It’s no secret that the public cloud has been a game changer for businesses. In today’s world, every organization is looking for ways to store data more efficiently, support agile application development and reduce the burdens associated with on-premises data centers.
The public cloud is essential for meeting those objectives and achieving the higher degree of innovation and digital transformation that many organizations seek. While the shift to the cloud has unlocked unprecedented innovation, it has also created a new layer of complexity and sometimes unexpected costs.
The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index found that nearly every organization (99%) has moved one or more applications to a different IT infrastructure in the past year, and the vast majority (86%) agree that moving applications is both complex and costly. Accordingly, 56% plan to focus on gaining more visibility into their cloud consumption and costs this year, while 52% plan to leverage solutions that minimize cloud waste.
As Scott Sinclair, senior analyst for TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group explains, “The typical enterprise now has multiple data centers and public cloud providers, and many are also using lots of different colocation facilities and multiple edge locations.” As such, “It presents a new paradigm with companies having to look at different factors and considerations like cost, portability and security because their data is no longer all locked in one room.”
Organizations must carefully plan their cloud strategy to avoid getting bogged down by complexity and sticker shock. But in most cases, this is easier said than done. The majority of companies are not using a single environment — their infrastructure includes some combination of on-premises and public cloud resources. One of the challenges this creates is additional expenses and complexity associated with data mobility and data protection: Moving data around so that it’s available where and when it’s needed while simultaneously keeping it safeguarded requires careful planning and budgeting. In other words, data has gravity, and unless data movement and orchestration are planned, one can end up stranded when the primary location for a dataset is unavailable.
Even companies that were born in the cloud have their work cut out for them. Managing different cloud environments might be relatively straightforward for a cloud-native organization initially, but if at some point their data needs to be relocated on-premises to address compliance, data sovereignty issues or budget, it can result in soaring costs if not properly executed.
With this being said, here are four considerations CIOs should take into account to keep cloud complexity and costs in check from the start.
1. Have Your Head in the Cloud but Your Feet on the Ground
To reap the benefits of the cloud, organizations need to adjust their expectations and plan realistically. There’s a false perception that companies can run an application on AWS in the morning, Azure in the afternoon, and Google Cloud Platform at night. In actuality, multi-cloud is a medium-to-long-term strategy that occurs over months or years. Building a cloud operating model with this in mind lets organizations benefit from the flexibility of leveraging multiple clouds while avoiding the cost and complexity associated with trying to do too much too fast with the cloud. When appropriate expectations are in place, hybrid multi-cloud is achievable, affordable, and undoubtedly beneficial.
2. Learn on Others’ Dime as Much as Possible
There are several best practices organizations should follow as they begin their hybrid multi-cloud journey. These include things like ensuring key application capabilities have API wrappers, containerizing modern applications as much as possible so they are portable, and automating application deployments through CI/CD pipelines to avoid manual errors and reduce costs. Public clouds have been around for almost 15 years, and designing for the public cloud is now quite well understood across the industry. Still, companies need to be mindful of how they leverage public cloud for certain applications or workloads. For example, modernizing a legacy application portfolio might sound like a good idea in theory, but in reality, it is cost-prohibitive and it will not provide ROI —lift and shift is a much better option for legacy applications.
3. Standardize, Automate and be Paranoid
Public cloud environments are fundamentally different from traditional on-premises infrastructure, so organizations need to think about them differently—especially where security is concerned. While a fortified exterior with unfettered internal freedom might be a workable model for on-premises, the same model could spell disaster in the cloud. Host-based security approaches have become more critical in the public cloud. Automation and standardization ensure that security measures are applied consistently across all cloud resources and services within an organization and shorten the window to detect unauthorized behaviors. Organizations must also consider the non-technology aspect of this: training and education for their teams. All teams and departments must be on the same page when it comes to security so they can collaborate effectively on security-related initiatives.
4. Build in Optionality From Day One
The public cloud is by far the best place to begin innovation. However, as companies experiment in the public cloud and a smaller portfolio of applications gain traction, enterprises need to adjust to the reality that — for the vast majority of applications — the public cloud will always be more expensive than running them on-premises (or perhaps even another cloud). To avoid lock-in, enterprises must build in optionality for migrating their compute when needed, as well as the mechanism to move their data out of public clouds when needed. Organizations that are flush with cloud engineering talent can do this on their own, but the vast majority will require an underlying platform that’s explicitly designed for data and computation mobility.
The perks of one platform to run all workloads across clouds, on-premises, and the edge are undeniable: From increased flexibility to optimized performance, compliance, agility and more. By heeding the advice above, companies can keep multi-cloud challenges like complexity and unexpected costs at a minimum and fuel innovation.