All posts by bradparks

Why the antidote for multi-cloud complexity is a unified management strategy

Start counting off the benefits of multi-cloud and you soon run out of fingers; avoiding vendor lock-in, matching the right tool for the job, democratised access to stakeholders, balancing performance and cost, geographically aligning workloads to name just five.

Yet there’s always a catch. With management of multiple clouds, one of the big gotchas is complexity. A recent MIT Technology Review/VMware study (pdf) found that 57% of senior IT managers surveyed report technical and skills challenges were ‘critical learnings’ from their multi-cloud implementations. In a recent Morpheus Data and 451 Research webinar, it was revealed that 90% of IT leaders reported skills shortages in cloud-related disciplines, up from 50% just a few years ago.

What to do when you reach the multi-cloud ‘tipping point’

Many organisations still struggle to do one cloud right. When looking at multi-cloud deployments alongside cloud skills gaps, it’s clear that IT teams are in trouble. Sooner or later, your multi-cloud setup will reach what cloud industry expert David Linthicum refers to as the ‘tipping point’ at which ‘the number of services you use exceeds your ability to properly manage them.’ The exact tipping point varies based on your company’s size, the complexity of the services you use, security and governance, as well as your staff’s skill set.

Linthicum lists four factors that indicate your multi-cloud will benefit from a third-party cloud management platform such as Morpheus:

  • Are your developers unhappy about how long it takes for them to allocate resources to their applications?
  • Are your managers uncertain about who is responsible for the security of specific cloud resources?
  • Are your users griping about performance glitches, many of which are caused by applications not getting the cloud resources they need?
  • Are you unable to charge back cloud costs to the appropriate departments and users?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should consider using a multi-cloud management platform (CMP). Your developers benefit by being able to allocate various cloud resources to their apps directly and on-demand via GUI or API/CLI. A CMP also makes it easy to track who is provisioning specific resources and confirm that they are properly securing the workloads.

The smart folks over at Gartner have spent hundreds of hours talking to customers and vendors to come up with what is a pretty slick framework to think about the CMP space. In their “wheel” you can see the core categories of capability. There are tools that provide one of these capabilities across multiple cloud platforms. There are also tools that provide a range of these features within a narrow set of platforms. And then there are the unicorns… truly multi-function and multi-platform CMPs which are agnostic and not tied to a legacy hypervisor or hardware vendor.  They go into detail on this space in their 2019 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Management Platforms.

Your multi-cloud strategy must meet the needs of multiple stakeholders

In the modern multi-cloud world, companies need a way to move between public and private clouds quickly, simply, and reliably. The only way to accomplish this is by cutting through the inherent complexity of multiple individual services, as BusinessWorld‘s David Webster explains. The key is to shift your focus to collaboration: place the customer experience in the centre by creating “new customer engagement models.”

Improving the customer experience, managing costs, and enhancing DevOps velocity are all possible with the right multi-cloud orchestration approach, one that treats Infrastructure teams, Developers, and Business users as equal citizens. Collaboration and partnerships are easier to establish when all parties share the platform that delivers the apps and underlying analytics that drive the business forward.

These personas have different needs however, so it’s key to strike a balance that delivers on their key need without compromising that of the others. For example, IT operations teams have KPIs around security and service levels which tends to lead to more conservative approaches to technology adoption. Developer teams on the other hand, are all about velocity and continuous innovation. Business teams care about differentiation and innovation but not at the expense of reputation or cost.

Business and IT operations: Security, cost, and cross-cloud management

TechRepublic‘s Alison DeNisco Rayome reports that 86 percent of cloud technology decision makers at large enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy. The benefits cited by the executives include improved IT infrastructure management and flexibility (33 percent), improved cost management (33 percent), and enhanced security and compliance (30 percent).

Transitioning to a cloud-first IT operation is bound to entail overcoming inertia, adjusting to changing roles, and learning new skills. Realising multi-cloud benefits requires overcoming challenges in three areas in particular, according to CloudTech‘s Gaurav Yadav:

  • Public cloud security: While the security of the public cloud is considered robust, the transit of data from on-premises infrastructure to the public cloud needs to be carefully planned and implemented
  • Cost accounting: Multi-cloud commoditises cloud resources by letting users choose the services that best meet their specific needs. To accomplish this, enterprise IT must transition from vendor-enforced workflows to a vendor-agnostic infrastructure
  • Unified cross-cloud view: The goal is to give users a single management platform that lets them visualise and implement workloads using multiple cloud services that are viewed as a single resource rather than as “isolated entities"

Developers: New kids with new demands

What do developers need out of the multi-cloud management equation? They are interested in full API/CLI access, infrastructure as code, and speed of deployment. As David Feuer writes on Medium, the proliferation of developer products and services is matched by increases in use cases and backend technical complexity. Feuer recommends building your multi-cloud strategy from the ground up, putting APIs and developers first.

