Minimising Cloud Complexity
Ease of use, accessibility, and scalability has made cloud computing services very appealing for companies in all sectors and of all sizes, driving growth by over 380 percent in just the past decade.
The cloud market is a vast landscape that has grown to encompass every business function, from hosting storage to managing leads. This means businesses have their pick of providers, and most have been quick to migrate workloads and functions. Nearly all enterprises use some sort of cloud service, and around 80 percent of workloads are hosted on the cloud.
However, the massive free-for-all market has brought about an age-old IT problem: complexity. The average enterprise uses over a thousand cloud services, according to research by cloud security and monitoring firm, Netskope. The growing sprawl is threatening to outgrow the benefits of cloud computing, and businesses will have to nip the problem in the bud, or risk ending up with crippling operational inefficiencies.
Cloud Computing Benefits Obscured
Most companies cite agility and flexibility as one of the top reasons for moving workloads onto the cloud. However, complexity can negate those gains. Single-purpose applications aren’t designed to integrate with each other, which creates isolated silos where otherwise useful data languishes.
There’s also the maze that is hybrid legacy and cloud systems. Many applications still connect to on-premise databases in some form. A single cloud-based mobile or browser application can jump across 37 different systems. This creates a “black box” scenario: outages and points of failure can be very difficult to pinpoint across a complicated multi-cloud infrastructure.
It doesn’t help that many of these systems are poorly integrated. The explosive shift to cloud computing has fractured many a company’s standards for centralisation. Once, IT experts were expected to create or choose applications that align with enterprise-wide standards. Today, function and agility have taken precedence over homogeneity. Services are picked by different teams who don’t communicate with one another, creating a governance nightmare.
Yet perhaps the most pressing problem fragmentation creates is the threat it poses to security. Every time you migrate a workload onto a third-party service, you create a vulnerability. A disjointed multicloud deployment opens many gaps that can be exploited.
Untangling the Risks
As is the case with fragmentation of any kind, there is no one single thread that can be pulled to unravel the problem. Businesses need to take a multi-pronged strategy that includes the tools, the people, and rethinking behaviours around cloud computing itself.
AI-Enabled Centralised Monitoring
Companies have come to rely on monitoring tools in an effort to piece together a more complete picture of their cloud environments. While these tools can offer visibility into some subsets of your infrastructure, people still have to analyse data coming from disparate sources. The amount of data streaming in will only scale from here, making real-time monitoring increasingly difficult.
This is where AI can simplify the work. Automating data collection and analytics can bust data silos wide open, giving companies a panopticon view instead of disjointed glimpses into the performance of their multi cloud environment.
Prioritise Cross-Platform Functionality
Necessity is the mother of innovation, and the problem of cloud complexity has and is continuing to birth solutions such as cloud management platforms and service brokers. Yet to prevent these solutions from sprawling, companies have to pick tools that can span across private and public cloud infrastructures and on-site premises.
A streamlined approach will also allow the IT team to pivot from hopping across different environments to put out fires, to tasks that drive business growth, such as developing new features for users and employees.
Implement Common Security Layers
The least common denominator approach is also your best bet for multi cloud security. While a common security layer won’t close all vulnerabilities, they can at least minimise the amount of work and time your security team dedicates to using the native tools of each individual cloud service or cloud brand. This also reduces the risk of falling behind on updates, which leaves many systems open to attack.
In the future, staying on top of security concerns and compliance will be made much easier by AI. For now, enterprises can rely on layers to cover the most glaring weaknesses in their cloud ecosystem.
Break Down Complexity Into Blocks
Perhaps the best way to minimise cloud complexity is to make sure it never happens in the first place. This can be easier said than done, as the pressure to deliver and migrate legacy systems have forced teams to sacrifice cohesiveness for speed. Many companies are already mired in the mess, which they’ll have to clean up before creating a better framework for the future.
David Linthicum, Deloitte’s Chief Cloud Strategy Officer, recommends breaking apart problems into subdomains, which allows enterprises to uncover solution patterns that can span across the entire chain.
With the thousands of cloud technologies materialising at a blistering pace, complexity was always a matter of when, and not if. Adoption is far outpacing how fast businesses are building the systems to manage and monitor their multi cloud environments. The issue of fragmentation will not be an easy one to solve. But companies can start by moving away from native tools, and towards solutions that can billow across a significant portion of their cloud ecosystem.