The good news about multicloud management: it will get easier as the years roll forward. After all, most companies use multiple cloud platforms for different tasks. So combining all these clouds using a single multicloud management system is something that IT managers will get used to with time.
The bad news about multicloud management: it’s currently far from ideal. It’s an inherently messy process. While some vendors tout a “one dashboard handles it all,” multicloud management system, in fact this technology is still in its infancy.
The problem is inherent in the very nature of multicloud. How are companies supposed to use a single dashboard to manage, say, a Google Cloud deployment focused on AI and data analytics tools, along with an Azure deployment focused on a private-public hybrid cloud scenario?
Answer: they’re probably not. In sum, there are so many different variables involved in managing those two deployments. Finding a single solution that fits them both (or, even harder, fits all your cloud instances) is a big mountain to climb.
Among the many problems: even something as simple as the storage platform is different between the three major players. For instance, the different cloud companies don’t offer a load balancing toolset that that is the same.
Indeed, it’s the fierce deep-pocketed competition that is AWS vs. Azure vs. Google that is exactly why multicloud is hard to manage with one pane of glass. These vendors are trying to be different from one another. It’s called competitive differentiation. It is the exact opposite of industry standards.
Even more challenging: an enterprise might use some 150 services from Azure Cloud, 125 from Google Cloud, and another 300 from Amazon Web Services. The math – 575 services – offers a mind boggling management problem. That's true even if you don’t hope to manage them as part of a whole.
Or perhaps you think, “I’ll just manage containers across a multicloud platform. Guess what? The 2019 Rightscale report indicates that the AWS container service has a 44 percent adoption, with Azure Container service at 28 percent, and Google Cloud Container Engine at 15 percent.
You're going to manage them as part of one simple multicloud strategy? Hmmm…that’s a lot to ask.
Why Multicloud Management is Essential
Cloud computing has evolved to the point where multicloud is a default scenario. Meaning: if you manage cloud, understanding how to manage multicloud is absolutely essential.
Indeed, according to the Rightscale State of the Cloud 2019 report: 84% of enterprises have a multicloud strategy.
Similarly, a hybrid strategy is in use by 58% in 2019, rising from 51% in 2018. And a stunning 94% of survey respondents use cloud computing; it’s reasonable to assume that virtually all of them will employ a multicloud strategy some point relatively soon.
Indeed, companies use nearly 5 clouds on average. If further proof were needed that multicloud has arrived, this fact proves it.
Multicloud Management and Tools
One of the deep ironies about multicloud management is that it gives a second chance to vendors who didn’t get the lions share of the market in the first decade of cloud growth.
Because hey, if you couldn’t be leader then, now you can offer a solution that manages all the leaders. It’s rather a nifty trick – because certainly one of the Big Three (AWS, Azure, Google) isn’t likely to offer a leading multicloud management tool. Each of them are focused on being a leader, not a member of the pack.
VMware, for instance, once made a stab at being a public cloud player, but realized it wasn’t the wisest course in 2017. VMware, wisely, partners with AWS instead of attempting to compete with them as an IaaS. Now it offers some solutions for multicloud managment. VMware, for instance, offers VRA, Wavefront and CloudHealth.
See this Multicloud Management Tools roundup for a complete picture.
Multicloud Management: Five Key Tips
Clearly, a list of multicloud management tips will evolve – should evolve – constantly. These five are a good starting point.
1. Learn to “Translate” Costs Across Platforms
Naturally, cost and budget allocation is the primary concern – and a primary challenge – of multicloud management.
The problem: the various cloud vendors do not charge the same amount for the same service. Sometimes they don’t even call the same service by the same name.
The technique here is to find a way to “translate” all the vendors' bills into a single system that make sense for your accounting-payments system.
This form of sophisticated translation will typically require a meeting of executives, IT professionals, cloud managers, and other parties involved with managing your cloud deployment. The challenge is for all these professionals to work together and “decode” the invoices from the various cloud vendors. All the charges can be put into a single spreadsheet with some degree of coherence – or at least that's the goal.
2. Be Aware that Your IT Infrastructure Now Contains Two Worlds – Can They Speak with One Another?
You remember, of course, your data center. That large, highly capable facility that was once the center of all computing for your business (and may still be).
Now with your multicloud platform, you have a completely different (but hopefully not completely separate) IT infrastructure.
Do they interoperate? The answer must be yes – certainly there is data flowing back and forth between on-prem and your cloud.
But in the larger sense, are these two systems fully making the most of their interoperability? The question itself brings up a whole host of complicated issues. About security, about how closely they mirror one another in the hybrid-public-private scenario, about whether the workload on each is really the best workload for the platform.
Your “dueling” IT systems must be integrated in terms of governance, tools, process and information cataloging.
In short, the relationship between the two IT systems will be one of the chief headaches for anyone trying to manage these two systems in tandem. And naturally, the cloud changes so fast that the way your multicloud platform works with your data center will shift with every season.
Welcome to the multicloud era! (It’s complicated.)
3. Understand That Managing User Access Gets More Difficult: Identity Management
The first truth of enterprise management, with a significant pool of employees: not everyone gets access to everything. If they did, the system would break down. Staff on one level, in one division, get access to a given app or platform. No one else does.
Identity management has always been a major challenge. Passwords and the complications that go with managing them produce major security challenges, in addition to the routine administrative work.
Some organizations rely on active directory for identity management. And certainly this venerable system has worked for many. But the problem to be aware of is this: managing identity service for all your employees, for all the parts of your multicloud platform, produces a key challenge to multicloud management.
It can be addressed various ways, but the bottom line is this: know that IT management is an issue you need to have fully addressed as you manage your multicloud deployment.
4. Keep your Staff Updated on the (Very) Rapid Changes in Cloud Services
There are few vendors who change services, tool sets and features as rapidly as cloud vendors. It literally never stops. In particular, the profusion of new tools is stunning – each vendor is competing for market share in this still growing period, and besting a competitor with more tools is a good way to do it.
Now, take these rapid changes and multiply them by three or four cloud providers (or more).
Suddenly, the act of letting your employees know exactly what your multicloud platform can do – and how much it costs – is a job requiring a small team of people. Or a not so small team.
In truth, there may be no easy answer to this; no easy way to update your “cloud service catalog.” But be aware this updating process is one of the keys to multicloud management. Somehow, this is a problem you'll need to solve.
5. Keep Your Eyes Always – Always – on the Future
You know this, but it’s worth repeating: multicloud management will be challenging, confusing and constantly changing for the foreseeable future. It is the very opposite of a mature market. It’s a new, chaotic market, one whose solutions (if we’re honest) may or may not actually work.
So to think that anytime in the next few years your multicloud management system is in place and can now just run smoothly is likely a very mistaken idea.
Probably the best case: get a system in place, cobble together a few still-developing tools. Establish a reasonable code of management that a full team is aware of – and to which they adhere.
And even as you monitor and manage this system, keep scouting for the new few tools, the next platform, the new multicloud management platform that actually does fully (or mostly) manage the many clouds in your deployment.
In the mean time, good luck! And happy multiclouding.