Around the world, cloud adoption is accelerating. Companies adopting cloud services seek to increase agility, optimize operations, and drive innovation, among other goals. A recent report from Deloitte found that among U.S. companies, cloud adoption soared 45% from 2021 to 2022 and that these IT teams’ work to enhance capabilities has delivered 10X multiples. As a result, 90% of the leaders surveyed view the cloud as a “force multiplier” when combined with other technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and analytics, researchers found.
Increasingly, IT teams are pursuing a multi-cloud strategy to improve business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) and achieve other business and technical goals. Among large enterprises, 94% had adopted a multi-cloud infrastructure by 2023.
Host Michelle Dawn Mooney welcomed Arunansu Pattanayak,Technical Specialist at Microsoft, to Device42’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to IT podcast to discuss how to unlock the value of the modern cloudscape. The episode highlighted how IT teams can maximize cloud’s technical and business benefits, while solving the challenges of running and growing multi-cloud infrastructures. The podcast episode is available for viewing here.
To start, Pattanayak shared a bit about his background. He said that he focuses exclusively on the financial services industry and partners with customers to deploy Microsoft Azure, data and AI solutions. In addition, he is a keynote speaker on data and AI topics.
Purpose of This Blog
The purpose of this blog is to provide IT leaders and teams with insights about how they can optimize multi-cloud infrastructure operations.
Technical Benefits of Operating Multi-Cloud Environments
Host Mooney asked Pattanayak to elaborate on the technical benefits of adopting multi-cloud infrastructure. He reviewed the advantages that accrue to enterprises, which include:
- Getting out of the data business: When IT teams purchase cloud services they no longer have to manage virtual machines or data servers. The cloud provider handles all infrastructure management duties.
This enables teams to focus on innovation. They can experiment more and develop new applications to spur growth, without worrying about whether to build new data centers or refresh hardware, which require substantial CapEx investment and effort.
- Benefitting from cloud consumption models: IT teams pay only for the services they consume. In addition, they can flexibly scale capacity up and down with demand changes, gain burst capacity when needed, and access the latest innovations as providers roll them out.
- Being able to work with multiple providers: IT teams may decide to spread their business across multiple vendors to gain different capabilities, improve BC and DR, and more easily scale with growth.
- Streamlining the transition from one provider to another: IT teams want to avoid vendor lock-in, getting trapped with one provider if service availability and quality diminish or if prices soar.
When IT teams replicate data across multiple clouds, they can downsize or cancel one provider and move priority workloads to another, providing them with increased flexibility and negotiating power.
Technical Challenges of Operating Multi-Cloud Environments
Pattanayak continued by describing the technical challenges IT teams face as they seek to manage fast-growing multi-cloud environments.
- Overseeing proliferating APIs: Cloud services use native APIs to communicate and transfer data and connect cloud and on-premises resources. However, since there’s no standardized API on the market, most cloud providers offer their own APIs.
IT teams have to understand how APIs are named, what protocols they use, and how applications are deployed to take advantage of cloud capabilities and protect application performance. The more vendors IT teams use, the greater this challenge.
Business Benefits of Going Multi-Cloud
Pattanayak said there are three primary benefits of developing multi-cloud infrastructures:
- Improving BC and DR: Instead of relying on a single cloud provider and replicating data and applications across a single region, IT teams using multi-cloud strategies have access to more data centers in more regions across more providers. As a result, if a data center hosting an enterprise cloud goes down unexpectedly, another provider can automatically become the primary cloud, enabling services to continue without disrupting enterprise operations or customers.
- Capitalizing on new features: Cloud providers are constantly innovating services and features to attract and keep customers. IT teams monitor new releases closely, to see how they solve technical problems or add value.
With a multi-cloud approach, IT teams can move business to the cloud providers offering the most attractive solutions.
- Gaining pricing power: By avoiding vendor lock-in, IT teams gain more negotiating cloud. They can use providers’ offers and pricing against each other to get the best deal.
Business Challenges of Running Multi-Cloud Environments
Managing multiple providers puts additional burdens on IT teams. Here are the things they need to watch out for, said Pattanayak.
- Ensuring regulatory compliance: Multinational companies are subject to industry, regional, and country-specific regulations. For example, organizations serving U.S. federal agencies must meet FedRAMP security requirements for cloud services.
“So depending which industry you are in, you might have a set of compliance requirements, a set of controls that need to be implemented in a certain way for you to be able to use a cloud service so that it’s approved by regulators and it meets your company guidelines, but different cloud providers implement security in different way,” said Pattanayak.
IT teams must work with cloud providers to meet regulatory compliance and security requirements and ensure consistent policy enforcement across vendors and clouds, regardless of how cloud services are implemented, he said.
- Overseeing data portability: While data is portable from one cloud provider to another, moving it from one cloud URL to another cloud URL isn’t instant. Because most companies have moved petabytes of data to the cloud, copying it from one provider to another can take days. IT teams typically move cloud boxes of data manually, because it’s faster than waiting for data to replicate to another cloud in areas where bandwidth is limited or slow.
Another challenge is that keeping network connectivity open for a long period of time increases the risk of cyberattacks and data exposure. Thus, manual movement may be the best choice for IT teams.
Managing Cloud Data at Scale
So how can IT teams select the best cloud partners for their business? In addition to the big cloud providers such as AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle, there are SaaS entrants who offer cloud services. As a result, investigating and choosing providers can be overwhelming, Pattanayak acknowledged.
Rather than jumping immediately to tactical comparisons, Pattanayak recommended that IT teams consider their strategies and goals, application portfolios, service level agreements (SLAs), and other key variables first.
“What is your business? What type of applications do you have? What is the SLA that your application needs to meet? You know, it really comes down to, if your application is supporting a set of customers, what is your contract with those customers? [Are you] going to offer this application with this much uptime or you are going to offer them this data with this much latency?,” said Pattanayak.
Once IT teams have developed technical specifications for workloads, they can then determine which cloud providers provide the services, quality, and support that they need.
SLA requirements will determine if companies even need a multi-cloud approach.
“Maybe you don’t need ten clouds. Maybe one cloud might be enough. There are a lot of customers who are a hundred percent on one cloud because their SLA requirements are not that high on almost every cloud,” said Pattanayak.
“Major cloud providers offer geo-redundant replication,” continued Pattanayak. “They have data centers all across the world. So you could replicate your data across the world, even if you are sticking to just one cloud provider. Or if you do need another cloud to really make it more resilient, it should start with how much resilience you really need. And are you willing to take up the headache of having to manage an extra cloud. Do you have the resources? How would your operations work?”
Using Innovative Technology to Optimize Cloud Operations
Host Mooney asked Pattanayak to look to the future and talk about how cloud technologies are evolving. He highlighted technology that enables users to unify and manage on-premises and cloud services using a single portal. By doing so, IT teams can ensure consistency with how resources are provisioned and secured, while reducing operational complexity.
Device42 can enhance these efforts. Device42 provides automated IT discovery and dependency mapping of all devices, applications, and services, wherever they are located. IT teams use this information to optimize daily operations, such as troubleshooting issues and continuously improving service quality.
Pattanayak recommended that IT teams research multi-cloud management tools if they plan on using several providers. He also said that Microsoft Learn provides invaluable information on Microsoft Azure and how Microsoft products help teams manage multi-cloud operations. Finally, Pattanayak offered to serve as a technical resource for individuals navigating these issues. He can be reached via LinkedIn or his website at arunasupattanayak.com.