Thinking About Multi-Cloud? You’re Probably Already Doing It

A multi-cloud strategy might seem like it’s still in the future to plan and execute. Chances are, your business is already entrenched in multi-cloud. NTT DATA and VMware detail everything you need to know to evaluate and take charge of your multi-cloud strategy.

There are some evolutions in technology past that have a distinct before and after—the invention of server virtualization or container technology, for example. But cloud and its maturation has been more gradual, more organically adopted, as businesses and their IT teams evolve, change, and generally keep working to make things run faster in this relentlessly demanding digital world.

As cloud computing hits its 15th birthday, it has evolved from something billed as “shadow IT” to the center of the conversation. It has fundamentally shifted how we as an industry consider our infrastructure and its core units of value.

And multi-cloud isn’t on the distant horizon—it’s already here. Unlike other tech strategies, a multi-cloud one can happen gradually and by accident, so that you’re suddenly overseeing a mix of on-prem and public cloud resources, without a ton of insight into cost, performance, potential overlap, and other factors.

Multi-cloud isn’t always cut-and-dried, and it isn’t just one clearly defined solution. It’s not strictly synonymous with adopting services from cloud providers like Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, IBM, Oracle, or others. It’s not strictly used for infrastructure, either, as new services like Kubernetes, ML and AI, and IoT capabilities continue rolling out.

While the cloud ecosystem has matured, bringing higher-level services, impressive availability, and continued levels of abstraction, data centers are still very much in play. There hasn’t been a wholesale migration away from that type of on-prem infrastructure or a mass rewrite of monolithic on-prem apps. And cloud providers have taken notice: they’ve started delivering their cloud stacks to run on-prem (and at the edge). Adding to that, 80% of organizations we surveyed are planning to have distributed clouds that cover public, private, and edge instances.

Because of this, we define “multi-cloud” at VMware as any combination of an on-prem data center—a private cloud—and use of at least one public cloud provider or edge location. Multi-cloud means that the concept of cloud has moved beyond a destination to become a set of capabilities, expectations, and new operating model.

And it brings a ton of opportunity for application teams to choose what they want to use to build apps and run them where it makes the most sense. One team might use a different cloud for development than their counterpart, while yet another may develop and run their app on-premises. The average enterprise portfolio includes hundreds, if not thousands of apps under management, and that doesn’t include the apps they’ve yet to build.

Multi-Cloud Is Calling…From Inside the House

This abundance of apps and locations means that tech teams can choose the tech or services that best fit their needs. The promise of cloud is that when you’ve got the right mix of services, your entire business can move faster, develop smarter, and ultimately stand out from competitors. In this golden age of IT, with so many options available, you can have it all—you just need the right mindset. But as organizations start looking at how to use multiple cloud options or providers together, they’re finding a ton of complexity and wondering how to get all those benefits and work across more than one cloud without slowing down or spending too much.

At VMware, what we’ve found is that multi-cloud is a set of practices, not simply the concept of using multiple cloud vendors, or one cloud vendor alongside your virtualized data center. With more apps, more infrastructure, and more generations of existing technology coming down the road, it’s impossible to reinvent the wheel each time you have to provide a service. So realizing that cloud is more than infrastructure—that it’s a change in a way of thinking—lets you pragmatically evolve and mature your processes, operations, and methodologies over time as you adopt new technologies. It’s considering the big picture holistically rather than just evaluating different pieces of technology. This mindset change defines a larger set of capabilities that apply across applications, operations, processes, and methodologies.

Multi-cloud isn’t on the distant horizon — it’s already here.

Betty Junod
Senior Director of Multi-Cloud solutions, VMware

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Putting Multi-Cloud To Work For You, Wherever You Are Now

The reality is that cloud is now, by definition, multi-cloud. The journey to the cloud has never been an all-or-nothing proposition, and it’ll stay that way. Your infrastructure and apps will likely be multi-cloud for the foreseeable future, pulling in virtualized data centers, public cloud services, edge locations, and more. And your applications will be a mix of monoliths, microservices, and everything in between.

When you think about managing these pieces efficiently, and you think in terms of practices, rather than providers or vendors, the multi-cloud puzzle becomes easier to solve. You can apply these practices to every generation of tech and any infrastructure you’re currently running.

So, if multi-cloud doesn’t just mean using both AWS and Google Cloud to serve users, what does it mean for a modern business? To start, it means being open to changing not just vendors or products, but the way your IT team operates and builds and delivers apps and services.

We’ve done a lot of research (and talked with many cloud strategists) to define the specifics of the multi-cloud maturity model—and what it means to be doing it at a high-functioning level. What we’ve found is eight practice areas—each with its own adoption and maturity curve—that can get you started building a multi-cloud framework that ultimately helps you get the value you need:

  • Cloud Adoption Routes

    Consider how you’ll build your portfolio of apps running in the public cloud, taking into account migrating and modernizing apps, DR and backup, and more.

  • Use of Cloud Services

    IaaS may be an on-ramp, but how will you use the extensive services that all hyperscale cloud providers offer?

  • DevOps Practices

    Multi-cloud success doesn’t happen without success in developing high-quality software designed for the cloud, using infrastructure as code, self-service portals, and other best practices.

  • Data Center Modernization Strategies

    Cloud is here, but data centers aren’t going anywhere—how will you ensure an automated, modern cloud foundation?

  • Cloud Governance Practices (non-financial)

    Costs aside, governance practices across operations, security and compliance, and data management should all involve sophisticated automation tools.

  • Tool and Platform Consolidation Strategies

    Running each cloud as an operational silo isn’t sustainable—technologies like common management tools or a common infrastructure will be essential.

  • Cloud Security Practices

    Securing the apps you run in a multi-cloud environment is essential, so make sure you have visibility into security postures at both the high and more tactical levels.

Assessing maturity is about asking yourself how strong your organization’s current practices are in these areas, and how broadly adopted they are across the org. If you don’t have a sense of the capabilities in all these areas, start there. If some are more evolved than others, see where you might fill in the gaps. After our years developing efficient tools for the enterprise, we know that you can’t compromise on things like speed and control—and that you need to meet ever more aggressive goals.

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Betty Junod
Senior Director of Multi-Cloud solutions, VMware

Betty Junod is the Senior Director of Multi-Cloud Solutions at VMware helping organizations along their journey to cloud. This is Betty’s second time at VMware, having previously led product marketing for End User Computing products like View, Mirage, and ThinApp. In between, she held marketing leadership positions at commercial open source companies like Docker (containers) and solo.io (service mesh) helping expand the ecosystem of cloud-native applications and tools.