How to capture the multi-cloud opportunity
Digital transformation projects and agile development are pushing companies towards running multiple cloud applications on different infrastructures. In this article, Dan Lahl, Vice President of Product Marketing at SAP talks about the roadblocks to multi-cloud success and how to capture the multi-cloud opportunity.
Multi-cloud environments are quickly becoming a necessity for effectively managing applications and workloads in today’s distributed enterprise, driven by best of breed SaaS apps as well as innovation projects leveraging the cloud’s inherent agility for application delivery.
This next evolution of cloud computing means leveraging multiple cloud technologies, from multiple infrastructures and application vendors, potentially including public and private clouds. It’s a strategy in which companies can store and manage their software in the cloud environments that best fit with their chosen environment and software, such as AWS, OpenStack, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or others, helping companies realize both cost savings and efficiencies. This new phase of cloud computing is an improved strategy for companies who need options and flexibility when it comes to bringing together applications in such a complex landscape – not just an outsourced datacenter.
The evolution of cloud computing
To really understand how multi-cloud got here, it makes sense to recognize where it came from. The evolution of cloud computing began as far back as the 1960s and 70s with mainframe computing providing remote access to multiple users with shared access to a single resource (via the MVS operating system), or private access to computing resources (VM/CMS operating system), which was radically sophisticated at the time.
Gradually, the industry embraced the concept of virtual machines as well as virtualized private network connections in the 90s. From grid computing to SaaS to public cloud and hybrid cloud computing, technology has come a long way from the days of mainframes, although interestingly many concepts today are very similar to what was envisioned in the 60s and 70s. One could call this the “nothing new under the sun” syndrome, but the concepts are being implemented so much better now as technology has matured. And the benefit is there is not just one vendor (IBM) playing in this ecosystem to service customers, rather it is literally thousands.
What’s driving multi-cloud?
As organizations face digital transformation, they’re faced with an influx of process AND data-intensive applications and services. This movement complicates their infrastructure and makes it difficult to streamline. While hybrid cloud (offloading a process or subset of data from on-premises to the cloud) is one solution – that market is expected to surpass $91.74 billion in net worth by 2021 – organizations are looking for even more flexibility when it comes to their cloud makeup. If a company wants to build an app on Azure and move that app to run seamlessly on AWS, or if they want to integrate that app with data or processes running on Google Cloud Platform, they should now be able to accomplish this with multi-cloud. The key is abstracting above the hardware layer.
At the same time, digital transformation projects and agile development are pushing companies towards running multiple cloud applications on different infrastructures due to different workloads that necessitate unique requirements. These complexities have IT leaders looking for a solution that offers choice and flexibility, so they can avoid vendor hardware infrastructure lock-in and customize it to their specific needs while avoiding the pain of migrating legacy apps to a new platform. Again, abstraction of the app from the hardware is key.
The legacy app roadblock
According to a recent report from MIT Technology Review, 62 percent of IT leaders say integrating legacy systems is the biggest roadblock to multi-cloud success. Besides the cost factor, deploying new technology with cloud services also means time and energy spent training employees on how to use it, as well as new deployment models (CI/CD) which takes away from initial productivity. Once they do overcome these initial hurdles, they will reap a variety of benefits, such as enhanced data privacy, improved efficiency and agility, and even stricter data security.
A big part of successfully using the cloud is understanding which new technologies to use, and which to hold off on, or not use at all. Before jumping on the latest and greatest cloud technologies for technology’s sake (the lemming dilemma), organizations should assess their infrastructure and deploy a balance between on-premises legacy apps and the latest cutting-edge cloud technologies that best meet their needs. And for goodness sake, don’t get locked into an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) you can’t abstract above, that defeats multi-cloud portability – and it means you are forever stuck in one vendor’s infrastructure (outsourced datacenter).
To make the move to multi-cloud easier, there are platforms that bring together the different applications on one user interface, rather than going through different infrastructure systems. For example, pure Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides customers and partners with capabilities that allow for building and extending personalized, collaborative, mobile-enabled cloud applications above the infrastructure – giving companies the flexibility they want.
These services accelerate digital transformation across businesses by enabling organizations to build the exact applications needed more quickly, easily and economically – without the requirement of maintaining or investing in on-premises or one hyperscale cloud infrastructure. With these types of services, such as PaaS, enterprises have the freedom to choose their underlying cloud infrastructure provider, as well as the flexibility to co-locate new cloud applications alongside existing investments, while meeting regulatory and compliance requirements.
2018 and beyond
In the coming year, IT leadership must put agile, open and flexible environments in place to enable the rapid app development for digital transformation sweeping through the industry. More and more businesses will adopt a multi-cloud strategy rather than locking themselves into one hyperscale cloud vendor and their finite set of platform services (see one vendor vs. thousands of vendors in the ecosystem above).
This multi-cloud agility for rapid app delivery will lead to new innovations and business model transformations in 2018, as organizations will have more freedom to create and reinvent than ever before. Now the question is, will you be part of this multi-cloud (r)evolution?