A few months back, I read an article by CTO Kit Colbert on the topic of reducing complexity in a multi-cloud environment. He discussed how various VMware products and services can help with implementing and operating a multi-cloud environment. I believe that Kit was spot on when he asserted that VMware’s Cross-Cloud Services offerings makes customers’ lives much easier. But there were two things he didn’t talk about in that blog, and they may be among the most important aspects of your journey to multi-cloud — people and processes.
Before we jump in, however, I want to point out that in my experience, organizations often “accidentally” end up with a multi-cloud architecture. I deliberately use quotes here, as “accidentally” in this case refers to the position the IT team finds itself in. The IT team may not have made a conscious decision to shift to multi-cloud. It often happens as a result of the integration (or IT strategy) of an acquisition, fast-growing business units, ever-increasing demands from application owners and developers, or simply the inability to procure new hardware within a reasonable amount of time, due to shortages in the chip-manufacturing supply chain.
When (not if) this happens, the questions quickly arise: “How do I manage systems across multiple clouds? How do I ensure that I can meet our service-level agreements? How do I provide a similar experience across both Cloud X and Cloud Y? How do I do so in a secure manner (not just security, as in firewalls, but also in securing data)? Who will be responsible? Do I need to hire a cloud administrator (maybe even a full team of cloud admins)?”
While you may need to hire people with specific skillsets, I think it is more important to zoom out and ensure that both your organization and its processes are aligned with your multi-cloud strategy. For some of you, this may sound familiar. In the early days of virtualization, the typical first step before implementing VMware products was to assemble the Windows team, the networking team, the storage team, and (let’s not forget) the security team all together in one room.
For a successful implementation of a “virtual-first” strategy, many companies found it critical to create a Center of Excellence (CoE) and to staff the (virtual) team with stakeholders from every part of the organization. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a CoE is a centralized governance function for the organization that acts in a consultative role for central and business-unit IT.
When talking to customers about multi-cloud, one thing has stood out to me — those who have successfully implemented a multi-cloud strategy are typically the organizations that created a multi-cloud CoE. Bringing the experience from different parts of the organization together as a single virtual team enabled them to better understand the requirements and how to satisfy these requirements for each cloud. What’s more, for many, it has also resulted in a better understanding of the constraints imposed by some of these cloud offerings. This multidisciplinary team is best suited to create a map that can help guide the placement of a project/service in a given cloud, based on its requirements.
Even though you may find yourself in a situation where you have “accidentally” adopted a multi-cloud strategy, it is never too late to re-align your organization. You need that security person involved to ensure all deployed systems and stored data are secured as agreed. You need that storage administrator involved to ensure that your workloads and services — end-to-end — are protected against any type of failure or corruption. You need that networking administrator involved to ensure that systems and services are connected and accessible with the expected performance characteristics. You need that virtualization administrator to manage your workloads across clouds. You will also need to understand the requirements of each line of business and the (potential) financial implication of your decisions.
If you are interested in starting a cloud CoE or adopting a multi-cloud strategy, make sure to check out the following free resources:
- White paper: “The Next Generation of Cloud Management Starts with a Cloud Center of Excellence”
- Case study: “Multi-Cloud Management from a People Perspective”
- Cloud Management Blog
- White paper: “Organizing for the Cloud”
- Podcast: “The Unexplored Territory,” episodes 12, 13, and 15, which discuss multi-cloud use cases and challenges