Multicloud management refers to the practices, technology, and techniques used in combining disparate cloud services into a single logical system. Multicloud, in this most general sense, is the combination of two or more cloud services, implying that each organization will have their own multicloud management strategy based on the services the business requires for their unique set of needs. Multicloud leaves the door wide open for many options, including any combination of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models. This can lead to cloud configurations that include on-premise private clouds, hybrid clouds, and public clouds, while serving multiple locations and edge sites.
Because of the ensuing complexity possible in multicloud configurations, management and governance centralization is the main tenet of multicloud management, ideally implemented through multicloud management platforms (also cloud management platforms) that aim to create a single-pane-of-glass view of all cloud resources. To this end these platforms provide consistency in deploying applications to multiple environments, maintaining security and compliance policies across platforms, and drawing insights and visualizations based on monitoring of event and log data.
Multicloud management platforms feature capabilities found in cost management apps, automation software, and infrastructure monitoring software. They are capable of:
Cloud Monitoring and Analytics — Cloud platforms monitor all cloud resources, and optimize off baseline. They can provide helpful analytics like usage, cost, and performance across multiple vendors and locations helping administrators understand the cost benefit of their networks.
Self-Service Cloud Computing — Self-service cloud computing allows teams to directly access cloud resources. By eliminating the requirement to work through an agent of the service provider, and granting direct access, DevOps teams can more easily control and provision their workflows as needed.
Automated Workflows — In the cloud, automation has been a fundamental enabling technology that has effectively eliminated most human error, while it has also enabled containerization, orchestration, and microservices architecture. By operating in the cloud, organizations can also leverage the advantages of automation, thereby gaining unprecedented agility, speed, and reliability.
Organizations deploying multicloud configurations, for business and technological strategic reasons. Operationally, multicloud refers to the use of multiple services from the public cloud from more than one cloud vendor or provider. Interconnecting Google Cloud, with Salesforce, Quickbooks, and MailChimp would be considered a multicloud setup. When enterprises use multicloud they typically will use platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from more than one cloud provider, like AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, IBM Cloud, or Alibaba Cloud, in order to build in redundancy, scalability, and localization of resources into their overall IT infrastructure.
The key multicloud enabling technologies include:
Broadband — High speed internet backbones allow for rapid data transfer between systems, systems and users. Connected to telecommunication channels allows for systems to reach users on mobile devices.
Data Centers — While primarily known as the repository for cloud storage and compute power, data centers have also promoted the standardization and modularity that have made cloud economics a compelling alternative to on-premise.
Multitenant Technologies — Multitenancy software designs allow for single instances of application to serve multiple users, ideally important when multiple users are accessing and modifying the same base data, such as customer or order information.
Virtualization — Virtualization, containerization, and orchestration are all key enabling software technologies that comprise the modern cloud ecosystem, and replace manual provisioning as the industry best practice.
Web Applications — The latest web technology enables the ubiquitously access of cloud resources via the Internet.
Overall, the main benefit of multicloud configurations and using multicloud management platforms is to avoid vendor lock-in—the complete reliance on a single vendor without an immediate ability to or the impracticality (financially, technically) of switching to another vendor. Vendor lock-in is lower at more fundamental levels of cloud services, for example, if using only IaaS, then transferring data stores may be more straightforward than retrieving data locked in a PaaS solution data structures. In the case of PaaS data, if the vendor simply does not offer an export feature, chances for vendor lock-in are high.
Specific benefits of multicloud management include:
Reduced Complexity Leads to Less Workload — The centralization provided by cloud management platforms that reduces complexity can significantly lead to reduced workloads on teams. Teams that are unburdened from multicloud administrative workflows can focus their attention to more relevant or progressive tasks.
Cloud Visibility — Multicloud management platforms provide the necessary visibility across multiple cloud providers, providing the oversight capabilities necessary to make sound business decisions.
Unified Security — Building on full cloud visibility, multicloud management platforms are uniquely situated to provide a unified security view. This position allows security teams to proactively address system security concerns, and be able to address ongoing issues.
Cost Controls and Management — Cloud payment models are based on pay-as-you-go schemes to mirror their scaling and flexibility characteristics. More usage, greater services, more capacity may be paid in graduating tiers. Using multicloud management platforms to track usage and costing can help when comparing cost benefits between different vendors.
