Of the myriad reasons that Glenn Pinnel, vice president and CIO at Benjamin Moore & Co., opted for a multi-cloud strategy, flexibility, agility and cost-optimization were paramount. Multi-cloud also helped facilitate the adoption of best-of-breed technologies and improved disaster recovery capabilities.
Benjamin Moore uses cloud services like SAP Hybris and Microsoft Azure, Pinnel said, and will soon migrate most of their IT infrastructure to the Virtustream Enterprise Cloud, which already hosts their SAP applications.
"It's not so much that you are spending less by going multi-cloud, but rather you are managing risk far better," Pinnel said. "By not being locked in to one vendor, we have the flexibility to run certain applications in a private environment and others in a public environment, while keeping everything connected."
For organizations today, it is no longer a matter of 'if' they will implement a multi-cloud strategy but when, said Gartner research director Elias Khnaser. Gartner defines multi-cloud as an expansion of the hybrid cloud environment: While a hybrid cloud is divided between an organization's on-premises environment and one cloud provider, the multi-cloud environment includes the on-premises environment and multiple cloud providers, such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, Khnaser explained.
"It is important to take into account your multi-cloud strategy for [the] future," he said at the August 2018 Gartner Catalyst conference. "You don't want to make a buying decision on a particular tool only to realize six or twelve months down the line that the tool you chose doesn't support the new cloud provider that you are now going to use."
Multi-cloud strategy for CIOs
While multi-cloud management strategies give businesses agility, flexibility and choice, there are best practices that CIOs need to be mindful of to reap these benefits, according to Shiven Ramji, vice president of product at DigitalOcean.
CIOs need to make sure they have the right training in place for their teams and hire employees with the new skills required to be successful in the multi-cloud environment, Ramji said. To select the right cloud platform, CIOs must also carefully consider the pros and cons of each, Ramji added.
"It is easy to make your technology stack very complex, very quickly, as you spread workloads across different clouds," Ramji said. "Companies should keep their architecture and tooling choices simple to minimize complexity."
Ed Featherstonprincipal architect, Cloud Technology Partners
It is also imperative that CIOs figure out the why behind choosing the multi-cloud route, said Ed Featherston, vice president and principal cloud architect at Cloud Technology Partners.
"Don't do it just because everybody is doing it," Featherston said. "Do it because you got some really good business value."
CIOs must plan for the complexities involved and first make sure that they have their operations and processes in place to manage a multi-cloud environment, he said. They should manage and consolidate how they are consuming their resources, and consider how they are being billed for those resources, he added.
Ensuring that the right APIs are in place so that systems can work together to create a seamless user experience with no lags or delays in service is crucial to multi-cloud management, according to Benjamin Moore's Pinnel. Internal coordination is also critical because it will require bringing together teams across application development, infrastructure, ERP and security, he added.
Vendor management is another key consideration, Pinnel highlighted.
"It is important to ask yourself what terms you can put into your contracts and service-level agreements that will not only ensure that proper security is in place, but also make certain that uptime and performance are up to par," he said.
Multi-cloud management: Pressing pain points
Marco Meinardi, research director at Gartner, sees the lack of standardization between cloud providers as the biggest pain point of managing a multi-cloud environment.
AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have each built their own specifications, Meinardi explained, although they do support and provide a similar set of services to accomplish a similar set of goals. However, their implementation is not the same, and they use different APIs, tool sets, nomenclature and taxonomies, he said.
"When you have to manage all of that, it means that you must learn to operate different tool sets, and that is a pain point because you must double your efforts due to the lack of standardization," Meinardi said.
The lack of a single pane of glass to view a multi-cloud environment through makes it difficult for CIOs to see how their overall cloud environment is operating, Cloud Technology Partners' Featherston said. This could prove costly in the multi-cloud environment, where one slip-up could result in waning support from the rest of the C-suite.
"The worst thing that could happen with implementing any multi-cloud strategy is having a big stumble, because once that stumble happens, it's really hard to get the confidence of the business," Featherston said.