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Organizations adopt multi-cloud strategies for disaster recovery protection, vendor lock-in avoidance and affordable prices. However, these advantages can also lead to several multi-cloud challenges for organizations.
Multi-cloud network environments comprise two or more cloud providers or services. Organizations and network teams should consider the maturity and portability of their networks before they adopt a multi-cloud strategy, said Sridhar Vasudevan, principal strategist for cloud and data center strategies at Insight Enterprises, an IT service provider based in Tempe, Ariz.
While multi-cloud adoption can cause difficulties, adoption is still possible for mature and cloud-savvy organizations, Vasudevan said.
"The first time an enterprise moved their workloads from on premises to a cloud setting was hard," he said. "We've reached a point where moving from one cloud to another may take some effort, but it's not insurmountable anymore."
Although the multi-cloud challenge is possible to overcome, the strategy requires organizations to have cloud-native capabilities -- where an organization uses cloud computing to run applications -- as well as a clear understanding of network workloads and applications. Without these factors, multi-cloud challenges could outweigh the potential advantages.
How multi-cloud pros become multi-cloud challenges
Organizations can evaluate multi-cloud strategies on three criteria, which are also three of the most touted multi-cloud advantages. However, Vasudevan said IT teams should beware of the hype, because the criteria aren't universal and may not affect each organization the same way.
Disaster recovery. The first capability an organization should ensure its network can support is a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) strategy, Vasudevan said. He explained that organizations shouldn't enter a multi-cloud strategy to gain a more supportive DR strategy or assume the multi-cloud environment will automatically protect the network from an outage. That protection is not always guaranteed.
Sridhar VasudevanPrincipal strategist, Insight Enterprises
Instead, organizations should already have DR capabilities in place that can support the network through a multi-cloud transition. A DR strategy should also ensure one provider's outage doesn't debilitate an entire network. An availability zone can also benefit DR strategies, as organizations can move resources from one zone to another in case of an outage.
"Just because you have the option of using multiple cloud providers for an application, like DR, you shouldn't just rush into it," Vasudevan said. "You should first consider utilizing the strategies, tools and technology that every one of the major cloud providers provide."
Vendor lock-in. Many organizations fear vendor lock-in, which multi-cloud networks inherently avoid, as the strategy involves more than one service provider. Yet, too much focus on cloud-agnostic applications may lead organizations to avoid services that could benefit their specific needs, which Vasudevan called a "vendor lockout."
A vendor lockout could increase multi-cloud challenges because it would force organizations to complete multi-cloud integrations independently without vendor assistance. While some organizations may not require help, others may not have existing integration capabilities or resources, which could hinder their network growth or progress.
"It has to be thought out carefully before you go all in and put all your eggs in one basket -- or don't put any eggs in a basket -- and then struggle to accomplish integration," Vasudevan said.
Multi-cloud provider costs. Another touted advantage of a multi-cloud network is cost savings, as organizations can choose which services they want based on a provider's price per workload. However, Vasudevan said, use of multi-cloud strategies doesn't guarantee lower costs, and using multiple providers does not greatly minimize an organization's costs.
Instead of monetary investments, Vasudevan suggested organizations invest time in fully understanding how their networks function and which cloud scenario could benefit them most. Otherwise, an organization could waste money on services and risk potential multi-cloud challenges for which it is unequipped.
"In this context, it's better for companies to actually invest time and effort in understanding their application portfolio better," he said.
When organizations should consider a multi-cloud strategy
Multi-cloud strategies don't look the same in every organization. This lack of consistency and clarity can lead an organization to believe it uses a multi-cloud strategy when it doesn't. One factor of multi-cloud environments is portability and ubiquitous mobility, according to Vasudevan. Organizations with multi-cloud capabilities should have access to workloads in multiple places.
Another reason to reevaluate a multi-cloud strategy is an organization's ability to keep up with a provider's technology updates and refreshes. If an organization struggles to keep pace with a single vendor's updates, then a multi-cloud strategy could be more harmful than beneficial, as this strategy involves multiple providers.
Overall, a multi-cloud strategy can benefit organizations that are cloud-native, have portable workloads and can keep up with vendor technology updates. However, every organization should evaluate their networks and workloads to prevent potential benefits from becoming multi-cloud challenges.
"Understand your workloads, create application and portfolio strategies, modernize them into modular components and be cloud-native," Vasudevan said. "Then, all these factors, which are risks today, would become more reasonable. But don't let the focus shift and get distracted because you feel you need multiple clouds due to price or vendor lock-in."