By all major accounts, most organizations are heading towards a future IT environment that mixes and matches from a variety of cloud services and providers. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for your multicloud future, by documenting a strategy for multicloud management and adopting new technologies for single-pane visibility.
Fighting shadow cloud and getting all of your organization’s disparate cloud resources under a single roof is an uphill battle. The modern IT reality is that users are far more technologically savvy than in the past and they aren’t afraid to go around IT to get the tools they want to use right now, today. That means multicloud is here today and it’s going to be a big part of the future, too.
IDC found that 47% of DevOps focused organizations plan to have five or more clouds by 2020. Even if you aren’t using DevOps methodology, embracing the cloud often leads to an agile mindset where it’s easy to slip into information silos stranded on one cloud provider or another. As you deploy applications in the cloud that makes the most sense, you can end up with stranded data and interoperability issues.
A carefully designed hybrid cloud environment can accommodate data across workloads, availability zones/locations, and access points. It can also enable repeatable, automated, and granular security and monitoring.
The first piece of a multicloud plan is determining provisioning, operational policy, and Service Level Agreements. Consider crafting several levels or Tiers, each with their own security, scalability, resilience, and management policies. A Tier 1 cloud might require 100% uptime and be focused more on stability, while a Tier 4 cloud may need less performance and can accommodate some downtime, as it’s focused more for development or applications that are not business-essential. Each Tier should have security and network requirements applied: can this app live outside your corporate firewall?
Next, take a look at your organizational structure. Do you have cloud engineers on staff? Have you considered hiring or training a cloud manager? Does your IT team work with business leaders across other departments? Cloud admins are in charge of multicloud management, working with vendor support as well as your own management tools. Duties can include selection of service providers, integrating new environments, resource and network usage monitoring, provisioning/scaling VMs, and monitoring and enforcing SLAs.
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Here’s where things get tricky. Different cloud platforms often run on different virtualization technology, so they don’t always play nice together. You can usually move workloads between clouds by exporting in the proper format. But you might have to find a third party to set up a single view for management of all your cloud servers from a single place.
There are of course SaaS providers who can offer just that – a few examples are Rightscale, Scalr, Dell Cloud Manager, and CSC ServiceMesh. More traditional vendors like BMC, Red Hat, and VMware also offer tools to manage different clouds. VMware vRealize, for example, can manage Hyper-V, AWS, OpenStack, KVM, or vCloud.
VMware recently adjusted its cloud management model as well. At this year’s VMworld the company announced some new cloud services that come bundled with – or built on top of – existing VMware cloud tools. They’re calling it a “Cross-Cloud Architecture,” and it is meant to manage both VMware clouds in private or on-premise data centers and public cloud providers, as well as Microsoft Azure clouds and AWS clouds.
It could be a game changer, as the reason many companies stick with VMware cloud providers like Green House Data is often compatibility with legacy virtualization. This might enable them to add public cloud resources from AWS while maintaining those VMware workloads, or even use Cross-Cloud as a method to migrate workloads to public clouds. The key wrinkle, however, is making sure the application is tailored to the destination platform. Not all apps will work well on AWS or Azure.
Cross-Cloud Architecture consists of Software-Defined Data Center Manager and Hyper-Converged Systems Manager, with NSX (virtualized networking) and vRealize Tools added. It is still a basic featureset primarily for policy and security measures rather than deep management tools. An on-premise appliance is required for single tenant operations, and there is no SaaS version at this time.
Like any IT initiative, planning for multicloud and enabling single-pane cloud management requires doing your homework. Reach out to vendors to see which platform might suit your current environment, budget, and expertise best. Don’t delay, though – a multicloud strategy is almost certainly in the cards.