How To Make Multi-Cloud Work In A New Era

In order to make multi-cloud work, we need to stop applying old ways of thinking to new problems. Whether you are a solution provider or a customer, it is time to shift your strategy and technology to fit the realities of today's multi-cloud world.

By Nicholas Brackney, Dell Technologies Contributor

It’s hard to believe that a technology, which is still fresh and innovative for many, is almost 15 years old. We’ve already seen two distinctive eras in cloud technology and are now embarking on a third.

  • 2006-10 – The Pioneering Cloud Era: It’s interesting that this came from what, at the time, seemed like an unlikely source—an internet retail giant. But the seasonality of their businesses and its needs for extreme scalability created the right conditions for a new business model to emerge: the public cloud.
  • 2010-19 – The Multi-Cloud Era: We saw public cloud take off in earnest in the early 2000s. What we didn’t see coming was the sheer proliferation of clouds. While there has been some consolidation since, we saw it break down into two distinct camps—“hyperscalers” and smaller, more specialized “hosters/outsourcers.” This created a new dilemma: As company after company balanced multiple cloud deployments, each carried different standards and posed unique management challenges.

Ultimately, these many public clouds have proved easy to buy and adopt, but surprisingly difficult to optimize, integrate, and manage consistently. Thus, the great aspirations of cloud computing—simplicity, ease of use, and flexibility—have often been overshadowed in the multi-cloud era. Many companies cannot get full value from their cloud investments as a result.

Additionally, organizations have come to realize that either because of business objectives or application requirements, a good amount of their workloads should remain in their data centers or at the edge. Consequently, organizations find themselves struggling to address all of their data and users, and to maintain consistent security and performance across all environments.

The Third Era of Cloud

2020-on –The Cloud Ecosystem Era: This year has marked a massive acceleration in digital transformation. As all aspects of organizations have become digitized, and the complexity of demands put on IT teams and developers to deliver value back to their organizations have increased. In the rush to establish some of the new services needed, silos and inconsistent experiences have developed that fail to address organizational and application requirements. In this new era, the winners will be defined by those who can take full control of their technology landscape and deliver a cloud-operating model to every workload, regardless of where it resides.

This era will require a strategic vision from all players to deliver increased value. As organizations begin to untether cloud from its physical location, it will be increasingly important to have a cloud that adapts to fit their needs—only then will we see every workload benefit from the power of cloud. Let’s look at what must happen to affect this change.

Align to Your Customers’ Needs

As we move into this third decade of cloud, interoperability and comprehensive control of clouds will be key. There’s no longer a question of organizations implementing multiple clouds, including on-premises deployments. It is clearly the reality for the vast majority. Therefore, vendors must become comfortable with enabling customers to go to and even consume technology on a competitive stack. Failure to do so will limit customers to pockets of innovation and a narrower set of use cases.

Customers will seek and invest in vendors who will consistently drive innovation and bring cloud to every workload and every location. Solutions must be designed to meet business where it happens. Organizations should not have to conform to technology and business models of cloud providers. Rather, technology should conform and align to the organizations it supports. This means recognizing that customers have blended infrastructures in every sense—not just in terms of combining public cloud and on-premises computing but also technology and applications from multiple vendors. As a result, values that have long been afterthoughts for many solution providers—integration, compatibility, and ease of management—need to become primary objectives.

The most successful vendors of the future will be those who design for a reality that includes private clouds, public clouds, and edge environments—a vendor that helps customers orchestrate all of their environments by delivering a consistent experience across clouds.

Let Your Vision Be Your Guide

It’s time to let your strategic vision drive the effectiveness of your entire digital estate—from private cloud to public cloud to the edge. Embrace technology that offers models that align to your business and provide coverage across your workloads, while avoiding rigid solutions and operating models that constrict your operations.

Moving forward, your technology landscape should span all your business units and empower your teams to effectively manage everything, even your “shadow IT.” In order to reach this desired state, many will have to adopt a new technology strategy—one that is sustainable and based on the premise that the cloud is an operating model, not a destination.

What might this strategy look like? Here are some specific actions businesses should take to receive the full value from their multi-cloud environment:

  • Balance the need for transformation with your resources and capacity to absorb change. The right modernization strategy brings the necessary speed without overloading your people and your systems.
  • Accelerate time-to-value by bringing in solutions that work right away, without requiring massive adaption, integration, and re-work.
  • Blend payment models to maximize cost savings by selecting vendors that offer you a choice of upfront payment (CapEx), subscription (OpEx), and usage-based or pay-as-you-go capability, you can better align costs to your business model.
  • Don’t rush to cut or repurpose experts with on-premises skills. You likely will still need storage-focused engineers or IT operations employees, among others.