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The Cloud Is a Box of Legos: How to Make Sure What You Build Improves Your Business

Tue 11 May 2021 | Josh Quint

Multi-cloud management – why IT leaders should treat each workload like its own lego set

Effective cloud deployments are not merely the sum of their parts. It’s also about the tools you use to manage those parts.

Many businesses, terrified of being “locked-in” by a single vendor, try to patch together services from multiple providers. The result is pieces or duplicates of data on multiple clouds: a costly, fragmented system that increases security risks and minimizes the true advantages of the cloud.

Like Legos, cloud services are tools you can use to build whatever you can imagine. The cohesion and functionality of the final product, however, hinges on how you choose your pieces and put them together.

Multi-cloud environments are a reality, so let’s look at how businesses can approach multi-cloud management to maximize business benefits.

When One Cloud Fits All

Do you really need multiple cloud providers in the first place?

Ask yourself these three questions when evaluating whether to incorporate additional cloud storage platforms:

  • Does your current provider’s infrastructure support all of your apps and workloads?
  • Does your current provider’s data safeguards align with your security and access needs?
  • Do the advantages of investing in additional cloud services justify the costs?

If the answers are yes, yes, and no, your organization might be better off avoiding the operational nuances and financial implications of a multi-cloud strategy for storage.

In many cases, organizations can find the platform versatility they need from a single cloud provider. Cloud capabilities from the same provider, like Lego pieces from the same set, bring standardization into the management process. It will be easier to oversee the distribution of your data (and workloads) when they’re all governed by the same system rules.

Vendor lock-in is a concern with the single-cloud approach, but the fear is often greater than the threat. Lock-in is typically a technical, rather than contractual, constraint. For example, when an organization decides to transfer apps and workloads that are already established in one environment, they might find that it’s technically and financially infeasible to rewrite them for the new one. The organization might then find itself stuck with its cloud provider.

When Multi-Cloud Is a Prudent Choice

Sometimes organizations find that they want more advanced capabilities, interoperability, and environment customization for individual apps and workloads. When this is the case, multi-cloud may be the right answer.

The big three public cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform – each has its own niche. Each provider offers hundreds of cloud services. Finding the platform and service that best suits your needs is a challenge.

For instance, if you need comprehensive IAM across your organization, you may choose Azure Active Directory; while a separate workload with high data growth and inconsistent access requirements might be better suited for AWS S3 with a Storage Gateway.

Shop around and find the building blocks that best suit your needs, but be rigorous in your selection process.

Selecting Cloud Providers: Weigh Financial, Technological, and Regulatory Considerations

How do you choose the Lego blocks you need? Do your research upfront.

There are three main qualifications to consider when assessing new cloud services:

  • Financial: Discuss budget constraints with the finance team to figure out how much budget you have available for new cloud services.
  • Technological: If you have specific technical needs for your apps or workloads, request a proof of concept with prospective cloud service providers.
  • Regulatory: Know your geographic availability and regulatory standards when vetting services for compliance needs.

Organizations may also find that it’s easier to stay within one cloud provider’s environment for some workloads – some only run on Windows and utilize Microsoft’s SQL Server, for instance, so it makes sense for them to live in Azure.

These decisions will vary from organization to organization, workload to workload. While operationally it’s easier to choose just one provider for all of your individual workloads, no single provider can meet every financial, technological, and regulatory constraint. To maximize the benefits of each, you’ll need to take the time to choose wisely.

Far too often we see organizations take the shortcut of one-size-fits-all for their cloud strategy –  only to regret not investing upfront to optimize their strategy. It will take time and cost a little bit, but it’s critical to vet this properly. Don’t skip this step.

Treat Each Workload Like Its Own Lego Set

When it comes to building your multi-cloud environment, fail early, fail often, and don’t be afraid to pivot. You don’t want to wind up past the point of no return – like realizing you’ve built your foundation with the wrong size Legos and finding yourself unable to complete the set.

Don’t treat your IT stack like a monolith and assess one workload at a time. When beginning the migration of one workload, keep other cloud service options on the table. That way, if you encounter unforeseen challenges halfway through the migration, there won’t be any contractual issues if you decide to pull out.

Multi-cloud environments work best when organizations focus their cloud selection on the needs of each application and their desired outcomes.

Experts featured:

Josh Quint

Senior Director of Cloud Solutions
ServerCentral Turing Group (SCTG)

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