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Managing multicloud: Getting the fundamentals right

Christian Mohn, Senior Solutions Architect

Multicloud is a new concept for many organisations, yet it describes a trend that’s been in place for many years. As demand increases across the organisation for access to a broader range of services, different business units are using a wide set of cloud-based applications to meet their needs. As the transition towards the public clouds takes force, decision makers are increasingly finding limitations in their legacy infrastructure. Instead of moving everything to one cloud, we’re seeing organisations move applications to diverse providers because of the flexibility multicloud offers.

One challenge many organisations face is in finding the level of technical expertise and knowledge required to maximise the benefits of multicloud. Transitioning to multicloud requires building a depth of cloud skills and resources, then making changes at an organisational level to break down departmental barriers and lay the foundation for seamless navigation between providers.

Building blocks for multicloud success

While people often think of cloud as a purely technology matter, the first step towards implementing multicloud is to address the non-technical aspects of its implementation. Most fundamentally, there needs to be a strong alignment between the solutions the organisation is paying for and the business needs they are addressing. This helps in deciding which applications should be run in the cloud and which would be better run on-premises. For example, core services like CRM with Oracle may be better off remaining on-premises for cost and efficiency purposes, while moving email and Sharepoint to the cloud can free up resources and reduce the burden involved in maintenance and upgrades.

Provisioning a wide variety of cloud services requires the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders, and agreement on which services are best suited to meet needs. The following checklist will help you lay the foundations for a successful multicloud deployment:

  • Create a Cloud Centre of Excellence: A Cloud Centre of Excellence provides a starting point for building the competencies that multicloud requires. Every organisation needs this cross-functional team of people, who are responsible for developing and managing the cloud strategy, governance and best practice. IT may need to play a central role in driving the committee, but a broad representation of departments and teams is essential for it to be representative of needs.
  • Build a cloud architecture team: Ensure you have a cloud architecture team that understands what you’re trying to do. The responsibilities and competencies involved differ from those required for managing in-house IT. While managing infrastructure on-premises involves technical responsibilities such as storage, networking and compute, in a cloud environment these skills are managed by the provider. Your cloud architecture team therefore need to be focused on provisioning services.
  • Choose your cloud on a needs basis: Figure out which cloud to use for which workload, and why. Each provider has its own set of advantages, and so multicloud enables you to match services on a ‘fit-for-purpose’ basis. Buying a particular service needs to be driven by a particular business decision.
  • Do your due diligence: You need to understand your applications, how they work, the performance metrics you have against each, and whether their efficiency would benefit from moving to the cloud or be retained on-premises. Making these considerations up front can save time, resource and expense in the longer-term.
  • Optimise skill sets: Making the transition to multicloud requires fewer deep-level technical insights and more focus on how the applications work, along with how you can best utilise the service catalogue from different providers. Consider all the skills available to you. Organisations often overlook the skills and assistance they can receive from a vendor – for example, they may use a vendor for their on-premises environment without realising a cloud version of the application also exists. Transitioning to its cloud-based solution is usually seamless as your team are already familiar with the interface and the vendor can help you with tooling and management

At Proact, we’re implementing solutions such as NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP to help our customers consolidate their services into public cloud locations. This allows them to gain the benefit of data control, protection and efficiency with the flexibility of the cloud. NetApp offers this functionality as a managed service, whereby it handles configuring and managing your environment so you don’t have to, guaranteeing best practices and security.

Avoiding bill shock

A major driver for any enterprise making their first steps into multicloud is the goal of finding new cost efficiencies. It’s vital to have transparency regarding service needs and internal resources provisioned. By understanding why specific services are being used, you can ensure you don’t run up unexpected costs. You should always able to answer the question “why are we spending money on this?” and assign responsibilities to delete or discontinue services that aren’t being used or duplicate existing functionality.

The IT team also needs to map which services from which vendor should be used to meet organisation’s needs, then administer it as a business solution for all employees. This requires a tight organisational approach and strong co-ordination, but is vital to understanding the services the organisation requires and removing operational silos.

Multicloud is a new way of working and consuming IT and, whether organisations consciously realise or not, it is already becoming the default. They need to ensure they invest in the right people, build the skills and knowledge required for a new cloud-centric way of working and get a broad representation of business lines involved in decision-making from the outset in order to lay the foundations for multicloud success.