4 tips for adopting a multi cloud strategy

Editor’s Note: With cloud tech spending increasing across all industries this past year, the options for companies can seem overwhelming to say the least. Couple that with an increasing demand from consumers for a deeper and more responsive digital experience, and it’s clear that businesses need to join the digital evolution to avoid being left behind.

Among the hundreds of providers out there, where should a company even start when considering adopting cloud-based solutions? There are simple tips, such as selecting one main provider and enacting a step-by-step adoption strategy, that can help the process move seamlessly.

Summary:  As architecture strategies percolate in a hybrid-friendly, remote operations world, spending in public cloud resources is up across the board this year—coinciding with a decrease in on-premises software spend. Consider these four tips as you create your multi-cloud adoption roadmap.

With architecture strategies percolating in a hybrid-friendly, remote operations world, cloud spend is up across the board this year, coinciding with a decrease in on-premises software spend.

Companies are investing more in public cloud resources, the second-highest category for IT spend increases behind SaaS, Flexera's 2021 tech spend report shows

Sprawl accompanies the rise in cloud spend, as organizations invest in solutions from multiple vendors as part of their technology portfolios. Companies need to rely on concrete IT asset management processes to ensure the mix of vendors and solutions effectively works, Flexera said. IT asset management processes to ensure the mix of vendors and solutions effectively works, Flexera said.

Nowhere is this more pressing than in the multi-cloud world. Companies are overhauling their technology stacks with flexibility in mind, capitalizing on best-of-breed solutions to support a given workload. 

Amazon Web Services could serve as the public cloud foundation, but a company may still want to contract with Google for advanced analytics. That same scenario could play out across any number or combination of cloud providers, creating a vast web of tools and solutions a company can draw from. Risks lie in companies not fully understanding where their assets are or how much they're spending. 

"There hasn't always been a very highly controlled and strictly planned accumulation of cloud services and I think companies are trying to put a little more thought into it," said Bill Martorelli, principal analyst at Forrester. 

As companies evolve cloud strategies and embrace a multi-cloud world, here are four tips to consider when creating an adoption roadmap. 

1. Pick a primary provider 

For enterprises of any size, multi-cloud is an inevitability, Gartner analyst David Smith told CIO Dive last month. Companies acquire multiple clouds through M&A or when looking for the best solution in a given vertical. 

There are different schools of thought on how to manage cloud vendors, Smith said. Some say, if a business works with one vendor, they can earn a big discount. Others say businesses are better off encouraging competition and avoiding reliance on a single vendor. 

Nine in 10 enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy in place, with 82% taking a hybrid cloud approach through combining public and private clouds, Flexera survey data on the State of the Cloud shows.

While data is sometimes integrated, apps remain in silos on different clouds for half of 750 technical respondents. However, two in five respondents have workload mobility across clouds. 

Many organizations get to the point where they accept multiple cloud providers as the reality, Smith said. "Then the question becomes, how do we deal with it? How do we manage it? How do we govern it? How do we manage the risks?" 

This has led to the movement where businesses appoint a primary provider in a multi-cloud architecture. Businesses with a primary provider centralize workloads on one cloud provider, but use other platforms for specific requirements. 

2. Identify the best fit cloud per workload 

Wells Fargo recently announced a 10-year technology infrastructure modernization plan, featuring Microsoft as a primary provider, and Google Cloud supporting advanced workloads. The company also plans to modernize and maintain third-party data centers. 

The Pentagon too has a multicloud, multi-vendor procurement plan, which took shape when it canceled the 10-year, $10 billion cloud contract which would have relied on Microsoft as the provider. 

Each of these cases, alongside the cloud contracts announced regularly, are working to identify the best technology for a given instance. 

There's pressure in the enterprise to access different cloud services for different workloads, Martorelli said. The classic example is Google's analytics platform, which might be particularly coveted by an organization's data organization. 

One department's desire to access a tool can spur adoption, and in a multi-cloud environment, organizations can support diverse tools. An enterprise planning for a cloud workload is far better than the persistence of shadow IT. 

3. Step-by-step migration 

Cloud migrations take time and resources, particularly in the case of massive overhauls. But the most effective ways to migrate require patience and pragmatism. 

The best way to move is on a case-by-case basis, Smith said. Organizations can use "principles like 'cloud first' or 'cloud smart' to try to determine what is the right answer for a particular application or workload." 

It's an alternative to the massive, "close everything down, move everything to a cloud provider quickly," approach, he said. 

Wells Fargo embodies the patience required to move to the cloud. The company has a 10-year migration plan and aside from quick wins, it will need to create a rhythm for executing cloud transformation. 

The company is firmly entrenched in its legacy, on-premises structures and has to migrate sensitive data sitting on data centers to the public cloud, said Tracy Woo, senior analyst at Forrester. That's "going to be very difficult," Woo said. 

"There's a lot of app modernization that needs to happen," she said. "They need to understand how to even build up new applications that are able to increase skills that are within the public cloud and then [transfer] that data." 

4. Watch for cost overrun 

With acceptance of multi-cloud, companies may have cloud workloads varying by departments. If organizations have organically acquired multiple cloud providers, intentionally or not, they may not realize where costs are creeping in

"Companies are also seeking to optimize their spend and maximize their spend," Martorelli said. They can get the largest discount by giving the most business to a single provider. 

Businesses may be more "oriented toward, let's say, trying to funnel a lot of usage to one cloud but nevertheless leaving the door open for other usage. That is justified on reasonable business relevant grounds," he said. 

This approach plays well with a primary provider strategy, where the bulk of workloads are managed within a single cloud. It also centralizes talent, allowing an organization to focus upskilling efforts on dominant workloads with the possibility of bringing in subject matter experts for diverse tools. 

"It's tricky to track costs when you get multiple cloud environments," Martorelli said. But issues also arise from extending existing security regulatory coverage across multiple clouds as opposed to just one. 

To help contain architecture costs, more organizations are adopting multi-cloud cost management tools, though they're only present in 42% of deployments, Flexera data shows. One-third of enterprises also use multi-cloud management tools, up 9% from last year. 

Forrester always recommends performing some sort of cost management by adopting third-party tooling and solutions, many of which are easy to implement and can provide forecasting, optimization, and offer unified management of the entire space, according to Woo. 

This article was written by Naomi Eide from CIO Dive and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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Key takeaway: When considering cloud-based solutions, start by choosing one primary provider. From there, enact a step-by-step adoption strategy. Make sure to identify the best-fit cloud service for each workload and watch for cost overruns.

About the Author

CIO Dive provides in-depth journalism and insight into the most impactful news and trends shaping IT. The newsletters and website cover topics such as IT strategy, infrastructure, software, security, big data, and more. CIO Dive is a leading publication operated by Industry Dive. Our business journalists spark ideas and shape agendas for 10+ million decision makers in competitive industries.

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