The answer to multi-cloud madness: Strategies for managing cloud complexity

June 13, 2024 Arthur Nichols 4 min
Multi-cloud environments offer several advantages, including flexibility and potential cost savings. However, organizations need to have strategies in place to manage the complex challenges of the multi-cloud world.

Multi-cloud environments offer several advantages, including flexibility and potential cost savings. However, organizations need to have strategies in place to manage the complex challenges of the multi-cloud world.

From AWS to Microsoft Azure and Workday to Salesforce, organizations are embracing a multi-cloud approach, using more than one cloud computing provider to run their applications.

The number of cloud providers has increased significantly in recent years, and many organizations are seizing the opportunity to transform their IT infrastructures by shifting to a multi-cloud environment comprising private, public or hybrid clouds.

A study commissioned by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure found that multi-cloud environments are central to the way modern industry leaders do business. Out of the 1,500 enterprises surveyed, 98% already use or plan to use a multi-cloud approach. Nearly all of the respondents have more than one provider for public cloud-delivered infrastructure (IaaS or PaaS), cloud-delivered applications (SaaS) or both.

Why are so many companies adopting a multi-cloud strategy? It delivers numerous benefits, such as cost optimization and provider flexibility. However, as organizations scale and add more cloud providers, tracking and managing all of them can rapidly become more complex.

Realizing the benefits of multi-cloud

Multi-cloud allows organizations to select the best-in-class cloud solutions and customize them to suit their unique needs. The top two most significant motivators driving multi-cloud adoption are data sovereignty / data locality (41%) and cost optimization (40%), followed by business agility and innovation (30%).

Data sovereignty refers to the laws and governance structures of the country where an organization generates, processes and stores its digital data. The cloud offers an advantage here, providing a secure and compliant platform for an organization’s data sovereignty needs.

Organizations also achieve cost optimization from multi-cloud environments because they avoid vendor lock-in. They can review each cloud provider’s pricing options and select the ones that offer the best overall value for different services rather than being limited to a single provider’s rates.

Additionally, multi-cloud helps organizations manage a globally distributed workforce by providing user accessibility while maintaining regional security and compliance requirements.

A common use case is leveraging multi-cloud to ensure business continuity and aid disaster recovery. By backing up critical data on multiple clouds, a company can retain its critical functions before, during and after a major event, such as an outage or security breach.

Identifying the challenges of multi-cloud

As a company grows and scales, its multi-cloud environment evolves with it, leading to a complex cloud framework. Each cloud provider has its own interface, integrations and interoperability, which the company must manage separately and as a whole. So organizations need skilled IT teams with expertise in each cloud provider, but finding them can be both expensive and challenging due to the ongoing shortage of experienced professionals.

Multi-cloud security is a significant challenge for organizations with cloud sprawl, which is a lack of control over the proliferation of cloud instances. Broad cloud exposure leaves a company open to vulnerabilities and cyberthreats. A study of networking professionals found that 41% cited “providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple clouds” as a top challenge.

Adding to a company’s multi-cloud security risks is “shadow IT,” which happens when employees use programs or services outside of official IT sanction — and therefore outside their visibility or access. For example, an employee might mistakenly store files in Dropbox when the company’s official cloud storage is Microsoft OneDrive. Shadow IT may come from innocent motivations, but it can be a critical security and compliance issue.

How organizations can excel at multi-cloud

Organizations juggling multi-cloud environments may look at their disparate infrastructures and wonder: How do we manage it all?

Fortunately, there are some effective organizational strategies that can help companies efficiently manage multi-cloud environments and minimize complexity, including:

  • Selectivity: A study from Google and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) revealed that a selective multi-cloud approach can mitigate complexity. Organizations in the study tended to prioritize one dominant public cloud infrastructure provider and use other providers for specific applications or team requirements (39%) or deploy workloads across providers based on the application’s needs (30%).
  • Standardization: Consistent standards for policies and processes that work across multiple clouds encourage efficiency and productivity. For example, organizations can adopt universal naming conventions by business unit, location or project.
  • Audits: Regularly review clouds and look for duplicate or unused services and potential performance, security, and cost issues.
  • IT Partnerships: An expert managed services provider, like Windstream Enterprise, acts as an extension of your team to ensure you have the right technology in place, and the right humans helping you make that technology work for your business.

Windstream guides companies through their multi-cloud journeys, helping them strike the right balance across their people, processes and systems.  Effective management of these three areas is the key to executing, operating, optimizing complex hybrid- and multi-cloud environments.

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Key Takeaway
Companies that successfully leverage a multi-cloud approach use organizational strategies and IT partnerships to maximize the benefits while reducing complexity.

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