by Calvin Rowland
The whole tech industry is abuzz with talk of multi-cloud environments. Survey after survey shows definitively that the race is on to a multi-cloud world. In fact, according to IDC, 30% or more of organizations have already migrated or have plans to migrate literally every workload to the cloud. Further, 85% of large businesses will be committed by 2018 to multi-cloud strategies as IT continues to transform.
The reasons for cloud adoption are compelling. This we know. But, while public and private clouds demonstrated how effectively they can deploy applications quickly, hybrid cloud strategies proved the value of hosting applications both in the cloud and on-premises.
Better yet, though, multi-cloud extends that concept to applications operating across numerous cloud providers. A multi-cloud strategy promises persuasive benefits, but also includes challenges that must be addressed.
I’m often asked, “What exactly IS a multi-cloud strategy?” Great question! Quite simply, multi-cloud strategies are the practice of using cloud services from multiple clouds, including both Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud, but with more than one Public Cloud component to create the best possible business solution for an organization.
Multi-cloud enables firms to extract the best-in-class services from each cloud provider while mitigating risk of downtime or data loss resulting from a catastrophic disruption at any single provider.
Not only does a multi-cloud approach enable catering of the application to the native services of a particular cloud, but services can be catered to the user, providing a richer experience. Latency sensitive workloads can be moved closest to the consumer in real-time and issues associated with data sovereignty and compliance are no longer a concern, since the application and data can live where geographically appropriate.
As I’ve said many times, let the workload be where it needs to be. This should be your “North Star.”
Of course, specific partner and customer needs may dictate cloud provider choice. Embracing a multi-cloud strategy creates options and enables agility otherwise not possible. A case in point is Walmart. They stunned the cloud market just last month by demanding that its key vendors and partners abandon Amazon’s AWS offering. Those vendors with multiple cloud presences can easily comply while others run the risk of being left behind.
So, it’s easy, right? Um…no.
While simple in concept, a multi-cloud strategy brings challenges to the table.
EVERY cloud is different. They’re like snowflakes. They SEEM the same to the naked eye, but they are, in fact, each unique. Application deployment is different. Programming interfaces are different. Security policy instrumentation is different. The list goes on.
To make matters worse, each cloud requires the development of domain-specific knowledge and expertise that have no applicability in other clouds. This at a time when cloud-knowledgeable resources are in very high demand.
So, given all of that, how do we realize the promise of multi-cloud?
The key is to abstract cloud-independent functions so that they can be managed across multiple cloud environments. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and once you’ve decided to take the cloud leap, the real work begins.
Every successful migration effort requires not only the development of a comprehensive strategy in support of the migration, but also forces making some difficult decisions up front. The most tempting decision is to skip this step all together and dive right in to migration activities, but that “easy” decision can doom a cloud move to failure.
IT professionals that have adopted a best practices model start with an understanding of the desired outcome and a mechanism to both validate and measure success in the journey. From that point, adequate assessment of which applications to migrate combined with an understanding of the migration goals (e.g. improved performance, reduced latency, scale) can be achieved.
And keep in mind as you take your first step in the cloud journey, and as your first application is migrated away from those abandoned legacy systems, modern IT is about systems-level thinking, not task-level engagement. If you look at this THIS way, it IS easy. Good luck!
 IDC White Paper, sponsored by Cisco, Cloud Going Mainstream, September 2016
 IDC, Cloud 2.0: New Services, Challenges, and Opportunities, Doc # DR2017_T4_RV, Feb 2017
Calvin Rowland has served as the Senior Vice President of Business Development at F5 since September 2014. As part of F5’s Business Development organization since 2001, Calvin has focused on building revenue-producing alliances with industry-leading technology providers such as Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and VMware. A graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Industrial Technology.