Finding Balance in a Multi-Cloud Universe

    Whether by accident or intent, more enterprises are finding themselves increasingly dependent on multiple discrete clouds.

    While this does offer some advantages when hosting applications and workloads on the most optimal resource configurations, it also leads to a management problem that, if left unchecked, could produce the same silo architectures that currently inhibit data interactivity on local infrastructure.

    Too often, says ZDNet’s Matt Asay, cloud deployment decisions are made in the same way as in traditional settings: point solutions targeting specific needs at specific times. While dreams of eventually cobbling together this disparate collection of public, private and hybrid solutions into a seamless, orchestrated architecture persist, the fact is that the longer it goes on the more complicated it becomes and the more difficult it is to fix. Open source solutions like CloudFoundry’s Open Service Broker API represent one of the best hopes for multi-cloud coordination at this point, although it can be a challenge to craft an open system that provides the level of abstraction needed to support services that rival leading proprietary solutions like AWS Lambda.

    The central paradox of building open platforms on multi-cloud architectures is that the more open you are, the greater your management overhead, says tech analyst James Governor. Although open platforms like Linux have made headway in the enterprise of late, for the most part the solution that provides the best packaging comes out on top, particularly in the mid-level and small enterprise sectors where in-house technical expertise is less prevalent. Any multi-cloud strategy will have to touch on a multitude of points, including API management, database integration, monitoring and data gravity challenges – and as the environment scales, so do the costs.

    One possible way around all of this is the container, but it is too early to say whether the automation and orchestration capabilities of leading container platforms will be sufficient for a wide array of enterprise applications. One company that is giving it a try is Distelli, which recently launched an open source container registry called Europa that fosters interoperability across on-premises and multi-cloud environments. With the ability to share Docker images across disparate resources, organizations should be able to avoid isolating data and code on individual clouds, which enhances the ability to share projects between development teams and tailor resources to targeted use cases and business needs.

    Meanwhile, companies like Rackspace are eager to foster multi-cloud services now that hyperscale providers like Google and Amazon are drawing the lion’s share of the enterprise workload. The company recently launched the Global Solutions and Services program that offers planning, design, migration and other services to help the enterprise craft a customized cloud presence. The company will guide clients to the right mix of cloud services and platforms, including AWS, Azure, VMware and OpenStack, and provide ongoing operational support for local, regional and global footprints. Rackspace executives say the intent is not only to craft the lowest cost solutions, but ones that provide high agility, rapid time to market and other benefits.

    In the end, the choice between single- or multi-cloud is the same as between single- or multivendor solutions in the data center: Does the simplicity of a single provider outweigh the drawbacks of vendor lock-in?

    Few organizations have deployed a single-vendor data center because no one solution can accommodate all needs, and that will likely prove equally true in the cloud. But it is probably wise to avoid going overboard on a multi-cloud strategy as well. If you think it is difficult managing multiple platforms within the data center, imagine the challenge of managing a vast collection of third-party resources spread out over the world.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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