Saturday, April 13, 2024

Managing multi-cloud complexity: Frameworks to adopt, pitfalls to avoid, and strategies to bring it all together



As many companies are discovering, a multi-cloud environment can offer improved workload portability, purchasing power and increased innovation velocity, as well as other significant benefits. However, managing a multi-cloud environment can be challenging. From complex integrations to fragmented cost visibility to security and compliance concerns, today’s tech leaders can become overwhelmed.

Competing organizational interests, lack of expertise, and unexpected or hidden costs can detract from the great promise of a multi-cloud environment. Organizations need the right people, processes, and tools to overcome the challenges and realize the rewards.

Key Considerations for Managing a Multi-Cloud Environment

Unlike a single-cloud strategy where organizations can streamline cloud services under one common setup, a multi-cloud environment requires integrating various services from multiple cloud vendors. This requires intimate knowledge and experience with each cloud’s bespoke service configurations, data formats, and integrations. Most organizations are not equipped with this level of provider-by-provider expertise, which creates a scale efficiency challenge and can lead to complex integrations and suboptimal cross-cloud orchestration.

Tracking costs across multiple cloud providers can also be difficult. Differences in pricing models and discount structures between providers add to the overall complexity and are compounded by the difficulty in assembling all costs, metering them, and allocating them to specific business units. This can lead to bloated or inefficient spending and impact the organization’s ability to apportion costs to various initiatives accurately.

In addition,understanding, enforcing, and monitoring security protocols consistently across clouds is challenging. Organizations must have a deep understanding of each cloud platform’s security capabilities and shared responsibility model to enforce consistent policies, balance risk, and ensure compliance.

Avoiding and Remediating Automation Pitfalls

Even as tech leaders are growing more sophisticated in their approach to the multi-cloud environment, automation silos and tooling sprawl are common pitfalls for many organizations. Automation silos leave disparate groups within the same organization re-inventing solutions to common problems and hamper an organization’s ability to unify cloud operations across functions. Tooling sprawl happens when too many tools are deployed with little to no consistency across teams, resulting in a “choice paradox” and a pervasive lack of standardization that impedes velocity. While automation silos and tooling sprawl are still prevalent, costly, and threaten business continuity, the good news is that there are clear steps to avoiding or remediating these issues.

Leading enterprise platform teams are now building internal developer portals (IDPs) for all their cloud services, resources, actions, and conventions. The establishment of a central enterprise-wide interface for tested and proven “paved roads” that can be easily shared, approved, and reused across teams, departments, and regions eliminates the need to reinvent the wheel. It also boosts efficiency by eliminating risky bespoke paths and providing easy, scalable ways to reuse best practices and templates across the organization. While there are many ways to achieve this, the most effective is implementing proven multi-cloud management tools and patterns.

Establishing a Community of Practice (CoP) around FinOps and multi-cloud management accelerates the alignment of people, process, and technology. It creates a forum of engagement where you can debate and establish best practices and conventions, where you can elevate and reward novelty, and adopt and amplify patterns of success. Publishing these patterns of success as “paved roads” in your IDP will fuel adoption across the organization – which in turn lifts the level of reuse and efficiency.

Avoiding and Remediating FinOps Pitfalls

In recent years, FinOps, an evolving cloud financial management discipline and cultural practice that enables organizations to get maximum business value by helping engineering, finance, technology, and business teams to collaborate on data-driven spending decisions, has come to be viewed as a silver bullet in multi-cloud management. However, like any technology initiative, organizations must first establish a sound foundation to realize the discipline’s potential in practice and avoid potential pitfalls. Without that solid foundation, FinOps programs can compound rather than alleviate complexity.

While advanced capabilities and tools like cost allocation, chargeback implementation, automated remediation, and anomaly detection are important, organizations need to lean into the people and process part of the equation by creating and implementing cloud-related best practices, conventions, and policies that are integrated into native engineering workflows. Creating a CoP within your organization responsible for developing and implementing these practices, conventions, and policies is a great first step in building that sound foundation.

This cross-functional balanced community — often comprised of cloud engineering, security, product, and finance — should present a “state of financial health” using agreed-upon KPIs (key performance indicators). In addition, this community should discuss antipatterns, trends, and success blockers. Owning and executing the cloud strategy, driving collaboration and best practices across key stakeholders, and evaluating and utilizing technology to support business initiatives is a team sport.

Making Multi-Cloud Work

Managing a multi-cloud environment can be complicated and frustrating, send budgets out of control, and alienate talent. However, the benefits and rewards can be equally compelling in terms of speed, flexibility, and opportunities for greater innovation. Meeting the challenges and reaping the rewards requires coordinating the efforts of people, processes, and technology to formulate the most effective strategies and solutions — and avoid common pitfalls.

Successful technology leaders are focusing on setting goals and empowering and rewarding teams in ways that foster a sense of ownership and encourage collaboration. Creating an IDP and building a Community of Practice responsible for implementing cloud-related best practices, guidelines, and governance policies will help ensure the cloud environment you are creating supports the goals of the entire organization. 

Image Credit: Wayne Williams

Kyle Campos is Chief Technology & Product Officer, CloudBolt Software

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