Multi-cloud environments have been trending for a couple of years now, owing to the modular nature of services they offer. Vendor lock-ins are completely avoided, and systems running on multi-clouds experience lower latencies in addition to gaining more functionality out of the subscribed services.
In fact, a Gartner study has established that 75% of the organizations invested in IaaS for Clouds would undertake multi-cloud strategies by the end of 2022.
Things being so, managing multiple applications and services scattered over multiple Cloud providers can be expected to go awry. Keeping track of applications running on various Clouds, in addition, to monitoring ecosystem health, troubleshooting issues, migrations, etc. – everything needs a “Manager” of sorts that can look after these things automatically. It is here that multi-cloud management comes into the picture.
With the use of software/tools that are built to orchestrate high performance from multi-cloud ecosystems, a good synchronization can be obtained between business workflows and Cloud usage. Seamless flow of processes between Cloud environments, and even coordinating operations among them, can be achieved effectively using multi-cloud management systems.
In this article, let’s talk about the challenges with multi-cloud management, some tools you can use to address them, best practices to adopt, and a few features to consider while selecting a tool to use.
What is Multi-Cloud Management?
Many are given to using the term “Multi-cloud” in the same sense as a hybrid cloud. However, these two setups couldn’t be more different from one another. While a hybrid cloud includes all sorts of permutations and combinations of a Cloud (traditional on-premise servers, virtual servers, or even a public cloud service provider), a multi-cloud typically only means that there are public servers involved.
With that concept out of the way, a multi-cloud management system can be defined as a setup that creates homogeneity and consistency in the multi-cloud environment, organizes high volumes of data passing through this system, and distributes it among available servers to prevent overload on a single Cloud. It can be called an orchestrator of the multi-cloud setup which prevents the systems from caving in.
Another important function of a multi-cloud management tool is to provide a single-view interface of all Clouds involved so that actions can be taken through a single dashboard. Additionally, a multi-cloud management platform also automates workflows based on specified protocol, self IT resource provisioning, and analysis and reporting of multi-cloud health and status.
Challenges in Multi-Cloud Management
Since the company data gets distributed to multiple clouds in such a setup, it gets challenging to keep a track of things. Certain other challenges also emerge which can create loopholes in security or reduce operational efficiency if left unaddressed. Let’s discuss these challenges in detail.
The Cost Factor
Involving more Clouds for running your applications before performing a thorough needs-analysis first leads to over-expenditure. Every Cloud setup has its own unique properties, services, and specialties. If new Clouds are involved without properly utilizing the existing services, the expenses thus incurred are wasteful and serve little purpose.
Any web or mobile application requires periodic tests to measure its performance and speed. On a multi-cloud setup, this process could take relatively longer and demand more manpower. It also becomes a cumbersome task to manage the performance data thus generated; working with it requires investing further time and effort.
Development and Production Delays
Multiple clouds make it difficult to stage the development and production of multiple applications, the operations of which are scattered over various clouds. Managing the production manually makes it even more tedious and requires immense effort to keep things on track. In case of a miss, things could derail instantly and delays can occur.
The bane of multi-cloud setups, cloud sprawl, happens where there are services, machines, servers, or workloads running needlessly when they aren’t required any longer. It is entirely possible for the users to forget, amidst so many Clouds running, to de-commission or deactivate unnecessary services, events, or instances, which could ultimately end up on the Cloud bill.
Cloud management is likely to run into a wall when facing migration over legacy networks onto a multi-cloud setup. It can be challenging to maintain existing data policies and security standards when deciding to migrate to a Cloud as it is; involving more clouds calls for investment in a system that can monitor everything.
A multi-cloud ecosystem divides the company data into separate components, which then need to be governed separately for compliance, security, governance, and other aspects of data regulation. This becomes challenging with the increasing volume of data and an increasing number of Clouds in the ecosystem. A smart managing system may be required to be put in to ensure everything stays compliant.
Security of the data can become challenging in a multi-cloud setup because of the difference in security protocols used across various Clouds. Additionally, the onus may fall on the organization to arrange for secure communication between deployed Clouds by layering up the security of the internal network or by using VPNs.
Factors to Consider While Selecting a Multi-Cloud Management Tool
A research report by Markets and Markets reveals that the global industry of multi-cloud management platforms is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30.9% between 2017 and 2022. The market size of this industry would rise to $4.5 billion.
Things being so, it is to be expected that organizations would be spoilt for choice in selecting a tool for managing their Cloud setups. Here are a few features that you can consider as guiding beacons to help you navigate through the products in this industry.
A multi-cloud management tool is good only if it is able to cater to user service requests on demand. The best way of getting the most out of this feature would be to select a tool that translates the request from the user’s API into a cloud-native version before logging it in.
It is important that a multi-cloud management platform be able to monitor the frequency and duration of service use on every Cloud involved, in the context of the applications housed on each. This helps the organization get a picture of Cloud reliability and budgeting. Services not in need can then be slowly phased out.
