The multicloud challenge: building the future everywhere

At a time when acquiring infrastructure and on-site staff seems more discouraging than ever, companies are increasingly turning to multiple clouds to provide the range of features they need.

The fear of the cloud has evaporated. Instead, most companies now use at least several public clouds, from AWS to Azure to Salesforce and Slack. Hence the rise of the term “multicloud”, which now encompasses not only the management of IaaS and SaaS clouds, but also clouds deprived of virtualized on-prem resources.

The weak barrier to the entrance to the cloud was both a blessing and a curse. The ability to simply open a cloud account and start using an app or creating an unprecedented agility. But it also allows stakeholders to easily engage in their own direction, sometimes without worrying too much about security costs or risks.

The problem of multicloud is as old as IT: the problem of governance. For some, it’s an ugly word, because it sounds like a bureaucracy that is totally opposed to how to get things done, as in: Fill your application in three copies and you’ll get some virtual cloud machines in six weeks if you’re lucky. But few would advocate anarchy either – you don’t want developers to develop cloud applications on a whim using, for example, expensive AI/ML services and live customer data.

In a recent CIO think tank, Thomas Sweet, vice president of IT solutions at GM Financial, introduced a well-chosen phrase: “sustainable minimum governance.” Instead of hitting people with elaborate bans or approval processes, give them lightweight “railings” to avoid duplicate efforts or poor cloud security. Add to that cost caps and a catalogue of pre-approved cloud services, and enterprising LoB developers or managers have the freedom they need to experiment and innovate.

In particular, the three major IaaS clouds – AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure – provide environments in which innovation can flourish, in part because they are cauldrons of emerging technologies, from serverless computing to AR/VR application development platforms. For many organizations, the term “multicloud” actually refers to the adoption of two or more large IaaS clouds, mainly because the second or third cloud offers a new or better cloud service that others do not. Packing safeguards around this multiplicity is an endless governance challenge.

But this is where the future is headed: to a world where we assemble hundreds of cloud services from multiple providers into the applications that our customers and we need, by iterating and innovating as well. This collection of articles from InfoWorld, IOC, Computerworld, CSO and Network World explains how forward-looking organizations are moving towards this goal and the lessons they learn along the way.

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