Improve Service Availability — Multicloud strategies in support of high availability depend on redundant systems that can orchestrate workloads across multiple cloud environments. For this reason, multicloud management becomes a critical enabler of improving service availability.
In general, multicloud management aims to simplify the growing complexities in today's modern cloud configurations. As organizational IT resources spread out across and include multiple vendors, locations, and environments, these complexities pose tracking problems for teams that manually monitor their clouds.
Manually monitoring multicloud configurations demands teams to manage:
Cost comparisons between vendors and services
Performance monitoring across different cloud systems
Delays with manual processing of reports
Cloud asset resource management
Compliance monitoring and enforcement
Increased complexity and integrations
Integrations between different software environments
Multicloud management works by centralizing multiple cloud services under a platform that orchestrates workloads across clouds. Powerful analytics tie data together into a single source of truth, granting organizations unprecedented insight and control over their clouds. These platforms are often open-source, making them highly supported across cloud providers.
Moving workloads is a primary function of multicloud, and key enabling technologies include Kubernetes, and Docker. These technologies create the container and container orchestration that allows for portable workloads to move across clouds. This is where cloud management platforms come in to help enforce policies across all your cloud environments.
Best practices will adjust over time, but the following ones will help teams approach their multicloud configurations. Generally, utilizing the technological advantages of the cloud is the base for many best practices.
Map Workloads to Cloud Services — Critically, begin by mapping workloads to their appropriate cloud services, taking into consideration that the right infrastructure is matched.
Consider Other Cloud Delivery Models — While multicloud and hybrid cloud are overlapping areas, consideration must be paid to different IT delivery models that can work in tandem with multicloud solutions.
Centralized IT Governance — Bringing multicloud environments under that same management platform as on-premise systems, collocated infrastructure and data centers enables teams to quickly orchestrate and monitor their systems.
Promote Change Management — Since systems are for people to power, implementing multicloud does not immediately improve the company without cultural adoption of cloud first concepts. Implement a change management system to promote this adoption.
Create a Robust Integration Framework — Multicloud requires many APIs and integration points from additional third-party cloud-based applications and services that can pose many challenges. Overcome these by creating a robust integration framework that maps all these points.
Benchmark Service Levels — Vendor information and SLAs need to be consolidated, and further benchmarked. Because in multicloud configurations SLAs can become non-standard, benchmarking helps to ensure a uniform and consistent service.
Define Consistent Security Policies — Compliance and regulations, like GDPR and CCPA, have elevated the importance of data privacy and security. For complex data demands on organizations, partnering with a managed security service provider (MSSP) can be helpful.
Right Fit For Your Disaster Recovery Strategy — The cloud provides tremendous disaster recovery capabilities, however, it is far from automatic. This entails assessing risks, developing disaster recovery plans, locating backup locations, resumption plan, roles and responsibilities. Fortunately, leading cloud technology is suited for much of the actual data protections, but teams themselves must be prepared in advance for when disaster does strike.
Leverage Analytics for Continuous Improvement — Data volumes soar in multicloud environments. By capturing and running analytics on these data, companies can integrate a continuous improvement workflow. The feedback from such analytics can help companies navigate the challenges of multicloud.
Multicloud management platforms help companies tie together multiple cloud services under a centralized management system. According to the software review site G2, the top 10 most popular cloud management platforms are (in no particular order):
Zesty — Zesty provides an AI-driven platform that will automatically manage cloud resources in real-time.
Nutanix Beam — Nutanix promotes a multi-cloud governance service that automates cloud security compliance using 250+ audit checks.
Azure Arc — Azures brand of cloud management to unify on-premise, edge, and multicloud.
Turbonomic — An IBM company, Turbonomic aims to ensure application performance with its proprietary network performance management software.
Spot Cloud Analyzer — Spot promotes a product that analyzes cloud spend, automatically reducing costs up to 90%.
Serverless360 — Serverless360 is an enterprise grade cloud management platform that supports Azure.
Flexera One — Flexera One is a SaaS cloud management platform with visualization features that cross on-premise, private and public deployments.
Mist — Mist is an open-source cloud management application.
Snow Software (Snow Commander) — Snow software is proficient in detecting cloud software licenses.
IBM Multicloud Manager — IBM's brand provides control and performance across all cloud environments.
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