If your company is like most, sooner or later you are going to be involved with multi-cloud computing. The RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey reveals that 85 percent of enterprises already have a multi-cloud strategy, and the percentage is increasing every year. According to Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, the future of corporate IT is clear: “All enterprises will use multiple cloud providers, and they must plan for how they will operate in a multi-cloud environment.”
If your business doesn’t yet have a thoroughly thought out multi-cloud strategy, it’s time to start developing one.
Why You Need a Multi-cloud Strategy
Although all the major public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offer a full range of cloud services, they still differ from one another in significant ways. As Navica’s Bernard Golden puts it, “Each cloud provider implements core computing functionality quite differently, and each offers quite different services within each category.” For example, Microsoft’s Azure is a natural for deploying Windows client apps, while when it comes to data storage, AWS offers a breadth of services the other platforms don’t yet match.
Guiding Principles for a Good Multi-Cloud Strategy
Perhaps the most vital principle for managing a multi-cloud environment is that the entire system must be managed as a single entity. Although each cloud platform has its own native management console, users should never be required to use different procedures for each cloud – and they certainly shouldn’t be expected to log into different clouds depending on the application they may be running. Administrators should be able to manage the functionality of the system through a “single pane of glass” interface that doesn’t change depending on which cloud platform is providing a particular set of services or applications.
Assess Your Environment
The core of a good multi-cloud strategy is matching workloads with the platforms best able to run them efficiently and cost effectively. That means having a good understanding of the operational characteristics of the workloads you currently run. So, in developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll want to start by doing a comprehensive assessment of your current environment, taking note of factors such as data protection needs, performance demands, and the particular services required by each workload.
Prepare Your Organization
In developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll need to assess not just your workloads, but your IT organization as well. Although users may not need to be aware of which cloud is actually servicing their applications, your IT staff will need to know. In fact, they’ll need to have the platform-specific expertise required to develop, install and manage workloads in each cloud. As Mary McCoy, Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum puts it, “IT organizations need to develop deep skills in each of the cloud providers they will use.”
That means your multi-cloud strategy should include provisions for either training your own staff, or for partnering with a third party services provider that can provide the required expertise.
Develop Your Data Protection Strategy
One of the most vital components of your multi-cloud strategy will be defining how data protection will be enacted across clouds and for the system as a whole. While each cloud platform may have its own approach to data protection, it is absolutely critical that your organization’s data access, backup/restore, security, and regulatory compliance policies be uniformly applied across the system. Take extreme care that in attempting to mesh the security approaches of different clouds you don’t open unforeseen holes that aggressive intruders can take advantage of.
A major foundation for implementing a viable multi-cloud approach is the use of software-defined storage. Only with SDS can the environment be managed through software from a single point of control. The SDS software, in turn, is guided by a set of policy directives developed by administrators that define how the system as a whole, as well as each individual component, should function. Your multi-cloud plan should specify the overall guidelines that will be applied when your policies are developed in detail.
Simplify Your Multi-Cloud Environment
The key to a successful multi-cloud implementation is being able to manage a complex system encompassing different cloud platforms, each with its own distinct characteristics, as a single entity. That can only be accomplished by instituting a software-defined environment that is guided by well thought out policy directives.
The Zadara Storage Cloud is a good example of an SDS solution that facilitates that kind of unified control. With Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays installed both at customer sites and in the facilities of major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP, intercommunication and data transfer between clouds can be managed automatically and transparently through software. Functions such as remote replication, mirroring, and application failover between clouds can be applied system-wide without users having to be concerned with the specific protocols of each platform.
If you’d like to know more about how the multi-cloud capabilities of the Zadara Storage Cloud can work for you, please download our Getting Great Performance in the Cloud white paper.