Developing an Effective Multi-Cloud Strategy

This article is sponsored by Fujitsu and VMware.

Clouds on sunset. Nature composition.

Before the full-blown onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IDC declared 2021 to be the year of the multi-cloud, with corporations deploying a combination of cloud solutions to support their business operations and increase business agility. Since then, the prominence of the cloud has grown significantly as companies accelerated their digital transformation plans.

Before COVID-19, many companies were already conscious of the fact that their businesses may not survive without digital transformation. This has been accentuated by the pandemic, and many have turned to the cloud to support and transform their businesses during this period.

Many workloads have shifted to the cloud as part of enterprise business continuity management plans. At the same time, the dynamics for many businesses have also shifted as the changes in their operating environment force them to transform. For example, pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna have leveraged cloud computing to enhance their innovation processes, and similar changes are seen in various sectors from retail to F&B.

Choosing the Right Cloud Model

With the many cloud options available, it has become more important for users to identify which cloud models are best suited for their desired workloads. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and decision-makers must weigh a number of factors before making their decisions.

The first factor influencing this decision is the fundamental business objective, and what the business hopes to achieve by utilising the cloud. These business objectives must be effectively communicated to stakeholders such as the IT team, so that there is close alignment between the chosen model and these objectives. The decisions cannot be made overnight, and the choice will depend on the company’s policy in areas such as compliance and security, and the challenges that have been identified.

Next, the maturity of the current IT systems plays an important part in the speed of cloud deployment. “If you are in the early stage of cloud adoption, and you are mostly using legacy applications, it would be challenging to give yourself a 3-month deadline to move to the cloud,” shares Tan Mui Cheng, Head of Cloud Services for Fujitsu Asia. “There is a steep curve, and there will be risks in your timeline.”

The last factor is the application journey and readiness. “Applications go through different stages of modernisation,” adds Lee Poh Wah, Director for Systems Engineering at VMware. “Different applications will demand different things, such as re-platforming, putting into containers, or re-architecting. But this must still ultimately be driven by your business requirements, and it is important for us to not be swamped by hype and trends.”

Planning for the Future: The Case for Multi-cloud

For the many who accelerated their cloud journeys at the onset of COVID-19, the main priority might have been to build a strong foundation in a single primary cloud, and focus their efforts on migration. Whilst this might be a good start, Tan and Lee advise that these companies need to think further ahead and make plans for multi-cloud if they wish to be future-ready. This would require them to approach their cloud strategy more comprehensively, and think about their business strategies, resilience, capabilities and innovation.

These plans include how they think about human resourcing, with recent studies estimating a skill shortage of up to 90% in cloud-related disciplines, which will only grow as multi-cloud take-up increases. Whilst programmes such as the Singapore government’s SG United programme have provided some support and pipeline of skilled workers in the sector, having a clear multi-cloud strategy and consistent processes helps create a glue for the different platforms that are being used, allowing for easier skills transfer across the different cloud platforms.

The need to think from a multi-cloud perspective is compounded by the fact that separate business units in the same organisation might be deploying their own IT solutions on different cloud platforms, with the feeling that IT may not be able to support at the speed needed, usually because of security and compliance considerations. These different solutions then lead to a divided cloud strategy for the entire enterprise and a negative impact on the transformation journey.

“I think that reflects the reality of today’s environment,” adds Lee, “It is either we embrace it and make the necessary changes in our strategy and our approach, or we risk being pushed aside. When you have shadow IT and different business units accessing the cloud in their own way, it is not good for the whole company, so it is essential for us to look at what options are available to have a more holistic view in a multi-cloud world.”

Developing an Effective Multi-Cloud Strategy

Before dividing up your data estate and approaching different providers, it is important to first think about your strategies to consolidate and deal with the multiple clouds across multiple business units. One of the first questions you would need to ask is your architectural design, and how the different platforms and data will communicate with one another and integrate.

Tan adds that it is not just about managing the different clouds in the easiest way by looking at them in silos, but how you can integrate and manage effectively as a whole, and get visibility out of the entire multi-cloud. Having this visibility also makes it easier to access data that provides more intelligence and information for your decision making.

The second consideration is on security and compliance. Due to the speed of the workflow on cloud, it has become crucial to be able to detect security issues quickly across the different platforms, making it even more important to have a consistent security policy that can move effectively across the different clouds and detect changes in the configuration.

Lastly, there is a question of optimisation and knowing how to manage the different cost components and structures on the different cloud providers. As these structures may be unique to different cloud providers, companies need to way to establish commonality as they do their assessments and reporting, so that they have a holistic view across the cloud and provide accountability to the resources used.

In addition to the cost dimensions, it is also important to view cloud economics from a business perspective to see how cloud speed and scale relate to the business, so that you have a complete picture of what you are doing and the value of cloud solutions to the business. The onus must be on the company itself to determine what they need, what their risk appetite is, and the capabilities they want to develop.

Tapping on Multi-Cloud Expertise into 2021 and Beyond

At the same time, cloud vendors with a strong service portfolio can also add value to a company’s cloud journey, and help to address and mitigate any gaps that the organisation might have. “We aim to provide offerings that give customers choice,” mentions Lee. “The objective of VMware is to run customer applications through multi-cloud services across different hyperscalers, data centres, and cloud providers, at any stage, data centre or place in the world.”

Another example of such support is Fujitsu’s transformation framework, which can help customers to look at their end-to-end transformation journey. This involved looking at and assessing their previous data estates, evaluating at cost and ROI to determine the most effective platforms and migration strategies for the company. It also involves optimizing the cloud strategy after migration.

Fujitsu has always embraced a multi-cloud strategy that is aligned to market essentials and what businesses want,” emphasizes Tan. “This is not just about providing cloud services and hosting, but also co-creation with partners on the business outcome to deliver and generate returns.”

Whilst multi-cloud adoption is still gradually building up and accelerating across the world, being forward-looking and tapping onto industry expertise can help companies build a stable foundation that is agile yet holistic to meet the needs of the future.