Overcoming Challenges with the Multi-Cloud Architecture

By Shannon Weyrick, VP of Architecture, NS1

Shannon Weyrick, VP of Architecture, NS1
The changing demands of customers and employees compel companies to look beyond their initial cloud deployments, and the promise of improved application delivery, agility and innovation fuels the adoption of multi-cloud infrastructure. Enterprises are eager to increase their application resiliency and improve performance, and a multi-cloud architecture can be a key method of doing that. Gartner says that “a multi-cloud strategy will become the common strategy for 70 percent of enterprises by 2019.”
Yet, along with the benefits comes increased complexity. A recent survey found that enterprises spread cloud applications among as many as four different providers. And according to an IDG/IBM survey, managing complexity is one of the top challenges of a multi-cloud environment. From this complexity, five primary challenges arise: migrating existing data and applications, managing cloud spending, achieving visibility across systems, ensuring performance and workload balance, and maintaining security and compliance.
Migrating existing data and applications – In the digital economy, there is no room for delays or downtime, so it is critical that data and applications are migrated to new cloud instances without outages. To achieve this, organizations must establish consistent and automated policies across the new cloud networks to decrease the preparation, staging and implementation time. They should also take advantage of the many modern infrastructure tools that are increasingly multi-cloud aware, such as Terraform, which can help manage infrastructure across providers. DNS is another tool that organizations can use to manage seamless cloud migrations. Precise traffic routing can help migrate fractions of traffic to new cloud instances, giving necessary control over the speed and success of a migration.
Managing cloud spending – Moving systems to the cloud can allow a company to reduce capital expenses on hardware and servers. But if organizations don’t implement the right cost optimization measures, they often find that their cloud costs skyrocket. Calculating return on investment (ROI) is a common challenge when opting for a multi-cloud approach, as is the billing process when working with different providers. Organizations should ensure that they have clear visibility into their cloud resource usage, ideally aggregated into a single view as part of their platform observability. They should also ensure that they place appropriate resource limits on infrastructure automation tools to mitigate runaway spending.
Ensuring performance and workload balance – Public cloud conditions can vary greatly, potentially leading to increased latency that affects an organization’s ability to conduct business. DNS is a powerful tool in the stack for managing cross-provider workload. Using the advanced traffic management tools of modern DNS can help to weight traffic across cloud services at the global level, shift workload in response to real-time conditions and fail away from broken cloud service providers. An automated and data-driven DNS platform can match the needs for modern application delivery.
Achieving visibility across systems – As modern enterprises embrace multi-cloud strategies, applications and data can span many cloud instances and services, making visibility a top concern. Organizations should take advantage of the metrics and observability APIs of their providers to aggregate important operational and resource usage data into a central location for single pane of glass dashboarding and alerting. This may take the form of powerful open source tools, such as Grafana or Elastic, or one of several SaaS offerings providing this service.
Maintaining security and compliance – Embracing multi-cloud infrastructure, particularly in sensitive and regulated industries, raises obvious concerns about security and compliance. To ensure that data and applications remain secure in the cloud, organizations must define vendor responsibilities and agree on the standardization of services and methodologies. Similarly, there must be agreement on meeting the various compliance standards required, which can include HIPAA, PCI, SOX, FISMA and now GDPR.
As the compliance, regulatory and governance landscape becomes increasingly complex to navigate, organizations that embrace a multi-cloud strategy must be confident that their cloud providers can meet these requirements. When application architectures require that data be shared across cloud environments in real time, care must be taken to appropriately encrypt the communication channels as the traffic will transit the public internet.
Having standardized processes is important to solving the complexities associated with a multi-cloud infrastructure, but employing the right tools to optimize and granularly manage the data and infrastructure is also essential. Addressing each of these challenges requires cross-organizational communication among operations, network, security and development teams to create balance among provisioning, infrastructure automation and management, application deployment and data protection. When these teams work together to overcome the inherent complex technical challenges, organizations can ensure that their multi-cloud efforts deliver on the promise of improved performance, scalability, reliability and higher productivity.