The cloud industry is constantly evolving – and at a speed so fast many businesses are struggling to keep up. It wasn’t that long ago that cloud was the buzzword of choice, yet the hybrid, public/private model is today business-as-usual. Now, the multi-vendor cloud model has emerged as the new dominant paradigm – and it’s already proving a game-changer.
The concept of adopting multiple cloud providers to cover a diverse range of business needs has been around for a while. It’s a strategy that has been driven largely by enterprise, who, with their complex and varied requirements, were discovering the hard way that being tied to a single cloud provider came with a lot of limitations. Vendor lock-in wasn’t adding up financially either – so big business began playing the field, which in turn forced vendors to rethink their own strategies.
Of course, where enterprise leads, the rest of the business world follows. According to the 2019 State of the Cloud report, produced by cloud industry research team Rightscale, 84% of enterprise now have a multi-cloud strategy – up 3% on the previous year. 61% of small-to-medium sized businesses have followed suit, with organisations of all sizes deploying five different cloud providers on average.
Why multi-cloud is the model of the future
It’s not hard to see why this model continues to gain ground. Having the freedom to choose the best platform for the best workloads provides a level of flexibility and agility that a single-vendor model simply can’t compete with. And it’s this all-important agility that allows businesses to maximise their capabilities for rapid innovation and deployment in order to drive results.
Added to this is the sheer breadth of services that are now available through the cloud. From video conferencing to chatbots, organisations of all sizes are increasingly able to access powerful new tools with the potential to transform how they do business. As the cost of these new tools continues to come down, we can expect to see more and more SMBs enter the fray. While big players like AWS, Microsoft and Google Cloud will still be most businesses’ first choice for their core cloud needs, we foresee a rise in the use of niche complementary providers which excel in specific tasks (such as Cloudera for data management and analysis).
How to deploy a successful multi-cloud strategy
Effective as it can be, a multi-cloud strategy is not without its pitfalls. To reap the benefits you need to first have a good grasp of the challenges, so that you can factor them into your approach. Here are three key pieces of advice that will set you up for success.
1. Invest in building your internal expertise.
The training implications of working across multiple cloud providers are significant. Not only are there various vendors, but the products themselves are constantly changing: keeping up-to-date with an industry that moves at a lightning-fast pace is a full-time job in itself.
It’s an issue that is becoming increasingly front-of-mind for those working within the industry. In DDLS’s own recent white paper, which surveyed 700+ Australian IT professionals, cloud courses were identified as this year’s number one training priority, even ranking ahead of cybersecurity in terms of importance.
This statistic reflects the global trend. According to the State of the Cloud report, 79% of enterprises and 77% of SMBs say lack of resources and expertise is a top cloud challenge. Across the board, over a quarter of respondents said that this was the most significant challenge they faced with regards to cloud computing.
The takeaway is clear: having so much technology at your fingertips is meaningless if you don’t have the knowledge to leverage it. In this increasingly complex and evolving environment, investing in the right cloud training for your business – both upfront and ongoing – is critical. It’s this investment that will enable you to get the best out of your cloud software, helping it to deliver real tangible results to your business bottom line.
2. Be vigilant against ‘cloud bloat’
Tracking budgets can be a challenge when using multiple cloud providers, especially in the age of the ubiquitous flexible subscription pricing model. Unlike the old-fashioned licensing model with its predictable set fees, cloud costs can quickly spiral as your business needs evolve, necessitating add-ons and extra fees that soon add up. Without a single person or team monitoring what is being spent across every provider, it’s easy to fall victim to cloud bloat – in other words, overspending.
As such, effectively managing cloud spend is going to become an increasingly critical component of a good multi-cloud strategy. Vigilance is the key. By allocating this task to a small internal group, you can avoid any nasty billing surprises, track your spending, and adjust it up or down according to your business needs at any moment in time. It’s also important to do your due diligence before onboarding a new supplier: check that you understand their pricing model and all the so-called ‘hidden’ costs prior to investing in their services.
3. Explore ways to optimise your existing cloud
Closely related to overspend is wasted cloud spend. By Rightscale’s latest estimates, around 35% of businesses’ cloud spend is frittered away on services that aren’t used. In an industry forecast to reach $411 billion US by 2020, that’s a big chunk of IT department budgets going up in smoke.
Before you start onboarding new vendors to solve new problems, make sure you aren’t already paying for those capabilities elsewhere without realising it. Ask yourself: could your business be wasting money on services that are underused or not used at all? Are there cloud services being deployed by departments other than IT that might not be subject to the same scrutiny?
It’s not always easy to tell. Fortunately, a range of cloud cost governance and management tools exist that can help you take stock of and monitor increasingly complex cloud deployments and feel confident you’re getting maximum bang for your buck. Vendors often have their own tools, however there are also several vendor-agnostic tools on the market, including AppDynamics APM and Slack.
User adoption is another factor to consider if you’re seeking ways to optimise your current cloud spend. If your cloud services aren’t user-friendly and easy-to-access, or if they require a base level of training that hasn’t been provided, convincing people to embrace them is always going to be an uphill struggle. End user enablement training is a piece of the puzzle that businesses often forget to plan for, but can be the difference between mass adoption company-wide and paying for a service that nobody uses. Office 365’s Cloud Academy, an online training platform, is a great example of how to increase user engagement by equipping them with the tools they need to succeed.
Undoubtedly, the multi-cloud model comes with some challenges – but the rewards it offers far outweigh the risks. Ultimately, businesses are the big winners here: as vendors compete for their slice of this very valuable pie, costs will continue to come down and businesses of all sizes will be able to access powerful technologies that were once the exclusive domain of enterprise. And that can only be a good thing.
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