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Control the chaos of cloud sprawl

A multi-cloud IT environment can quickly spiral out of control, particularly when multiple cloud services across multiple vendors are being used by multiple parts of the business. A multi-cloud strategy is critical for turning sprawl and complexity into competitive advantage.

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You’re likely using cloud in some capacity. In fact, you’re likely using multiple cloud services, from multiple vendors. Maybe you use SaaS for email, public clouds for web apps and private clouds for more sensitive data. This is no longer a trend; it’s the norm.

But many organizations don’t have a multi-cloud strategy — and this could be detrimental in the long run. But multi-cloud doesn’t have to lead to ‘cloud sprawl.’ It does mean, though, you’ll need a cloud management strategy (and expertise in cloud management).

New research from IDC, however, has found that while one in four European organizations are operating multi-cloud environments, only a few are making the necessary technology and process adjustments for this to be viable in the long run. IDC surveyed more than 800 IT and line-of-business decision makers in 11 European countries — but it’s safe to say the same issues will apply to organizations around the globe.

Most of these multi-cloud environments consist of front-end applications hosted on a public cloud or clouds, connected to on-premise back-end systems, according to IDC. But, “connecting cloud environments with ad hoc bridges in a hybrid fashion won’t be enough in 2018,” says Giorgio Nebuloni, a research director with IDC, in a research brief.

“Nor will standardizing on one external provider,” he says, “at least for large or innovative companies. Developers and line-of-business require ‘best of breed,’ and the purchasing department wants to avoid being locked in.”

To deal with this, IDC recommends coming up with a multi-cloud strategy based on hiring staff with negotiation skills, expanding investments in automation software, and revising cross-country connectivity options. Adding a software layer to protect against cloud lock-in was a commonly adopted strategy by those surveyed.

So why are we in this conundrum in the first place?

“Many of these organizations are struggling, and the reason they’re struggling is because multi-cloud is not a strategy. In many cases, it’s something that just happened, and it caught many organizations off guard,” writes Dan Streetman in an article for Forbes. “The multi-cloud world we now live in is a result of shadow IT and bimodal IT gone wild.”

Shadow IT gone wild has created plenty of problems, particularly with cloud services — but it’s possible to control the chaos.

Though cloud services are often considered less expensive than on-premise solutions, that’s not always the case — and costs can spiral out of control with the unrestrained acquisition of cloud services across departments and teams. Plus, you may end up paying for services that are underutilized.

If you have a multi-cloud environment, you need visibility. Are there areas where you need to improve application performance? Are there areas that are underutilized (and you’re paying too much)? Different cloud providers have different processes, so embracing multi-cloud management will help you manage disparate cloud services across multiple environments and vendors.

This could become easier with advancements in machine learning, which could be used to proactively monitor cloud applications. In the meantime, you’ll need to develop skills in-house and create a multi-cloud strategy.

An article in Enterprisers Project recommends creating a playbook, so you have a “solid handle on the real requirements of your organization and how they’re served by a multi-cloud strategy. Then, create a roadmap for the team to follow as that strategy unfolds.” With a playbook, you can better match apps and workloads to the right cloud provider — and it helps to keep everyone on the same page.

Having insight into these areas will help to manage costs, reduce complexities and improve performance. After all, insight is power — and by better understanding your multi-cloud environment, it will stop being a hindrance and become a competitive differentiator.

Image: Free Digital Photos

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