A good multi-cloud manager is programmed to log the key performance indicators, for example, latency or downtime, pertaining to the services a Cloud provides. Reporting these parameters is a big imperative in retaining only the Clouds that perform well and deliver the required services at great performance levels.
Every cloud provider has its own policies with which it governs the data (and services) that come in and go out of the ecosystem. A multi-cloud management platform should be able to work with these policies in a way that doesn’t compromise the internal policies or security of the information transmitted.
In the end, the cloud management platform needs to be able to choreograph the workflow in a way that catalyzes the business operations and processes. It needs to manage multi-cloud operability in a manner that suits the development and production of different apps. For example, the kind of process that would be suitable for an e-commerce app wouldn’t necessarily facilitate the development of a finance app.
Management has a lot to do with measuring the performance of a system. A good multi-cloud management software would have the capability to monitor the performance of each Cloud, analyze the key parameters, plot them on charts and identify performance curves to help the organization better understand the returns on their investment.
Ideally, the intrinsic security structure of a system shouldn’t need to change even if new components are being added to the system. The cloud management platform needs to have a plug-and-play mode whereby it can function on the same security protocols as the incumbent ERP or Cloud – whichever the organization is using.
Multi-Cloud Management Tools
With so many options and choices floating around in the market, it makes sense to review a few of the best performers of 2022. Here is a list of the top 5 multi-cloud management tools of 2022.
As the name suggests, this tool is an open-source platform for managing multi-cloud environments. Some interesting features about this software are:
- Capable of integrating with incumbent and third-party technologies
- Automation capabilities for application lifecycles, networking, storage, workload provisioning, etc.
- Can be managed from a single dashboard
- Open-source model makes it highly suitable to manage heterogeneous Cloud setups
- Free to use
- Can automate various processes
Apache CloudStack is on the popularity list because of its capability to manage colossal virtual machine networks. Let’s see some of its salient features.
- Highly suitable for large-scale system management, hybrid clouds
- This cloud manager is a turnkey implement
- Friendly UI with access to CLI and RESTful API
- Highly scalable
- Supports AWS EC2 and S3
- Supports VMWare, Citrix XenServer, and KVM
Middleware keeps things as simple as they can get by giving one-click deployment capabilities. Here are a few important features:
- Deploy applications on multiple Clouds across any region
- Support for Microsoft Azure, AWS, GCP
- Native CLI for management
- Modular, customizable, and scalable
- Automation of container management
- One-click deployment/management for public, hybrid and private Clouds
- 99% utilization
This platform specifically provisions for security, productivity, and cost aspects of cloud management. Here are some important features.
- Functions on a modular infrastructure to allow for system agility
- Equipped with budgeting tools to help monitor costs
- Use of standardized deployments and automation of workflows for cost-effectiveness
- Single dashboard with simple user interface
- Avoids vendor lock-ins by encouraging integrations
BMC Multi-Cloud Management
This platform is simple to use and allows for applications to be run in either a production environment or a test environment. Some of its features are:
- Automation capabilities for governance, provisioning, management, and security of Cloud services
- Self-service mode for application deployment
- Capable of multi-cloud migrations
- Allows mapping of assets
- Capable of monitoring hybrid cloud environments
Best Practices for Multi-Cloud Management
The following best practices ensure that you get the best out of your multi-cloud management system.
- Maintaining cost transparency from the get-go creates a good base to monitor the expenditure going into multi-cloud. A report by IBM states that about 50% of the executives track cloud costs
- Keeping the ecosystem up to date with the latest offerings – not just for functionality, but also on the consumer side – keeps customers satisfied
- Creating harmony between Developer Operations and the IT department for managing the multi-cloud environment works wonders for smoother operations and workflows
- Encouragement of the use of self-service modes and tools helps standardize the consumption of services and products in a multi-cloud environment
- Empower the IT professionals to add value to the existing multi-cloud by means of service aggregation
- Integrability is key to preventing a scattered deployment of Cloud-based resources. Maintain cohesiveness across IT sources so that they can be operated through the same ERP
- Allowing self-service for tools and functionalities in a multi-cloud setup brings better controllability into the systems
- Establishing exhaustive user management systems is a necessity for larger organizations where data governance across borders can create issues. Ensure there is a mechanism in place that governs data access no matter where it goes
- In a rapid-development environment where machines are capable of making necessary purchases (software, development environment stacks, libraries, etc.), it is possible to rapidly develop and test applications
- Changing the role of your IT from a service department to a service facilitator can speed up the operations, and help your organization get access to better tools and resources
The world is rapidly moving over to Cloud, and now Cloud has started to evolve as well. Better systems and mechanisms have now been developed that allow for staggering efficiencies in operations, cost-effective services, and flexibility.
Multi-cloud setups aren’t the culmination of this revolution, but they are high-performing systems nevertheless if managed well.