Successfully navigating the inevitable Multi-Cloud

Published by Luc Hendrikx
January 24, 2022 @ 9:50 AM

This article was written by Luc Hendrikx, CEO of CIONET International. It is based on a discussion during an exclusive online lunch with Belgian Digital Leaders on January 21st 2022. CIONET organised this event with the support of Dell and VMware.

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The Cloud is like a candy store for Business Leaders and Software Developers. Cloud service providers innovate at the speed of light. New technologies, capabilities and features are constantly released. These new features and the ability to quickly address new business challenges often convince organisations to start using additional cloud environments they did not use before. Multi-cloud is often a consequence rather than a conscious choice. 

Organisations now realise that many new processes and key technical components are required to properly manage a multi-cloud. Our panel confirms that working in a multi-cloud environment is the new normal. During the discussion, the following recommendations to use Multi-Cloud and successfully navigate towards innovation at the speed of business surfaced:

  • A minimum level of integration has to be done to consume services from multiple clouds,. The panel unanimously states that a universal security layer, providing services such as Identity and Access Management across the clouds, is required. A solid security layer also allows to control rogue cloud consumption and "shadow IT". One organisation shared that its users are made personally liable for security threats and data leaks if they use non-standard/unintegrated cloud services. They present a pop-up to the user to explicitly accept this liability when he or she wants to consume cloud services for which the companies' single sign-on is not yet available. 
  • The integration effort should not be underestimated, though. One of our panellists shared that their first full cloud integration took nearly two years and cost several million Euro. 
  • Successfully navigating the Multi-Cloud requires new skills. The panel strongly recommends setting up a Cloud Center of Excellence to integrate public clouds in the company's working practices and enable the rest of the organisation to consume cloud services in a controlled manner. 
  • Successfully navigating the Multi-Cloud requires a clear Cloud Data Strategy. The quantity of data that needs to be downloaded from the public cloud is one of the main drivers of cloud spending. The types of data, on the other hand, dictate the security and privacy requirements for cloud implementation. Organisations are struggling to define where to store their main data sources across their Multi-Cloud. They also find it hard to enable an integrated analysis across multiple data sets stored in different clouds without a massive cost increase.
  • Our panel also feels a clear need for more plug and play solutions for GDPR reporting in the Multi-Cloud. Today they rely on homegrown solutions to track and permanently report on which private data is going where and when.
  • Our panel recommends working with a Cloud Strategy that is driven by the Application Strategy. They recommend moving workloads to the cloud step by step and transforming the applications first. Most people in the panel recommend avoiding lift and shift approaches. There is a trend to favour SaaS above PaaS and PaaS above IaaS. Transforming your application architecture to an API-driven architecture is a no-regret move, even if the application workload will remain on-premise for now. Portability becomes a lot easier once things are standardised and API-driven. 
  • Abstraction layers and Cloud Management Platforms are considered useful for successfully managing the Multi-Cloud. They allow for streamlining the governance practices and reducing the training efforts. However, users should be aware that these platforms, by definition, always run behind. If one wants to use the full innovation of the cloud, these abstraction layers are slowing down. To deal with this divided effectively, one organisation in our panel came up with a "no code, no cloud" rule. This means that they've entirely banned manual configuration through the cloud-native management interfaces for their production environments. All configuration has to be done through code. This allows them to fully leverage their standard software quality processes.
  • Our panel states the importance of understanding the speed at which your business wants to innovate. If you choose to be a first mover, you should realise that cloud providers also work in an agile way. To implement learnings and address initial design flaws, first versions of new services are often completely replaced without an easy migration path at a later point in time. This rework might be fully justified if your business can create competitive advantages. However, if your organisation tends to be a fast follower and does not need to be the first out there, keep in mind that the hyperscalers monitor each others success closely. Successful new features are soon to be found in most clouds. This allows fast followers to drastically reduce the operational complexity of the cloud setup and to actively consolidate their application workloads on a limited number of clouds. 

Successfully navigating the Multi-Cloud requires a good balance between governance and innovation. Multi-Cloud transformations turn out to be less about technology and more about adopting new capabilities including people and processes.

I would like to thank our panellists for the constructive discussion, their insights and the great learnings. During this executive lunch, our panel consisted of:

  • Koen Van Loo, CIO at Renson
  • Filip Van den Bergh, Tribe lead Cloud & infrastructure at Telenet
  • Geert Uytterhoeven, CTO BU Benelux at Engie
  • Sophie Decock, BeLux Country Manager at VMware
  • Inès Herbosch, CDO at FOD Justitie
  • Steve Vereecke, Enterprise Architects Manager at SD Worx
  • Arnaud Bacros, General Manager, Dell Technologies
  • Zakaria Jdaoudi, Public Cloud Product Owner at Euroclear
  • Bart Degroote, Teamleader Security Ops & Engineering - Chief Information Security Office at Euroclear
  • Jonas De troy, Team Manager - Public Cloud at Proximus
  • Philip Van Eecke, IT Architect at Milcobel

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