you placing in the areas of machine learning, artificial intelligence and analytics?

To access the real benefits of the cloud, you need to think about your cloud strategy holistically and as an extension of how technology drives your organization’s business strategy.

Charlie Li

About Charlie Li

Charlie Li is executive vice president and chief cloud officer responsible for Capgemini Group’s North America Cloud services portfolio and Cloud Strategy. He has spent 20 years in the technology innovation and business applications field helping customers in various industries optimize the business value of technology. Previously, he served on the IBM Rational board of advisors, the HP software advisory board and a former guest lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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