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Multicloud management gets easier

by Lauren Horwitz

Managing Editor, Cisco.com

For years, companies struggled in their journey to the cloud given the complexity of cloud environments. But, after a decade, cloud integration and management are getting easier.

As cloud environments play a larger role in business operations, they offer value, including flexibility, agility, reduced costs and increasing revenue. Enterprises that need to innovate and pivot quickly often turn to cloud services.

Despite these touted benefits, companies have struggled mightily to achieve them. According to 2017 IDC and Cisco CloudView research on cloud adoption, only 11% of organizations have maximized cloud when it comes to revenue growth, cost reduction and speed. A major factor is the complexity of these environments. While different workloads run best in different environments, integrating these opposing worlds cohesively is difficult.

So, first, let’s outline this multicloud landscape: Enterprises operate in private clouds, virtualized and multitenant environments that are located within a company’s four walls; public clouds, hosted in multitenant or dedicated servers—often virtualized and managed off-site; and hybrid clouds, which combine private and public clouds. Finally, in multicloud environments, enterprises use more than one public cloud provider—and often have cloud assets on-premises as well.

According to IDC data, 67% of enterprises use two or more public cloud providers. And 451 Research estimates that by 2018, companies will run 60% of workloads will run in public clouds. Increasing interest in multicloud approaches makes sense: In addition to protecting against vendor lock-in, a multicloud strategy can help bolster disaster recovery strategies—providing multiple locations for data backup. It also promotes data sovereignty principles, where data can more easily reside in the country where it has been generated.

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Bridging the gap in multicloud strategies

But the reality is, combining these environments has been tough. Managing servers, storage and networking in one data center within a company’s four walls is complex. Add in the dynamics of managing cloud services from multiple providers, which often differ in architecture and configuration, and the result is a bouillabaisse of complexity. Because each provider has its own portals and processes, it’s often complicated to manage multiple environments. Toolsets that treat multiple vendor environments as one haven't always been readily available.

What's more, public and on-premises configurations often differ. Managing data centers replete with legacy infrastructure may augment these problems. The ability to port data back and forth may be compromised or impossible. And accessing data and applications in an integrated way—securely and without compromising performance—is likely a challenge.

Organizations need a multicloud management strategy to make this happen.

Shifts in the cloud landscape

Today, enterprises have turned a corner on some of these struggles. Multicloud environments have finally become easier to use and manage. Organizations have options for common toolsets to work with multiple clouds as one set of resources. They also have seen the light on planning. If organizations spend the time up front mapping their physical and virtualized architectures, and then putting policies and processes in place to span their clouds, enterprises often have greater success in migrating and managing. Yet another area of improvement is service-level agreements (SLAs). Companies know better how to scrutinize and negotiate their SLAs, and they are learning when to turn to consultancies for help. As these public cloud environments grow simpler to integrate, support and manage over the long haul, the multicloud vision as a whole becomes easier to achieve.

In this package on hybrid cloud and multicloud management strategies, we explore some of the historic challenges in creating an integrated, well-managed and secure cloud environment and focus on how organizations are tackling these problems today. We explore new concepts like a “pragmatic” hybrid cloud as well as some of the key technologies that have helped companies make the shift to a multicloud world: hyperconverged infrastructurenetworking virtualization and software-defined networking as well as methodologies like DevOps. We also examine some of the key recommendations that companies should consider as they design hybrid and multicloud strategies.

For more on this topic, check out our hybrid cloud strategy guide.

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”