What is multi-cloud management?

Multi-cloud management describes tools and strategies that allow companies to control and monitor resources across multiple cloud environments.

Organizations that want to facilitate digital transformation, reduce data-storage costs, and improve their IT performance and productivity are taking advantage of cloud solutions. As such, we say that these groups are migrating to the cloud, but the reality is that, for many companies, it would be more accurate to say that they are migrating to multiple clouds. This is because more and more businesses are spreading their data and applications through a multi-cloud environment.

A multi-cloud environment exists wherever a single organization uses two or more of the same type of cloud solutions for specific, individual applications or services. A multi-cloud environment may consist of private, public, or edge clouds, combining applications running on more than one of the same type of cloud provider with on-premises operations. This makes it possible for businesses to enjoy the benefits offered by different cloud vendors and solutions, while also reducing, mitigating, or eliminating many of the disadvantages from each.

What is the difference between multi-cloud and hybrid cloud?

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, multi-cloud is not the same as hybrid cloud. Hybrid-cloud describes an approach in which public- and private-cloud solutions are combined, creating a mixed computing, storage and services environment that is composed of infrastructure and services from multiple cloud types. By comparison, a multi-cloud environment is one that consists of two or more of the same kind of cloud deployment—such as two or more public clouds or two or more private clouds. 

Although multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are not the same thing, a hybrid cloud can become a multi-cloud when it begins to include more than one public or private cloud service with other deployment types.

As previously stated, a multi-cloud approach may benefit organizations by allowing them to combine benefits from multiple cloud vendors. Multi-cloud management takes this even further, giving businesses invaluable support and control over their multi-cloud environments. More specifically, the benefits of multi-cloud management include the following:

Reduced strain on IT teams

Multi-cloud management brings solutions for monitoring, securing, and controlling multiple clouds together onto a single, centralized platform. With all relevant data and controls in one place, working from a single view of the truth, IT teams can more efficiently approach cloud-management tasks and assess cloud performance as they manage workloads across multiple clouds.

Graphic outlining the benefits of multi-cloud management.

Improved security

The more clouds an organization uses, the greater the attack surface that may be exploited by threat actors. At the same time, creating and enforcing reliable security policies becomes more difficult when working with multiple cloud vendors. Effective multi-cloud management solutions shore up these weaknesses, by providing features that allow for improved security monitoring, security-policy enforcement, and essential automation solutions. This makes it possible for users to protect their vital data, address weaknesses before they can be exploited, and respond quickly to emergent threats.

Better cost management

Often, organizations will migrate to the cloud as a way of reducing data-management costs. However, when working with multiple cloud vendors, it can be easy to lose track of cloud spend, resulting in a greater investment than anticipated. Multi-cloud management resolves this issue by tracking and reporting on all cloud expenses and may even offer intelligent data analysis to ensure that the organization in question is getting the optimal ROI. Additionally, multi-cloud management allows businesses to compare prices associated with different vendors to find the optimal rates to meet their unique requirements.

Increased availability

In keeping with the adage of never placing all the eggs in one basket, a multi-cloud approach helps ensure that if one cloud solution experiences downtime, it won’t necessarily impact the organization; workloads may be shifted between cloud vendors to keep everything up and running until a solution may be found. Additionally, by hosting data on regional clouds, businesses can give distant users local access, thus improving data response times.

Broad flexibility

Although it may be easy to find the perfect cloud solution for a single function or aspect of the organization, it’s much more difficult to locate the optimal solution in one vendor for every consideration. When no single cloud can perfectly perform every necessary function, multi-cloud environments allow businesses to pick and combine clouds based on their specializations.

No vendor lock-in

When businesses have the power to operate effectively across multiple providers of the same cloud types, they find that they have many more options to choose from. Instead of being forced to work with a single vendor, they can shop around to find the vendor or vendors that best meet their IT requirements.

Unmatched scalability

IT demand is not constant; it increases or decreases based on a variety of factors. Multi-cloud management empowers organizations with the ability to easily scale up or down to meet changing storage needs.

Complete visibility

The more cloud environments that are being used, the more difficult it may be for an organization to get a full, real-time picture of workloads and results across every associated vendor. Effective multi-cloud management resolves this issue, by bringing all relevant data to a single location. Users enjoy complete visibility, in real time, across the entire multi-cloud environment.

Multi-cloud management brings with it several clear advantages but can also create certain hurdles. Here, we address some of the challenges present in multi-cloud management:

Increased complexity

The most obvious advantage of multi-cloud management is its ability to address the increased complexity of operating within more than one cloud. That said, for extremely complex cloud environments, multi-cloud management itself may be difficult to get the hang of. For example, PaaS components such as Kubernetes and containerized form factors are expanding at an increased rate, making it much more difficult to track code deployments. Not all multi-cloud management solutions are equal in managing this complexity and providing visibility under one platform. Finding a solution that offers intuitive controls and effective user support options can help ensure that the complexity of the cloud does not create a barrier to applying a reliable multi-cloud management solution.

Difficulty integrating software environments

Multi-cloud management connects multiple cloud environments. But for that to provide a real advantage, organizations need to build applications that can move across these environments without creating other problems. Integrating applications into varied cloud environments can be a difficult prospect and place added strain on IT teams. Managing software licenses can be an added burden as well, such as when moving software or apps in the cloud—knowing which licenses are functional and which need to be renewed is vital for businesses that don’t wish to pay more for software use than they must.

Expanding skill gaps

Top multi-cloud management solutions should be intuitive. However, they will likely still require training on the part of the users. And, as companies embrace more clouds to respond to ongoing changes, they may have difficulty in hiring for and educating existing employees in the skills needed to put multi-cloud management solutions to optimal use.

Policy violations

Finding small violations that appear in configurations but go undetected is a difficult and time-consuming task. For example, cloud configured storage buckets can be left unencrypted, or certain cloud VMs may go unmonitored. These issues can cause serious data leakages if not addressed in time.

Getting the most out of a multi-cloud solution depends heavily on the capabilities and features of the management software itself. To ensure a successful multi-cloud management rollout, look for a platform that is capable of the following:

  • Automating the configuration, placement, and management of workloads in the cloud.
  • Recommending the best possible destination for each workload in the cloud.
  • Reporting on and summarizing cloud-resource usage and cost.
  • Assessing changing service portfolios and prices.
  • Utilizing machine learning and trend analysis to accurately predict costs and usage.
  • Effectively managing, controlling, reporting on, and analyzing resources across multiple cloud environments.

Taking full advantage of a multi-cloud approach demands the right tools and strategies to help strategize, prepare, optimize, and govern the cloud environments. ServiceNow, the leader in IT management, has the solution: ITOM Optimization.

ServiceNow has a comprehensive set of capabilities to ease your journey to the multi-cloud and give you control to manage cost and performance. We recommend organizations start with solid planning between technology and business teams to understand the expectations and outcomes expected from cloud transformation. ServiceNow provides organizations operational readiness, such as gaining visibility of the entire on-premises resources, assets, applications that need to be moved. In addition, ServiceNow helps understand the moving cost of multi-cloud environments and SaaS in one platform and provides the ability to monitor cloud environments that can cause outages and disruptions to business-critical services. And finally, you get cloud governance and provisioning oversight to enable faster service delivery. Think of it as a "spell-check" that can correct errors by just right-clicking.

ServiceNow expands your control, allowing your business to rope in the complexities and idiosyncrasies of working with diversified cloud vendors. Leveraging your existing ITSM processes, ServiceNow allows you to create a fully unified operating framework across both multi-cloud and non-cloud environments.

Contact ServiceNow today, and bring all your clouds together to better support your business.

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