A guide to securing application consistency in multi-cloud environments

Cloud computing. It is like a well-trodden path when it comes to talking about digitalisation. Multi-cloud is another term that has crossed many lips, and something that we are still getting to know now, as efforts continue to ramp up to meet the demand of the digital era. For organisations, the demand to adapt and move with the times is apparent. But the demand for organisations to transform digitally is even more pressing. The whole ecosystem of growth, progression and delivering on the expectations of the end user rests in the delivery of cutting-edge, end-to-end managed IT services.

It is the kind of transformational change that is driving organisations to seek consistency across multiple environments.

The availability of multiple platforms means organisations can be spoilt-for-choice, and when they have picked and deployed a wide variety of applications that are subject to shifts and changes, they can lack overall control, support and visibility. And, with the story of multi-cloud barely on the first chapter, there is more still to come and more to be done to ensure support for present and future digital transformation needs.

The multi-cloud approach is enabling new digital workflows, and companies can ensure better collaborative capabilities between what may have once been siloed components.

The landscape is, however, an ever-changing environment.

The customer centric view means being application centric and organisations need to ensure they can support customer-specific services as they either evolve, change or become redundant. All businesses must support a huge amount of vastly different server applications, with Virtual Services ranging from very low throughput single node IoT devices, to highly critical real-time online production servers that need to deliver high-availability online examination software. This is where multi-cloud requires another layer in order to work to its best capabilities for such a carefully balanced environment, and where the consideration of application delivery services and software-driven infrastructure solutions comes in to play.

The problem with multi-cloud

The requirement now is for platforms where every application and deployment is managed seamlessly so business can thrive in the long term. The solution needs to address the holes that a rush to multi-cloud infrastructure can leave, such as a requirement for easier management capabilities and analysis technology that can work across platforms to analyse and troubleshoot applications. Multi-cloud risks adding complexity, but enterprises know they can’t have siloed clouds. Having many different tools to deploy applications in different clouds can fracture development teams, and inconsistent services and processes across clouds defeats the very purpose of a multi-cloud initiative in the first place.

The problems stem from the differences between all of the components of multi-cloud, such as how on-prem data centres work, the requirements of various applications and the disparity between clouds. The compute, storage and networking resources themselves are not the issue when it comes to multi-cloud, but the consistent provisioning and management over every working component is more likely the sticking point.

It is the mission of internal service providers to achieve consistency without slowing everything down. The business wants speed and that means finding a way to deploy applications on different platforms quickly. In the race to get applications deployed teams want guardrails to ensure they can move quickly without the risk of driving off the cliff (or in this case) cloud edge. They want a safeguard where they know exactly what to expect whatever the environment they operating in.

Keeping up with the clouds

The difficulty is that, in the rush to keep up with the latest IT strategies driving digital change across every vertical sector, organisations have struggled to deploy a well-integrated, and complete multi-cloud solution. Instead they have resorted to bolting multiple clouds on to existing structures, in turn leaving a complicated mismatch that can lead to vendor or platform lock-in. It is the kind of thing that requires a whole team of specialists to manage and configure application deployment and delivery in various silos over multiple clouds, as opposed to on-prem.

These problems are real and difficult, but they are not impossible to fix. The solution is abstraction. Too many services today are opinionated about the underlying infrastructure when they shouldn’t have to be. For example, a hardware appliance is confined to the datacentre and many cloud providers offer proprietary services unique to their cloud and their cloud alone. The next generation of application services is abstracted from the underlying infrastructure, software-defined, and opinionated only about the needs of the application (not the infrastructure that delivers it). These software-only services will play a critical role in the data centre and across multiple clouds providing consistent experiences in every environment.

Not only is this a simple solution, the tools to carry it out are readily available right now. And ultimately, this is the solution where multiple environments must be fully integrated and it allows organisations to get the most out of multi-cloud use where each application sits in the cloud that provides maximum benefit to the business.

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