The explosive growth of cloud deployments over the last several years has caught many IT architects off guard. The lack of long-term and large-scale planning has led to an uptick in the complexity of day-to-day management of hybrid and multicloud environments.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
After all, one of the key selling points of the cloud was to eliminate the need to manage complex infrastructures. Yet, here we are again. (See Multicloud Can Lead to Management Nightmare – Survey.)
Only this time, the goal isn't to manage a single infrastructure, but how to manage multiple, disparate cloud infrastructures as a single unified network. Tools are now becoming readily available that help with the management of multiclouds.
The question is, what do they actually do?
In most situations, the ultimate goal for administrators of hybrid and multicloud environments is twofold. The first is the simplification in the day-to-day management of multiple public and private clouds. The second is to speed up the "time-to-market" in terms of both determining where an application should be deployed -- and how to push uniform policy regardless of where the app it resides.
Without the proper tools, meeting these two goals requires a tremendous amount of administrator effort and a surprising level of guesswork. Multicloud management platforms bundle these tools up into a neat package with a direct focus on unifying multiple, disparate cloud environments by using automation. (See Infrastructure Automation Will Heat Up in 2018.)
Most multicloud management platforms focus on providing the four basic management services.
Orchestration is the ability to define uniform, yet dynamic policies as it relates to the deployment and management of all infrastructure components including virtual machines, operating systems and computing resources. This helps speed up the rollout of services while reducing the amount of policy overhead.
Right now, orchestration within a single data center or cloud is an easy task.
However, as corporations continue to expand their networks into an increasing number of cloud providers, orchestration at the data center level no longer cuts it. One of the key benefits of a multicloud management platform is that it can perform inter-cloud orchestration between multiple cloud providers. This gets you to a "create policy once, deploy it everywhere" level of management that administrators desperately need. (See Microsoft Buying Cloud Orchestration Expert Cycle Computing.)
App and service migration, and portability
A true multicloud strategy should include steps on how to easily migrate apps into and out of the various public and private clouds that are in production today. Doing so allows administrators to move applications to the cloud provider that offers the greatest price and performance balance your specific application and user base requires.
Multicloud management tools also allow you to spin up and retire cloud service providers on the fly in a "plug-and-play" manner that is seamless to the end user. This prevents against the dreaded cloud vendor lock-in problem that plagued many early public adopters. (See Microsoft's Russinovich: Avoiding Cloud Lock-In Is Risky Too.)
Application and service performance monitoring
Dovetailing off the need to easily migrate apps, data and services between cloud instances, end-to-end performance monitoring helps administrators determine the best cloud home for their apps.
Some clouds are better than others in certain situations and for certain applications. Your goal as an administrator should be to host cloud applications and data where they are optimal from an end-user performance point of view. Analyzing workload performance and consumption patterns across multiple clouds takes most of the guesswork out of where an app should be installed. (See Cisco Acquiring Cloud Optimization Specialist Cmpute.io.)
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Additionally, that app can then be monitored throughout its lifecycle and potentially moved to a different cloud if deemed appropriate from a price and performance point of view.
From a developer and application administrator perspective, one objective of a multicloud strategy should be to have a single set of change management tools. This allows admins to streamline the change process so that it's uniform from one cloud provider to the next.
Automation is the key in this situation as multicloud change management tools can be used to not only automate the change management processes themselves, but also mask the underlying technical differences when working on different underlying infrastructure components.
If your focus is on multicloud expansion in 2018, it's important to note that as the number of clouds you attempt to stitch together increases, so do the complexities of day-to-day management tasks.
While multicloud management platforms and tools are still in their infancy, they're beginning to become an absolute necessity if your ultimate end game is to simplify IT thought the use of the cloud. After all, wasn't that the original intent of the cloud in the first place?
— Andrew Froehlich is the President and Lead Network Architect of West Gate Networks. Follow him on Twitter @afroehlich.