Avoiding ‘Multi-Cloud Monsters’: care and caution needed as your priorities evolve

Main visual : Avoiding ‘Multi-Cloud Monsters’: care and caution needed as your priorities evolve

The emergent challenges of the last few months have seen cloud technologies and services being adopted at an even faster pace than before.  Organizations’ transformation goals – like driving operational efficiencies, competitive services and digital disruption – aren’t going anywhere in the long-term.

We call these becoming “Connected, Intelligent and Transformed” – but in light of the Covid-19 crisis, they have taken on a new sense of meaning, as the need to respond to change has driven increased Multi-Cloud services and broader technology adoption:

It’s easy to see why.  As immediate requirements have overtaken long-term ambition, organizations have been forced to accelerate and adapt elements of their digital strategy:

  • Operational efficiency is more about short-term continuity and cost reduction than ever before.
  • Competitive services have been refocused towards providing helpful information and experiences for customers and employees.
  • And driving digital disruption in each market sector has taken a back-seat, as businesses instead have used technology to respond to the biggest disruptive force of our times.

Cloud services have never been more accessible and readily available to help drive these outcomes.  But in the pursuit of them so quickly, through adoption of whichever cloud platforms can help best at any one time, it’s also never been easier to create Multi-Cloud monsters with the potential to cause organizational chaos.

The impact of any poor Multi-Cloud implementations, made without expert help, may not be obvious right now – but they are likely to become so over time… particularly as technical requirements change in line with how the ‘next normal’ plays out in phases during the coming months and years.

Let’s rewind: cloud adoption accelerates as its remit grows

The astonishing rate of cloud adoption is nothing new. Our most recent State of Orchestration survey shows that 86% of companies now have a cloud first or cloud-only policy to underpin their digital strategy. In fact, three-quarters of organizations have more than three cloud providers, while a third have more than ten.

That’s because organizations of all sizes are moving far beyond just using the cloud to deliver efficient, low cost technology. The focus has shifted towards powering business transformation with technology and enabling people to behave differently – with the dexterity, autonomy, transparency and automation to deliver quick, engaging and highly valuable services.

With the current landscape that businesses and governments are operating in, these characteristics are now even more important – and many have been forced to embrace them sooner or more extensively than they might have anticipated.  Some of the key areas we see these being demonstrated in are where organizations are trying to:

  • Ramp-up services ‘on-demand’ through rapid provision of public cloud resources.
  • Create and enable new virtual teams with the tools and freedom to do their job, rather than prescribing traditional methods within siloed structures.
  • Solve emergent business challenges fast – which often demands new agile processes, modern applications and cloud-native skills that they don’t already have.

Multi-Cloud Monsters do not discriminate

At the best of times, plenty of pitfalls exist which ‘trip-up’ organizations trying to achieve these things – particularly those who are inadequately prepared or lack knowledge in transitioning from traditional to modern IT environments.  From cost, complexity and service disruption, to unhappy users, security gaps and data loss... these are the common Multi-Cloud monsters.

And they don’t get any kinder in challenging circumstances.  Organizations looking to deploy cloud, migrate to cloud or even build native/low-code applications using cloud – in such a hurry – widens the scope for costly mishaps both during and after implementation.  A shortage of strategic-thinking time is one cause… choosing to ‘go it alone’ is another that we often see.

Let’s have a look at some of these up-close…

Keeping on top of the ‘costly cloud’ monster

 There are obvious and well-explored benefits of adopting cloud services (and expanding any current ones) to address fluctuations in demand.  This has really exploded in recent months, particularly within retail, financial services and government, as entire service models in these sectors have shifted away from physical channels to ‘online only’ due to lockdown measures.

The immediate needs of our customers here, were around being able to add capacity so they could alleviate strain on particular aspects of their service… but more recently, we are helping a greater number of organizations to continuously re-evaluate and optimize their cloud use, so they are only consuming and spending what they absolutely need to.

