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Multicloud environment poses management challenges

The growth of the multicloud environment among enterprises is fueling the need for management tools that reduce complexity and redundancy.

Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part series examining the challenges associated with overseeing multicloud environments. The second part will review some of the most popular tools.

According to Gartner, nearly half of large enterprises will operate hybrid cloud architectures by the end of 2017. The flexibility, scalability and potential cost savings are key drivers behind the IT department's desire to mix public cloud services with internally managed data centers. And for many organizations, leveraging multiple public cloud services, along with their in-house offerings, provides the best balance of flexibility and capability for companies that must be prepared to rapidly pivot their business toward new and emerging markets.

Yet, the transition to a multicloud environment is not as easy as one might think. Those who have already made the decision to operate hybrid cloud architectures will tell you it can be a real challenge to uniformly configure and maintain workloads, traffic flows and security policies across multiple providers. But, fortunately, help is on the way in the form of multicloud management options. But before you begin looking at specific vendor products, we need to first understand all the benefits multicloud tools can provide. In this article, we will look at the challenges we face when attempting to integrate private and public clouds, and how multicloud management tools can streamline integration and management functions.

Automated policy across all environments

For those who have worked in popular cloud service provider environments, including Amazon Web Services, Azure and IBM Cloud, you are well-aware that the underlying architecture and configuration and management tools used to set up and monitor your cloud environment are vastly different from one provider to the next. In addition, the tools you use to configure and maintain your in-house data center are dramatically different as well. Therefore, inefficiencies arise when configuring and maintaining various policies and regulatory compliance that a company has established, including virtual servers, workloads, data storage, traffic flows, security policies and reporting. All these configurations must be manually recreated within each public or private cloud with which you work. And any changes or updates to one environment means those must be manually duplicated across all others.

What multicloud management tools attempt to do is convert standards and policies you set in one environment, and then translate them to identical settings in environments running different cloud architectures. By doing so, you create a situation where you simply manage policy adds and changes in one public or private cloud, yet those changes can be easily propagated across all clouds in an automated manner. Therefore, maintaining hybrid cloud architectures becomes about as easy to manage as managing an individual private or public cloud.

Easier migrations

What used to take days or weeks of planning and execution can, in many cases, be accomplished in minutes.

Multicloud environment management tools can be used to automatically push your standards and policies easily into cloud environments with different architectures and underlying software. This dramatically decreases the preparation and implementation staging time required when migrating applications and data into new cloud providers. What used to take days or weeks of planning and execution can, in many cases, be accomplished in minutes. This capability opens up the prospect for leveraging far more cloud services than were previously possible.

Lastly, an important advantage for using multicloud environment management tools in hybrid cloud architectures is the ability to easily move your applications and data in and out of the various cloud provider networks. One of the major drawbacks that companies found when moving into public cloud services was once applications, data and policies were moved over to a service provider, it became very difficult to move them out. But by leveraging multicloud management services, many of those obstacles are eliminated, and moving services in and out of various clouds becomes a very real possibility. This suddenly creates a situation where an IT department can move its applications, databases, storage and policies around freely, depending on what provider has the optimal level of price and performance at any given time.

If the current trend of hybrid cloud adoption continues in the enterprise, it will become commonplace for companies to manage applications and data resources across their private data centers and into multiple cloud providers. But in order to streamline and standardize policy across heterogeneous environments, a multicloud management platform is strongly advised.

While the market for multicloud management systems is still in its infancy, there are a few products that are leading the charge. In the next article in this series, we will take a look at the three leading offerings and how they differ from one another.

Next Steps

How to make hybrid cloud a reality

Analyzing modern hybrid cloud architectures

Public-private cloud end goal is hybrid

This was last published in October 2016

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