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Multi-Cloud Happens But Not Necessarily By Design
Even though some pundits push back against multi-cloud, it is happening. This is not just some speculation by a clueless analyst or hallucination of a multi-cloud marketing person but the real data on the ground points towards multi-cloud. While it is easy to dismiss the use of multi-cloud as long as it is not their problem, it is not easy to manage multi-cloud. In the past month, I have been speaking to many enterprise decision-makers on their organization’s multi-cloud strategy. The following are some key points I repeatedly heard from them. Of the total number of decision-makers I spoke with ( disclaimer: It is not a scientific survey and the sample size is in lower double digits. The sample could have a bias because we sought people to discuss multi-cloud usage), most of the organizations are using multi-cloud. Of the remaining who were not using, they said they expect their organization to adopt multi-cloud in the future.
Learnings from multi-cloud usage
Most organizations end up using multi-cloud. Only a handful told us they strategically embraced multi-cloud. Most organizations started off with one cloud provider but they ended up being multi-cloud because:
They offered one cloud provider to their developers, and they figured out that there are developers/teams that use a different cloud provider for their needs (shadow IT). They have embraced multi-cloud as a strategy to make sure that they can allow their developers to use any cloud service they want from any cloud provider. They feel that embracing multi-cloud as a strategy can allow them to set up policies and governance.
They acquired a company and figured out that the cost of re-architecting the application to migrate to another cloud provider is not worth compared to the costs they will incur managing multiple cloud providers. One CIO said, “if I have to migrate a new acquisition to AWS (their cloud provider), I will have to fire the existing talent and hire new talent.”
There were a few who said that they have embraced multi-cloud strategy by design. They said that having a strategy helped them to force architectural decisions they feel will give them the flexibility to innovate fast
Almost everyone I spoke with said that they didn’t go multi-cloud to save costs but to have the flexibility to innovate rapidly and keep developer satisfaction. In fact, I even got a chance to speak with some developers in an organization that has embraced multi-cloud. These developers spanned multiple teams/divisions and they feel that they are happy that they could use any cloud service they find suitable for their applications instead of making compromises to use the service offered by a single cloud provider (eg: a specific database service).
Most of the decision-makers I spoke to point out the following challenges:
Providing a cloud provider like user experience for developers
Managing the security as the perimeter now spans multiple providers. At least half of them are thinking of using a third-party IAM solution
Everyone agrees that governance is difficult with multi-cloud but they are confident that they can manage it as governance tools have evolved in the past few years
From my conversations, it is evident that most organizations will have multi-cloud. Even if they go with a strategy of using a single cloud provider, the shadow IT will use other providers for their experimentation. Sooner than later, most organizations will confront the “cloud shadow IT” and will move towards multi-cloud. It is definitely not by design but by the needs of their developers and business users.