Developers want to use cutting-edge tools to create modern apps. The results of the 2018 Stackoverflow Developer Survey show that when choosing an employer, developers’ second-highest priority — after salary and benefits — is the languages, frameworks, and other technologies they will be working with. Considering that more than half of the developers surveyed have had their current job for less than two years, it pays for companies to give talented developers access to the tools they need to excel.

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Why efficient multi-cloud management and DevOps requires transparency

As multi-clouds become the norm, finding and addressing wasteful cloud resources jump to the top of the list of IT concerns. Keeping cloud management simple, timely, and accurate requires a view into your application usage that is clear and comprehensive.

Hybrid clouds give organisations the ability to get the best of both worlds: on-premises for traditional apps and resources they want to keep close at hand, and in the public cloud to realise the speed, agility, and efficiency of cloud-native applications. The challenge is to maintain the optimal balance between public and private clouds to achieve your business objectives. Doing so requires a 360-degree view of the full application lifecycle.

Companies need to evaluate multi-cloud management platforms and orchestration tools which can take the mystery out of hybrid IT by giving an up-to-date view of resource utilisation without slowing down DevOps activities. According to a recent survey of CIOs and IT managers, 37 percent of respondents identified unpredictable costs as their greatest cloud concern, topped only by security.

Sharpening your view into critical operations

According to studies conducted by ISACA Research, one out of three organisations doesn't calculate cloud computing ROI. This study identifies three "core IT activities" that must be monitored regularly and accurately:

  • Quickly spinning up new cloud environments or adapting old ones 
  • Providing the right services to the right people at the lowest cost possible
  • Keeping those user services and app stacks reliable, secure, and stable

Gaining visibility into application health is one of the top four challenges of multi-cloud management, topped only by security and performance concerns.

The benefits of visibility into all your workloads — in the cloud and on-premises — is demonstrated by an accounting application, which has peaks and valleys of activity in standard business cycles. 

One of the greatest impacts of enhanced visibility into application performance and health is the ability of CIOs to partner with the business units that rely on the apps. Knowing how cloud and non-cloud resources are being used in the organisation allows CIOs to recommend specific platforms and services, keep tabs on the inevitable shadow IT projects, and have a more thorough knowledge of what the business units need. 

Bringing monitoring and logging into a consolidated view across clouds with an orchestration platform like Morpheus unlocks the ability to detect app stack outages, scale across platforms and clouds, and otherwise assure day-2 production application tasks are first class citizens within the deployment phase of the app lifecycle. 

Too often, Biz Dev and Ops are three separate functions. However having full view of multi-cloud operations and the ability to provide services to both business stakeholders and developers on demand can elevate the IT Ops team to a position of business value rather than business frustration.

An opportunity for DevOps to drive the business to new heights

The continuous integration/continuous (CI/CD) delivery nature of DevOps is taking organisations by storm. DevOps teams think in terms of application portability and velocity, which means applications are built independently of where they will live [and] move across the continuum of on-prem, private and public clouds with complete transparency to end users.

There's only one way to achieve such a level of end-user transparency in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments: via a single unified interface that is shared by all of the teams that touch the app life cycle. The growing popularity of multi-cloud management platforms such as Morpheus is due in large part to the increasing demand for a single, comprehensive view of diverse public cloud and private cloud services.

It must go beyond a unified interface though. Organisations using configuration management tools as part of their orchestration flow can track configuration state changes in development and then enforce an identical state of dependencies through test and production. When coupled with self-service provisioning, organisations are able to quickly tear down and refresh the entire pipeline at any time because everything is stored and managed as code.

Unified multi-cloud management lets teams execute workflows and determine the best execution venue for workloads by identifying the optimal platform based on cost, reliability, and service portfolio. The single point of control the services provide means users have new levels of order and visibility into multi-cloud environments and governance.

https://i1.wp.com/www.cybersecuritycloudexpo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/cyber-security-world-series-1.png?w=474&ssl=1Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.