The accelerated adoption of Multi-Cloud is bringing to fore operational complexities, highlighting the need for a calibrated and thoughtful approach.
More organizations are shifting to a multi-Cloud environment as digital transformations mature to meet strategic objectives such as infrastructure resilience, risk mitigation, real-time data harvesting and processing. As economic and geopolitical uncertainties loom on the horizon, companies continue to lean heavily into Cloud to transform businesses and remain competitive.
Businesses understand that digital-led innovation is the only way to beat unpredictability, and so investments in Cloud must continue. What’s more important is that business differentiation is increasingly being driven by analytics and artificial intelligence and multi-Cloud becomes an imperative to ensure consistent data collection for geographically dispersed businesses.
This global trend is also seen in the Middle East as organization’s embrace multi-cloud to meet the requirement for flexible and scalable cloud solutions to support diverse workloads and harvest benefits such as redundancy, cost optimization, improved performance, and data sovereignty.
The tenth annual Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, found that 92 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy with 82% percent enterprises having a hybrid Cloud strategy. The survey comprising 750 technical professionals from around the globe and across verticals found that Cloud adoption had become mainstream with 61% planning to optimize Cloud costs in 2021, making it the top initiative fifth year in a row.
In 2023, the same survey finds the multi-Cloud momentum continues to be strong with 87% respondents embracing multi-Cloud. A large percentage of this is hybrid environment while 15% actually use multiple private Cloud.
“Overall, it’s clear that multi-cloud adoption is on the rise in the Middle East. While multi-Cloud can offer benefits such as flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, it also comes with operational complexities and security risks. Businesses should carefully evaluate the potential benefits and risks of multi-Cloud before deciding whether it is the right choice.” Walid Issa, Senior Manager-Solutions Engineering, MEA, NetApp
Operational Complexities of Managing Multi-Cloud
Multicloud and hybrid environments present fresh challenges including skillset requirements, siloed teams, security complexities and getting visibility across environments. Importantly, multi-Cloud initiatives are also faced with operational issues including Cloud spend and security.
The Flexera Survey for 2023 finds managing Cloud spend at the top challenge wherein respondents indicate an acute awareness of costs, as indicated by their prioritization of cost control efforts over security for the first time in a decade. Security and lack of technical expertise also figure as top challenges for Cloud adopters.
Speaking about the challenges of multi-Cloud, Walid Issa, Senior Manager-Solutions Engineering, MEA at NetApp, says, “Overall, it’s clear that multi-cloud adoption is on the rise in the Middle East. While multi-Cloud can offer benefits such as flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, it also comes with operational complexities and security risks. Businesses should carefully evaluate the potential benefits and risks of multi-Cloud before deciding whether it is the right choice.”
As a leading data management solutions provider NetAPPs offers solutions that support multi-cloud environments which enable organizations to manage and optimize data across multiple clouds, including AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
Omar Akar, RVP Middle East & Emerging Africa, Pure Storage says, “Arguably one of the biggest challenges is high or unpredictable costs because organizations have rushed into cloud services. Or they don’t know what they are using as shadow IT takes over. Additional issues include unnecessary complexity into IT environments and having to untangle multiple, ad hoc approaches.”
Managing multiple cloud providers can be complex and requires specific Cloud skills. This can result in increased costs, time, and resources needed to manage and maintain multi-cloud environments. At the operational level, IT is challenged to manage multi-Cloud which fragments into separate tool sets for each cloud platform, creating islands of disjointed cloud. It becomes difficult for IT to achieve consistency in managing and monitoring policy enforcement, security, compliance, cost and service levels.
“To make the most of multi-cloud, organizations must leverage the common denominators across silos, and that means turning to Kubernetes and container-based applications. This gives users flexibility across multiple clouds as they have the ability to run applications somewhere else without disruption or loss of information.” Omar Akar, RVP Middle East & Emerging Africa, Pure Storage
Cloud Sprawl and Cost Management
Cloud sprawl creeps in easily in a multi-Cloud environment due to multiple environment and the easy ability to turn on resources. Often different team turn on resources for specific objectives and use cases but forget to switch off resources once the activity is completed. This is the flip side of on-demand computing marked by self-service where unused resources can inflate the Cloud bill negating the benefits of Cloud capabilities.
This is playing out in the market as multi-Cloud adoption matures and organizations are beginning to feel the pinch of unhealthy practices. 82% of the surveyed respondents in the 2023 Flexera survey indicated Cloud cost management as the top challenge.
“Despite the benefits of multi-cloud adoption (scalability, integration and business continuity), current strategies and multiple tools add additional layers of management complexity. And they only become more complex as organizations add cloud services in an ad hoc manner, creating management and operational challenges that also increase operational costs,” says, Kalle Björn, Senior Director, Systems Engineering – ME at Fortinet.
Multi-Cloud ecosystems become even more complex as there are different tool sets and challenges related to inter-operability of monitoring tools across public Clouds. The way to combat this ensuring awareness with consistent education and communication, a vigilant environment and high- level of transparency in the operating environment.
While on the technology side, a multi-Cloud environment delivers value only when there is a seamless movement of data and application interaction across environments. So, a platform-based approach empowers organizations to manage and monitor operations and security from a single platform.
“Organizations need to adopt a centralized management approach to gain visibility into their multi-cloud environment and identify areas where they can optimize their cloud spend like for example, identifying areas where resources are underutilized. They can also optimize their cloud spend by automating routine tasks such as scaling and provisioning which will help reduce costs by ensuring that resources are only used when needed. Organizations can also leverage the concept of “reserved instances,” NetApp’s Issa.
CloudOps Teams require predictive analytics and automation to get insights and guidance to scale cloud infrastructure as required, optimize cost and monitor utilization continuously and ensure availability of compute resources.
