Managing IT Infrastructure in a Multi-Cloud Environment
In our new cloud centric IT world, it is now harder than ever to find a business that hasn’t moved some or all their computing infrastructure into the cloud. In fact, it is becoming the norm for businesses to rely on multiple cloud deployments to meet their IT needs. According to recent research, over 80% of enterprises already have a multi-cloud strategy, and this number keeps growing. That means, more and more businesses are grappling with the reality of managing an IT infrastructure in a multi-cloud environment. It is a high-stakes management feat that is neither simple nor straightforward.
For the benefit of those businesses considering moving to a multi-cloud infrastructure or who have already embarked on the journey, we’ve created this guide. We’ll cover how to develop a multi-cloud strategy, how to ensure seamless application and data portability, how to manage compliance and security, and how to monitor and keep track of costs. Let’s get started.
Developing a Multi-cloud Strategy
A multi-cloud strategy charts a path for a business to allocate its computing infrastructure and workloads to two or more cloud vendors. The idea is to split up the business’s IT infrastructure and workloads in the most efficient way to improve productivity and contain costs. However, no two businesses have the same needs. Therefore, no two businesses can have the same multi-cloud strategy. So, we’re going to address the concept of developing a multi-cloud strategy by breaking it up into a few broad steps.
Step one is to enumerate the business’s computing needs and how they’re presently met. Taking an inventory of IT hardware and software assets is a good place to start. The idea is to develop a complete picture of the business’s IT operations, to facilitate smarter decisions on what changes, if any, make sense.
The next step is to find cloud providers who offer solutions which match the computing needs identified in the first step. By comparing the projected costs of using such services against existing costs, it should be possible to eliminate services that wouldn’t represent meaningful cost savings. After that, making selections from the remaining choices comes down to conducting a standard cost/benefit analysis.
If the second step results in the selection of two or more cloud providers that make good business sense, there is one more step to undertake. It is to map out how the business can transition its workload over to them and manage the resulting multi-cloud infrastructure. We’re going to cover a bit more about that, momentarily.
Ensuring Data and Application Portability
Before moving any workloads or data to a cloud provider’s infrastructure, it is first necessary to take another look at the big picture. That is because the last thing any business would want is to fall prey to vendor lock-in, which can be costly and difficult to undo once it happens. That means taking the time to address data and application portability.
For most businesses with a multi-cloud infrastructure, this means choosing a containerization and orchestration standard to use. These days, open solutions like Kubernetes form the backbone of a large number of multi-cloud deployments. This is because it is broadly compatible with most major cloud providers and offers excellent data and application portability between them.
Managing Security and Compliance
With portability addressed, the next thing most businesses need to think about is how they are going to manage security and compliance issues within their multi-cloud deployments. This is another step that will look different depending on the business’s specific needs. Going over any industry-specific or situation-specific compliance needs the business has, is a great place to start. In most cases this should be as simple as reviewing the compliance measures already in place within the business’s existing infrastructure.
From there, it is a good idea to work with the cloud providers to see that those measures carry over to the cloud. It is important to know, however, that certain compliance needs will require the use of a cloud provider that is certified to meet them. The good news is that most large cloud providers support a variety of compliance standards, including FIPS 140-2, GDPR, PCI-DSS, and NIST 800-171. As long as the provider’s offerings align with the business’s compliance needs, there shouldn’t be any major hurdles to overcome.
Next, the business should address how they plan to secure their multi-cloud deployment. The most typical steps that most businesses take include:
- Choosing and deploying a single-sign-on (SSO) service that supports the cloud providers in use
- Designing and automating a patch management and software update plan across all services
- Following best practices to harden all cloud deployments
- Making encryption of all data, both at rest and in transit, the default across all services
- Establishing a monitoring infrastructure to spot potential threats across all services
Monitoring and Managing Costs
Last but not least, businesses moving to a multi-cloud IT infrastructure must establish a workflow to monitor and manage their cloud costs. Otherwise, they could risk losing out on the very cost savings that prompted them to make the move in the first place. Fortunately, monitoring and managing multi-cloud costs isn’t difficult.
One way to accomplish it is to use the built-in budget controls and alerts of the respective cloud services the business uses. When doing this, it is best to designate a single point person—typically an IT staff member, or in rarer cases, an accounting staff member—to parse and act on the spending reports generated by the services. By doing this, the business can avoid costly surprises at the end of each billing cycle.
Alternatively, a business could use multi-cloud cost management software which centralizes the data coming from the cloud services in use into a single view. This is the preferred method of monitoring and managing costs used by businesses with more than two cloud services in use. It helps maintain visibility into cloud spending and simplifies the process of setting and managing budgets. Without one in place, a manual process like the one described in the previous paragraph can easily turn into a confusing and costly mess.
Getting the Most Out of a Multi-cloud Infrastructure
Making the shift to a multi-cloud infrastructure is not something businesses should take lightly. When done well, such a shift can save money, increase operational efficiency, and boost business productivity. When done badly, however, it can turn into a costly and damaging IT quagmire.
The good news is businesses wishing to explore the benefits of a multi-cloud infrastructure don’t have to go it alone. As a cloud service provider ourselves, Outsource IT has the knowledge and expertise to help any business get the job done. To get started, contact an Outsource IT account manager today so they can assess your business’s needs and put you on a path to multi-cloud success.