Multi cloud management tools promise to bring order, control, and insight to disparate environments. As companies pile more cloud activity onto platforms, many IT and network managers feel overwhelmed. After all, each cloud provider comes with its own set of tools, rules, and user demands. However, in a multi cloud environment, this complicated mix quickly leads companies into a pit of complexity, confusion, and cost.
Fortunately, there are several vendors offering multi cloud management tools designed to bring order, control, and insight to data centers that handle multiple cloud services. IBM, BMC Software, Cisco, Dell Technologies Cloud, DXC Technology, VMware, HyperGrid, and Divvycloud are just some of the companies promising stable and reliable multi cloud management. Many cloud services also provide some degree of management and integration with other cloud providers.
However, operating in a multi cloud environment turns a difficult task into an even more complicated one. At least, that’s what Peter Phillip, general manager of the Houston office of Sparkhound, a digital consulting services company in Houston, claims.
“The complexity of managing, securing, allocating and running a cloud environment is complex enough. However, adding multiple environments exponentially increases the difficulty and risk.”
Multi Cloud Management Challenges
Managing technology assets across multiple cloud service providers is a huge challenge. According to Jason Mao, senior consultant at Ten Mile Square.
“A company needs to manage at least one version of each technology asset for each cloud provider. This is a case of configuration, passwords, encryption keys, applications and deployment pipelines.”
That is, if you want to deploy or redeploy any version of a production environment, such as a technology asset snapshot container, you must track not only technology asset reviews. But also the relationship between these assets, he says. However, these tasks already represent a challenge for any company moving to a single cloud. “Needless to say, this challenge grows exponentially with other cloud service providers,” concludes Mao.
Organizations entering the world of multi cloud management need to find a way to create consistency across different environments. According to Varun Chhabra, vice president of Dell Technologies Cloud, “This allows multi cloud environments to be managed, monitored, and automated from a single pane of glass.”
“It also breaks down silos and creates transparency across all assets, no matter where they reside. This provides more control and greatly reduces maintenance time and effort,” claims Chhabra.
For Steve MacIntyre, vice president and shared security services lead at Fidelity Investments, creating a unified management structure was essential to keep up with the growing number of cloud resources spread across multiple vendors.
“One of the biggest challenges of multicloud management is the need to continually assess and display the current state of cloud resources and service configurations in a meaningful way. After all, each cloud environment has its own unique services and features. However, this hampers the ability to prevent, detect and respond from a single platform.”
Like MacIntyre, Christopher Gerhardt, founder and managing partner of IT and management consulting firm GrayBeard, appreciates having the ability to leverage the flexibility of a multi cloud environment, using a management tool to eliminate the complexity of operations inherent in that infrastructure.
“From a workforce perspective, there is an increase in operational cost that would negate the value of multicloud if we didn’t have a common management solution across our cloud providers,” he says.
Gerhardt reports that the approach also reduces training time. After all, his team only needs to be trained to manage services from a single platform. In other words, there is no need to know specific cloud services, such as AWS and Azure. “In the future, if we find it necessary to add Google, it will be possible without significant impact on our staffing model, staff training, or consulting costs,” he adds.
Cloud-wide monitoring also plays an important role in improving and updating the mindset of enterprise development teams. After all, it helps them fulfill new responsibilities and objectives.
“A development team no longer focuses on business capabilities. Now, it must focus on multiple dimensions of its applications, from infrastructure to networking and security,” says MacIntyre.
Therefore, having teams understand and accept their new responsibilities is an absolute necessity, he notes. “However, to support this cultural change, we need to be transparent with monitoring”, he concludes.
Compliance and security
Cost containment is typically the main issue that drives companies to investigate multi cloud management solutions. However, the technology can also be used to solve a wide range of problems associated with operating across multiple platforms. This is the case of supervision, automation, and security.
According to Chris DeRamus, CTO at DivvyCloud, managing disparate resources and services spread across multiple cloud providers can be incredibly challenging for system administrators.
“In such a complex and dynamic environment, it is difficult to obtain comprehensive visibility. Let alone be able to audit and apply security policies and even determine who is responsible for fixing what.”
Organizations in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, benefit most from the compliance insights and governance oversight of multi cloud management tools. “Additionally, any company with high M&A activity also benefits,” adds DeRamus.
Vallinayagam Nallaperumal, group vice president of strategic technology at MetricStream, claims to rely on multiple clouds to provide the highest possible levels of performance and security to the company’s customers.
However, MetricStream’s multi cloud environment presents two major challenges: a rapidly evolving GRC field and customers with a wide range of unique requirements. “There is data sovereignty and specific customer requirements to address, and as such there is no one-size-fits-all cloud capability available,” she explains.
Nallaperumal believes that a strong multi cloud management strategy is the best way to ensure real, tangible benefits. These include cost savings, productivity improvements, simplified cloud administration, accelerated time to market, and most importantly, bulletproof cloud security and governance. Your company uses HyperGrid’s HyperCloud tool for multicloud management. This allowed MetricStream to achieve consistent control and simplified monitoring of the cloud, according to Nallaperumal.
Choosing Multi cloud Management Tools
With so many vendors offering multi cloud management technologies, finding the right tool to coordinate a specific multi cloud environment can be a challenging task.
“The tool should provide universal monitoring and controls across clouds, including AWS, Azure, GCP, Alibaba Cloud, and Kubernetes,” says MacIntyre. A tool must also be able to use automation to remediate cloud misconfigurations, container misconfigurations, and policy violations. That is, it should enable companies to achieve ongoing security and compliance in addition to the benefits of cloud and containers, he says.
Cross-platform and cross-team collaboration capabilities are also essential for achieving complete multi cloud control and optimization. “Internal team members must have full visibility into what is being acquired and provisioned,” says Greg Pierce, chief technologist at DXC Technology. Other key features to look for include an operations dashboard, visualization services, enterprise reporting, and high-architectural diagramming capabilities.
Scalability is also important. “The tool itself needs to be able to scale with the lowest possible cost of the cloud services it manages,” says Mao. The tool must also offer the ability to be configured “as code”. “It is, after all, part of the operational toolchain,” he says.
Mao also suggests paying close attention to the integration capabilities of a multi cloud management tool. Therefore, an offering must, at a minimum, include a mature and exposed API with which other tools in the enterprise chain can integrate. Ideally, a tool’s enterprise software integration should also allow links to alert/notification tools. This is the case with Slack and PageDuty, as well as ticket/change management tools. Such as Jira and ServiceNow, as well as ITIL-based service desk offerings.
How to deal with multi cloud management?
Gerhardt warns that when deploying a multi cloud management tool, strict business mandates can be a bigger obstacle to deployment than technology issues.
“Realize that you will quickly run into bottlenecks around management policy before you run into tooling issues,” explains Gerhardt.
Therefore, it is important to look for a management technology that does not require users to have in-depth technical knowledge. “Select a tool that mere mortal IT administrators can use and leverage expert SRE or DevOps engineers to configure it,” advises Gerhardt.
Therefore, when shopping for a technology, he suggests focusing on each tool’s key features. “Focus on adopting the highest value capabilities around cost management and governance first. In other words, only then worry about the interesting features.”
Nallaperumal believes that multi cloud management is essential for any company. Particularly those advancing from the initial stage of cloud adoption to a more complex cloud environment. “Understand that this is a journey from initial cloud maturity needs and requirements to more mature needs and requirements,” he concludes.