Speaking about the increasing concern around cost management, Pure Storage’s Akar says, “Managing costs is definitely a major challenge when it comes to multi-cloud. According to a report by Flexera organisations as a whole, including enterprises as well as small and mid-sized businesses, are exceeding their cloud budgets by an average of 13%. Organisations should beware of cloud egress charges where providers charge customers for network usage based on the amount of data transferred out of the cloud – but not into the cloud,”
Isa recommends flexible consumption models to offset the challenge of fluctuating demand while wrapping as-a-service options around service level agreements (SLAs). He recommends transparency can be achieved via SLAs with metering and monitoring capabilities so organisations get a clear view of costs and usage. Also, effective IT analytics, AI and reporting can go further to spot anomalies, predict trends in capacity requirements, and anticipate waste before it makes its way to the balance sheet.
Cloud sprawl results in adding burden on the IT staff who may not have the appropriate skills to manage a multi-cloud environment effectively or even resolve complexities. Managing cost and pricing issues in multi-cloud environments requires careful planning, centralized management, automation, and the right tools and pricing models. By taking a strategic approach to managing cloud costs, these organizations can achieve significant cost savings and optimize their multi-cloud environment.
“Despite the benefits of multi-cloud current strategies and multiple tools add additional layers of management complexity. And they only become more complex as organizations add cloud services in an ad hoc manner, creating management and operational challenges that also increase operational costs.” Kalle Björn, Senior Director, Systems Engineering – ME at Fortinet
Managing Security in Multi-Cloud
Each organization’s cloud strategy is tailored to its own needs, which means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to security. Most organizations use more than one cloud provider to limit the risk of a single point of failure.
“As multi-Cloud environments operate in a diverse and expansive landscape, CISOs and security teams often struggle to manage and secure environments and workloads across private and different public clouds,” says Fortinet’s Bjorn.
Also managing data across multiple clouds can be challenging so they should have the right management tool to simplify managing multiple cloud environment. Organizations must ensure adequate security measures in place to protect their data and applications.
According to the 2023 Cloud Security Report, as organizations continue to embrace the cloud and its many benefits, nearly all organizations surveyed report moderate to extreme concern about cloud security.
The rising concern could be due to increased compliance requirements and lack of transparency. “Regulatory compliance challenges and risks stemming from not knowing where data is stored and perhaps not realising the extent of shared responsibility,” says Akar. In line with that, managing compliance across multiple clouds will be difficult, especially when dealing with different regulatory bodies in different regions.
“To overcome the challenges of cloud security, organizations need a consistent and tightly integrated approach to cloud security. Not surprisingly, most respondents (90 %) say it would be helpful to have a single security platform to configure and manage security policies across their cloud environments consistently and comprehensively,” adds Bjorn.
A unified mesh architecture which combines security, cloud, networking, and endpoint solutions into a single system provide visibility and centralized control across complex, environments. When the central platform is equipped with integration capabilities and automation, making it easier for security teams to coordinate quickly and respond to threats in real time.
Only a comprehensive security policy to protect data and applications can strengthen security in multi-Cloud environment. This includes identity and access management, anti-ransomware, encryption, and network security.
NetApps Walid Issa says security best practices must be embedded within the fabric of the organization. “Using strong authentication mechanisms like multi-factor authentication ensures only authorized users can have access to cloud resources. Regular security updates for all software and tools used in multi-cloud environment will help build fences against security vulnerabilities. A good practice is to conduct regular security audits to identify potential security gaps in multi-cloud and take corrective action to address them. Monitoring and logging of all activities in multi-cloud environment to detect and respond to security incidents timely manner and last yet most important is to have the right and trained people to identify and respond to security threats”
“Security should be integrated into the cloud infrastructure from the outset, rather than added as an afterthought. This can be achieved by incorporating security measures such as encryption, monitoring, and intrusion detection into the design of cloud-based systems.” MUATH ALHOMOUD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CYBER SECURITY, D360 BANK
Extracting the Best of Multi-Cloud
As organizations build business continuity and resilience multi-Cloud is a norm than an exception. It is a big business enabler and operational complexities and risk factors can be managed with the appropriate strategy.
“While multi-cloud can offer benefits such as flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, it also comes with operational complexities and security risks. Organizations need to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and risks of multi-cloud. Multi-cloud can be good if it aligns with the specific needs and objectives of the organization and if the organization has the necessary resources and expertise to manage and maintain the multi-cloud environment effectively,” says Issa.
That is why many organizations embrace hybrid cloud which combines a privately hosted cloud with at least one public cloud service provider, all managed as a single, policy-based environment. On-prem infrastructure is extended by public cloud resources in a wide range of use cases such as dev/test, backup and archiving, bursting production workloads to meet sudden demand, and more.
A single pane of glass management and monitoring tool with a view on everything including, maintenance, upgrades, capacity, functionality, any potential issues like upgrades or more storage needed, will help support and take away some of the complexity.
“To make the most of multi-cloud, organizations must leverage the common denominators across silos, and that means turning to Kubernetes and container-based applications which, once architected, can run in any cloud. This gives users flexibility across multiple clouds as they have the ability to run applications somewhere else without disruption or loss of information,” says Akar of Pure Storage
Multi-Cloud strategy avoids vendor lock-in, enhances business continuity, and maximizes flexibility for development teams. While many organizations are drawn to multi-Cloud for obvious benefits, it can become a liability in the absence of a disciplined approach and a comprehensive monitoring and management system. Organizations are learning it the hard way and many are drifting towards single Cloud usage as is evident in the State of Cloud Report 2023 wherein multi-Cloud decreased from 89% to 87% and single Cloud usage increased from 9% to 11% this year.