Gartner estimates that by 2022, 75 per cent of enterprise customers using cloud infrastructure as a service will adopt a deliberate multi-cloud strategy.
Up from 49 per cent in 2017, this is a fast-growing trend, which shows little sign of abating as businesses continue to ‘mix and match’ the services provided by the big four hyperscalers – AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba.
With that said, Gartner’s used of the term ‘deliberate’ multi-cloud strategy is a telling one, as it implies that there is such a thing as an accidental or even haphazard counterpart.
The truth is that there is, and in the IT world this is a tale as old as time. Infrastructure evolves and expands organically, based on the need for short-term fixes and challenges posed by managing increasing data volumes.
The pandemic underlined this fact in a big way. According to Veeam’s Data Protection Report 2021, 53 per cent of CXOs said that the need to maintain operations during the pandemic had held back their strategic digital transformation initiatives.
It is only now that we will see a shift as businesses move beyond the crisis stage of their COVID-19 response and start to look at how the digital infrastructure and skills they acquired through short-term necessity can be evolved into a coherent, longer-term vision.
There is no reason why the same is not true when it comes to multi-cloud. Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud report found that 92 per cent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy.
The question I would post, is how many have a deliberate multi-cloud strategy? Yes, many enterprises will have weighed up the pros and cons of working with each cloud provider and implemented a cloud data management strategy to ensure they can manage and protect data across multiple public cloud platforms.
But we must not pretend that a significant number are likely to have found themselves working with multiple cloud providers, based on factors such as what platforms their partners use, through mergers and acquisitions, or in an attempt to contain spiralling costs. This is where the risk of multi-cloud can begin to offset the benefits.
Send in the digital health inspectors
Multi-cloud brings a number of challenges in terms of cloud security, skills, and cost optimization which businesses must be aware of before investing heavily in this as a strategy. Focusing on security first, so often cyber security vulnerabilities can be traced back to low levels of digital hygiene – a problem that is exasperated by using multiple cloud providers.
In an ideal world, businesses would all have the required digital hygiene to successfully manage a multi-cloud environment, reaping the benefits of scalability and diverse capabilities this can bring.
But in the real world rather than the ideal world, many businesses are still challenged by shadow IT and employees who require more extensive training when it comes to handling data compliantly, being more savvy when it comes to spotting phishing links, and using strong, varied passwords that they change regularly.
This takes us onto skills because as well as employees requiring training to improve their digital hygiene and savviness, multi-cloud also creates a skills void at a more technical level – within the IT team itself.
Finding talented and experience system administrators and IT personnel is challenging enough as it is. Now you have to find ones who are well versed in not one, but two or three different cloud platforms. Compatibility and interoperability between these platforms are almost non-existent.
They are written using different code, programming language and standards. Simply put, they’re made using different bricks.
So, it is important that organisations looking to leverage a multi-cloud strategy are furnished with technical skills in all of the platforms they plan to use. This is essential for not only managing and protecting data across multiple public clouds, but also optimizing the costs of this strategy.
The public cloud opens up an array of exciting opportunities for organisations looking to consume software as a service (SaaS) and manage the exploding data volumes, which have challenged IT departments globally.
However, there is a feeling among IT teams that the public cloud has not completely fulfilled the promise of being cost-effective. In fact, for many cloud costs are spiraling out of control. So, it stands to reason, that if it’s difficult to contain the costs of using one public cloud, it certainly isn’t any easier to contain the costs of using multiple clouds.
This is where having a cohesive cloud data management strategy comes into play. Businesses need to be honest with themselves and ask whether they have adopted an intentional multi-cloud strategy, or did it just happen? If it’s the latter, that is fine, but it’s time to conduct a full review of your cloud provision, and ensure you have the required skills on board to maximise your use of each cloud, contain your storage costs, and to ensure data is fully protected across all infrastructure.
Businesses looking to deliberately form a multi-cloud strategy must first ensure that their standards of digital hygiene – including cyber security protocols, tracking, clear roles and responsibilities – are fit for purpose.
This is fundamental to the success of reaping the very real benefits, while managing the potential risks, in terms of cloud security and cost containment.
Dave Russell is the vice president, enterprise strategy at Veeam Software.