The future is “Multi-Cloud”

Over the last few years the concept of “cloud” has matured beyond a strategy and into a desired end state. Lately I’ve been talking to many enterprise and public sector institutions looking to better understand the future of the cloud and potential avenues to cloud adoption. Across all of my travels it is clear to me that the future is “multi-cloud” and any path forward is likely to include various platforms.

All that being said, how does one get started on the journey and what technologies exist to help connect various clouds and simplify your future operating model?

Quick refresher – When we look at the cloud landscape today there are clearly 3 key offerings –

  1. Private Cloud – The evolution of traditional corporate Data Centers with the intent of driving increased utilization, automated operations and “click of a button” provisioning of workloads.
  2. Public Cloud- The consumption of infrastructure and/or applications – consumed and billed “On-Demand”. Optimized for the launch of net-new modern applications and includes Software-as-a-Service.
  3. Hybrid Cloud – The ability to easily extend private cloud workloads to the public cloud and back again as required (Consolidate, Scale, Recover from Disaster).I have also seen this referred to as “workload mobility” across a common platform. The major prerequisite here is that your Data Center and Cloud share a common platform (i.e. VMware)

So – how does one go about architecting for this future?

From my point of view it all starts with the applications. Applications are the heart and soul of any organization. Whether they are modern “systems of engagement” or traditional “systems of record”, applications are the direct drivers of revenue, profit and customer service in any organization. While it may be simple to set a policy requiring “net new” applications to be built in the cloud we also have to accommodate our existing applications? Here a suggested method of thinking.

  1. Look around your Estate –
    1. How many applications do you have?
    2. Are the applications locked to a proprietary hardware or software platform?
    3. What are the Service Level and Performance requirements for the application (Tier 1/2/3/4)
    4. What are the Data Privacy requirements for the application (Public vs. Secret)
  2. Consolidate & Rationalize your applications and platforms – 
    1. Can you rationalize applications against a common function?
    2. Can you retire those that are not being used any more?
    3. Can you easily port applications sitting on a proprietary hardware platform to an open x86 platform?
    4. Can you virtualize any applications still sitting on physical hardware?
    5. Can you easily port in-premises Data Center applications to an externally hosted SaaS equivalent?
  3. Assess the Portability of Applications to the Public Cloud – 
    • Can you re-architect the application to a public cloud platform?
      • Is it reasonable to do so?
      • Can you maintain the delivery of the service level and data privacy requirements?
      • What would the effort look like?
      • How much would it cost?
      • How much time will it take?
      • Will the effort drive a financial return or increased agility?
      • What would the risk be to the organization?

At this point you will have a good understanding of the applications within your environment and the potential to migrate them to a private/public cloud model. From here you can start to see what your future application footprint may look like.  This should drive three parallel activities –

  1. Optimize your “Private Cloud” – (A few VMware examples included for reference)
    1. Drive Automated Operations for Capacity, Configuration and Compliance (i.e. VMware vRealize Operations)
    2. Enable Simplified Provisioning
  2. Extend your Network and Security virtualization model to the public cloud (IBM SoftLayer example here)
  3. Drive Application Modernization in the “Public Cloud”
    • Cloud Platforms can be open (Cloud Foundry) or tightly coupled to a given cloud provider
      1. Pick a Cloud Platform and/or a Cloud Provider –
      2. Open is more desirable but often proprietary platforms offer a quicker time-to-value
    • Prioritize application modernization projects based on cost savings and business value
    • Leverage your network, security and storage virtualization to extend your virtual policies to the public cloud (i.e. NSX on AWS example here)



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