Multi-cloud strategy: 5 challenges you’ll face

Multi-cloud strategy: 5 challenges you’ll face

Using multiple cloud providers? Let's examine advice on the problems that arise – and how to beat them

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May 29, 2018
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4. Redundancy and security

Adam Stern, CEO and founder at Infinitely Virtual, says IT leaders need to problem-solve for two separate, related areas in their multi-cloud strategies: Redundancy and security. A fundamental problem with both: Making too many assumptions.

“Cloud risk management is especially critical in multi-cloud environments.”

Take redundancy: It’s another catalyst for many organizations moving to multi-cloud. If one IaaS environment goes down, for example, you can move to another, different platform to ensure continuity. But you’d better make sure that’s actually how it’s going to happen if an issue does occur.

“In multi-cloud, IT professionals need to test their failover process.  Safety can’t be ensured without performing this testing several times a year,” Stern explains. “Even if a second cloud never supplants the primary environment, multi-cloud requires a testing methodology to bring up that second environment and make certain that it operates as intended.”

Cloud security is a topic unto itself – but suffice it to remind ourselves that moving to a multi-cloud strategy does not mean you’re outsourcing security entirely to your vendors. Yes, they should have top-notch protocols and tools in place, but security ultimately remains your responsibility.

“Cloud risk management is especially critical in multi-cloud environments,” Stern says.

Stern recommends that effective cloud risk management incorporate Zero Trust security models, including least privilege access. 

“Multi-factor authentication needs to be mandated as a matter of course,” Stern says. “That is, engineers who manage every component within a given infrastructure – routers, firewalls, storage systems, etc. – must be subject to multifactor authentication.”

5. Cost controls and cloud sprawl

If there’s a non-technical word most likely associated with “cloud,” it must be: “cost.” As in: “lower your costs in the cloud,” or “optimize your cloud costs,” or any other iteration of the same idea.

In fact, controlling costs is yet another motivator of the multi-cloud approach: With multiple services and platforms at your disposal, you can choose those that best balance your budget on an ongoing basis, or so the thinking goes.

As with other potential advantages, such as redundancy, the problems arise when you take them for granted, or as something that will happen almost automatically, without careful oversight on you and your team’s part.

Cindy Ford, VP and general manager, US and LATAM, at Cogeco Peer 1, notes that cloud platforms offer volume pricing; by spreading your workloads across multiple platforms, you might actually be paying a higher per-unit price for cloud infrastructure. Careful ROI analysis is a must.

Cloud sprawl is another problem to anticipate and prevent.

“Multi-cloud creates inventory – it is so easy to turn on cloud services that you can easily end up with excess inventory,” says Jeremy Vance, VP of Technology at US Cloud, and the former CIO at Pabst Brewing Company. “It’s the same as excess production capacity.”

Again, Vance points to granular ROI as way of preventing or solving this potential problem – and not dismissing something because it appears to be inexpensive on a pay-as-you-go model, or unit pricing such as per-user or per-machine.

“Cloud sprawl is a real thing, and the costs associated with each service can quickly spiral out of control,” says Ned Bellavance, director of cloud solutions at Anexinet. “We have all heard the cautionary tale of the developer who racked up thousands of dollars in cloud costs by leaving a fleet of machines on over the weekend.”

In fact, Bellavance doesn’t think that cautionary tale does the scope of issue justice.

“You need to actually analyze and track your cloud spend, correlate it to projects and developers, and understand the expected consumption patterns to ensure that resources are being provisioned economically,” Bellavance says. There are tools that can help, but Bellavance believes human oversight is critical. In fact, as multi-cloud becomes the norm, he thinks organizations would do well to create a “cloud cost analyst” position in their finance or procurement department.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the possibility for sprawl: Many IT shops learned a similar lesson with the explosion of virtualization on the IT scene.

"Just like when virtualization took over, sprawl followed, so does the utilization of cloud services in multiple clouds [lead] to cost-control issues,” says Jayme Williams, senior systems engineer at TenCate.

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