The rapid proliferation of cloud computing has come to define the past decade of business innovation, with companies in almost every industry embracing the benefits of cloud adoption. Today’s business IT ecosystem is dominated by cloud vendors and service management companies offering out-of-the-box solutions for a range of your operational needs, from data security and storage to application development and workflow automation. While these advanced, tech-driven capabilities can be a source of increased efficiency and profitability for your organisation, keeping track of cloud spend and utilisation continues to disrupt digital transformation efforts across the world.
Take, for example, the growing reliance on hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments: One study from the cloud service company Nutanix found that 85% of polled IT decision-makers in 24 countries feel that hybrid cloud is their ideal IT operating model. This shift in strategy is characteristic of many organisations that have realised a single cloud strategy is incapable of supporting all use cases, especially when multiple public cloud services and vendors are involved. As you integrate more cloud solutions into your infrastructure and operations, your IT teams will need to develop new strategies and management tools that can help you ensure cloud investments deliver value at every level of your organisation, both immediately after implementation and well into the future of your IT systems.
Your Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud Operations: What’s the Difference?
Technological innovation isn’t always a straightforward process, as even the most advanced functionality can fail to deliver you desired results unless you put the right IT service management (ITSM) practices in place. Before you can reap all the benefits of cloud transformation, your IT decision-makers must carefully assess the needs and limitations of your current infrastructure and computing environments. Of course, your journey toward cloud transformation has been complicated by the growing patchwork of industry terms and buzzwords that dominate the cloud marketplace, noted Gartner. Two of the most misunderstood concepts are hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies, which are not mutually exclusive.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between operating hybrid cloud and multi-cloud:
- Hybrid cloud: When you adopt a hybrid cloud strategy you bring together disparate private and public cloud services (along with on-premises systems) under a single management framework that “supports parallel, integrated or complementary tasks,” according to Gartner. For example, you might store your data on a private cloud infrastructure while using public cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure, to complete your business-critical tasks. As such, any hybrid cloud strategy you make must prioritise the interconnections and operations between different cloud-based and legacy systems (each with varying management requirements) to ensure consistent performance and availability of your systems.
- Multi-cloud: When you use a multi-cloud strategy, you should focus on the use of the same type of cloud solutions from multiple public cloud vendors, often in a single network architecture. While the relationship between private and public cloud services does play a key role from your management and operations perspective, multi-cloud is more about distributing your computing resources to minimise the risk of downtime and data loss. For example, you might simultaneously use Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and other private cloud infrastructure solutions to store, manage, and protect your data. This approach can not only help you avoid vendor lock-in and dependency, but it can also provide you more control over which workloads are run in the cloud and which data stores your employees can access.
Rather than making a complete switch to a private or public cloud environment, you can integrate the exact cloud resources and services you need without losing visibility or control over your sensitive data stores or workflows.
Your hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies are often complementary, especially when your company needs to retain at least some of your on-premises systems and data storage infrastructure for compliance reasons. Rather than making a complete switch to a private or public cloud environment, you can integrate the exact cloud resources and services you need without losing visibility or control over your sensitive data stores or workflows. That said, operating a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environment, or some combination of the two, comes with a variety of IT management challenges that can quickly derail your transformation efforts.
Three Common Pitfalls in Managing Your Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Environments
Although both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments offer you enhanced flexibility and control over technology resources, your IT managers must constantly refine their ITSM practices to keep operations running smoothly. The more public cloud services your organisation integrates, the harder it becomes to ensure consistent performance and service delivery across all third-party vendors. Even if your implementation is successful, there’s no guarantee that the new hybrid cloud environment will provide the seamless functionality users were promised, nor the ROI you expected.
The reality is that your cloud solutions are only as effective as the connective tissue that holds them together, making ITSM your top priority during every stage of hybrid cloud computing adoption. Since each business is different, both in terms of technological needs and operating norms, your IT managers will have to carefully select public cloud services that support your specific business goals and create a framework for managing these services that can be adjusted when you introduce new innovations. Of course, there are a few common challenges that come with facilitating your multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments that you should consider before making the switch.
- Lack of in-house hybrid cloud expertise
Operating your multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment requires a specialised set of tech skills and considerable IT management experience from your workforce, as public cloud services offer quite different architectures, administrative tools, and application programming interfaces (APIs). Your IT team responsible for maintaining cloud resources should be intimately familiar with how they work, how individual management tools are used, and how adding additional applications and public cloud services may introduce new complications.
According to RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report, a lack of resources and expertise is a major challenge for 79% of enterprises and 77% of small and medium-sized businesses, and a significant contributor to cloud waste. To overcome these transformation roadblocks, your IT leaders may want to seek out cloud advisory experts and service management partners who can bring a higher level of expertise to your multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. With this, you can not only help anticipate integration barriers and complexities, you can also set up long-term success through effective collaboration, change management, and infrastructure alignment.
- Difficulty mapping your dependencies across multiple public cloud services
Even if you have significant in-house expertise, dependency mapping can still pose problems for you when operating a hybrid cloud model. Every public cloud service interacts differently with other cloud resources, private cloud infrastructures, and on-premises data storage. If you rush through the implementation phase you could overlook these interdependencies, leading to unplanned downtime, inconsistent service delivery, and disorganised ITSM practices.
Although these issues are often associated with cloud migration, you may continue to deal with the consequences long after you establish your hybrid cloud environment. For example, if your application hosted on Microsoft Azure is unable to pull necessary information from your data stores managed by Amazon Web Services, your users will not be able to perform their work. This problem is amplified in multi-cloud environments, where customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), content delivery, and other public cloud services share information, even when the data itself is stored on servers managed by different cloud vendors.
- Shifting ITSM requirements and processes
One of your potential biggest challenges of operating multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments is creating an effective ITSM framework that can give you structured management processes while remaining adaptable in the long term. The end-to-end delivery of your IT services, whether public or private, is essential to developing and supporting your new applications at scale and ensuring the cloud solutions you deploy align with your key business goals and industry benchmarks.
The ITSM strategies you adopt must be flexible enough to encourage process innovation among your IT team while delivering workload optimisation and prevent you from getting locked into unfavorable service-level agreements (SLAs) with cloud vendors. Your organisational needs will inevitably change over time, which is why your IT managers will want to match each application to the appropriate cloud solution to avoid paying for services you won’t use or overpaying for private cloud infrastructure. When you perform regular reviews of your service plans and fees, along with a big-picture assessment of your future IT transformation plans, you’ll have a big-picture assessment that will save you money and assure a smooth pathway for future innovation.
At Unisys, we understand the challenges and opportunities posed to you by multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments and are passionate about guiding you to a sustainable and scalable future. We’ve helped companies across many industry lines migrate to a hybrid cloud strategy, streamline their ITSM processes, and future-proof their cloud investments.
Gain a competitive advantage and integrate the latest advancements in automation and machine learning without causing chaos for your end users with our Digital Service Management (DSM) solutions. By combining service integration and management (SIAM), cloud expertise and best practices in ITSM, you’ll have end-to-end support for the most complex digital transformation projects, moving your organisation from a reactive posture to a proactive one that is driven by data analytics, predictive modelling, and measurable benchmarks.
To learn more, explore our DSM services or connect with a Unisys cloud expert today.