5 Big Challenges of Multi-Cloud Management

Cloud computing is ubiquitous. Enterprises are continuing to move to the cloud in record numbers. According to the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report, 91% use some form of cloud, and 84% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy. It’s easy to see why: a multi-cloud architecture, comprised of different cloud platforms, offers the versatility to accommodate a wide range of enterprise computing requirements.
In the context of this discussion, it’s important to distinguish between a hybrid cloud and a multi-cloud. The answer to that question can differ depending on whom one asks. Generally, a hybrid cloud runs on a single software hosting platform with resources that come from multiple sources (e.g., Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform) and from an organization’s own data center.
As a ZDNet report explains, a multi-cloud environment, by contrast, has a more strategic emphasis. The concept centers around how enterprises use multiple cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements.
The big three providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, are the foundation of many multi-cloud strategies. Each platform has strengths that complement each other and make it possible to deliver specific business outcomes. Here’s a quick overview:
Amazon Web Services. With an extensive toolset, AWS’s capabilities are unmatched. However, its focus is on public cloud suggests that playing nice with the data center isn’t a top priority, and the cost structure can be complicated. This has changed a bit since the release of Amazon Outposts, which does provide data center implementation.
Microsoft Azure. Few companies have the enterprise background (and Windows support) as Microsoft. The Azure platform interoperates with customer-owned data centers, which is a particular strength of the Azure Stack.
Google Cloud. Regardless of its financial backing, Google is late to enter the cloud market and has the fewest customers of the major players. Yet, its industry-leading tools in deep learning and AI, ML, and data analytics can offer significant advantages.
There are others, but these are the main contenders at the moment. By leveraging the strengths of each platform, a company with a multi-cloud strategy might build a new mobile app on Amazon, migrate an older Windows app to Azure for modernization, and have the analytics team use Google Machine Learning.

A Multi-Cloud Solution Isn’t Always the Holy Grail

Despite the ability to mix and match capabilities, migrating to a multi-cloud paradigm can have downsides. While most of these environments are generally scalable, reliable, and highly available, there are other factors to consider.
One disadvantage of a multi-cloud infrastructure is that the more cloud services an enterprise employs, the more complex the solution is to manage. Failure to adequately oversee the system can increase costs and negatively affect business agility.
Here are 5 of the top management challenges:
1. Ensuring Governance and Compliance. For most companies, multiple compliance requirements (e.g., HIPAA, PCI DSS, FISMA, and SOX) need to be met regardless of where the data resides, making data governance critical. Since multi-cloud data management solutions are complex, and require specific cloud security and governance policies, ensuring compliance could be tricky.
2. Siloed Vendor Tools. In the Interop ITX 2018 State of the Cloud report, 37% of respondents said that the public cloud vendors provide the monitoring services they use. The problem? These monitoring tools aren’t designed to deliver a consolidated view across different cloud providers or environments.
3. Lack of App Management. Multi-cloud environments make it easy to lose track of which applications are running, where, and how much it costs every day. Due to staff preferences, you could end up with three, four, or more of the same app, open across multiple clouds.
4. Spiraling Costs. Cloud sprawl happens, and the costs associated with each service can quickly spin out of control. “We have all heard the tale of the developer who racked up thousands of dollars in cloud costs by leaving a fleet of machines on over the weekend. You need to ensure that resources are provisioned economically,” says Ned Bellavance, director of cloud solutions at Anexinet.
5. Shortage of Skilled Staff. A tight labor market, and rapidly changing technology, make it hard for enterprises to find staff with the multi-cloud skills they need. A recent Morpheus Data and 451 Research webinar revealed that 90% of IT leaders reported skills shortages in cloud-related disciplines, up from 50% just a few years ago.
Reap Multi-Cloud Benefits Through Proper Planning
Increasingly, businesses are choosing to create a multi-cloud infrastructure. A well-managed multi-cloud deployment can increase reliability, reduce the risk of vendor lock-in, and add essential business capabilities.
Managing multiple public clouds, and an overall multi-cloud strategy, comes down to a thoughtful assessment about which cloud attributes best serve an organization’s specific needs.