Such optimization – as well as a ‘single pane of glass’ view of their cloud solutions as they are adopted and scaled up/down over time – is proving really valuable, both for minimizing short-term financial losses and supporting the ‘re-opening’ of some physical aspects of their services; like selective stores, branches and offices.

Keeping ahead of the ‘service disruption’ monster

Another major issue for organizations, as they procure cloud services, is having the flexibility and agility to keep pace with changes to them – and the requirements of those who use them.

If we look at the rate of cloud provider releases first – they are accelerating at an unbelievable volume and pace – and organizations’ inability to keep up, post-platform adoption, causes problems.  84% of IT leaders in our most recent research said integration of new cloud releases was their toughest challenge and it’s easy to see why, with several thousand new releases pushed out each year by Microsoft (Azure) and AWS alone.

Two-thirds of respondents said changes to their cloud environment occur at least ‘every few days’ and over a third said these changes had a ‘highly negative’ impact on service.  The potential for this shows why cloud releases need to be selectively adopted – and continuously supported, integrated and managed throughout their lifecycle.

So what about those who use them?  When it comes to Developers, we’ve been helping organizations to enable them with the latest features really quickly, through ‘rapid release’ managed services, which work in a continuous sprint-mode, to make sure that IT Operations can remain completely in sync and that critical systems and services are not put at any risk.

And from a corporate user perspective; it’s not only been key for us to make sure our customers’ people have access to the right productivity tools.

As organizations look to introduce cloud-based technologies that enable new ways of working – now for a much larger amount of employees – it’s been crucial to provide additional support across the user-base, to allow them to get to grips with these quickly and maximize their value.  Security is a quickly-growing consideration here – more on this below.

Keeping control of the ‘security monster’

We’ve generally seen a shift in the market over the last couple of years, whereby Security had become a major driver of cloud adoption, rather than the inhibitor it was before.  This was due to major cloud providers investing heavily in their native security capabilities, many of which were enhanced to address growing regulatory challenges, such as the introduction of GDPR.

But as organizations leverage Multi-Cloud to drive modern applications and working practices fast in response to disruption, security vulnerabilities can open up, such as:

  • An increased attack-surface – caused by several clouds being deployed to accelerate capacity and scale – and the subsequent gaps and differences between these platforms.
  • Shared responsibility – misunderstanding or misconfiguration when addressing certain security aspects/features, due to cloud providers being responsible for some elements of security and the customer being responsible for others (there are grey areas!)
  • Co-creation – the need to speed-up innovation with partners, and enable remote workforce collaboration, resulting in complex (easily mismanaged) access needs covering a much broader range of non-corporate users, locations and devices.

These issues have become more prominent in light of the Covid-19 crisis, as cyber-criminals seek to exploit opportunities in organizations who may have prioritized pace over precautions.

Now is the time to take a step back and assess your security approach across multiple levels, to make sure it is:

  • Understood – “Which areas of security responsibility belong to my cloud providers, which do I own, and which do we share… are there potential gaps where I’ll need help?”
  • Secure by design – “Are my platforms deployed, integrated and configured with security at their heart – and a consistent standard of security controls applied across clouds?”
  • Flexible and context-aware – “Can I build security into my applications to minimize the need for reconfiguration (and potential for human error) as they’re moved or changed?”
  • Intelligence-led – “Am I able to proactively detect or quickly react to emergent threats that might impact my data, services and people?”

Doing this isn’t easy when there are a variety of distributed platforms, applications and data storage locations involved... which is why Fujitsu supports customers across the board with our multi-layered security approach and dedicated Multi-Cloud Security practice.

Supporting you during uncertain times

With your priorities and requirements likely to shift regularly in the short to mid-term – it’s important to ensure that you don’t just have the speed and agility to keep responding fast; but also the management, integration and security soundness to do it without any nasty surprises popping up further down the line.

If you’re worried about monsters lurking in your cloud ecosystem now, or you just need some advice and guidance on avoiding common pitfalls in future, our experts are here to help you.  You can get in touch with us via the website, LinkedIn and Twitter… or just ‘good old’ email.