“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish,” David Foster Wallace said in his now-famous commencement speech to the Kenyon College graduating class of 2005. The fable continues: “The older fish nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”
As with any good fable, there is a lot to unpack here. But one deep truth from this story is that our minds quickly take for granted what is all around us.
This story came to mind when I started researching the current state of multi-cloud environments. It wasn’t long ago that cloud computing was considered novel, exciting, and risky. Today, cloud computing is just “computing.” A new programmer in today’s corporate world might be asked her opinion on multi-cloud strategy, and her response might be “What the hell is a multi-cloud strategy?” This is because multi-cloud is increasingly the environment enterprises live in today.
So What is a Multi-Cloud Strategy?
According to AVI Networks (now a part of VMWare), “a multi-cloud strategy allows companies to select different cloud services from different providers because some are better for certain tasks than others.”
As a basic definition, I think this is a good statement. However, the reason why an organization uses different clouds can be more complicated than the idea that some are simply better than others at certain tasks. Of course, a company may use Salesforce for their sales and service functions, while using Workday for HR and finance. But other clouds may come into play simply to avoid vendor lock-in, or because a company wants to build and use internal skills on a certain platform.
As for how common multi-cloud has become, multi-cloud is now the water IT professionals swim in. As a point of data, a survey Forrester conducted on behalf of Virtustream found that 86% of respondents described their organizations’ cloud strategy as multi-cloud. It’s easy to guess that the trend is only accelerating.
4 Building Blocks of a Multi-Cloud Strategy
Before an IT team starts enduring endless demos and whitepapers, it’s important to think about the basic building blocks of a multi-cloud strategy. The following four building blocks will help organizations construct a better cloud strategy.
1. Focusing On User Experience
Going back to the definition of a multi-cloud strategy, the core feature involves tasks. Except for automated tasks, a good deal of these tasks involve people: your employees, partners, and customers. Selecting the right cloud for the right task starts with the users. It begins with understanding their pain points and frustrations. Particular attention needs to be paid to the experience of new employees. How long does it take them to onboard and become fully productive? Does it take excessive training and reliance on tenured employees to complete tasks?
Look for the right cloud mix by starting with user needs, rather than the features and promised future features of cloud vendors.
2. Understanding Data Management Needs
Today there is a fever pitch to find the right AI tools to give employees actionable insights. While there are many great tools out in the market, especially Tableau and Salesforce Einstein, getting your data right should be an enterprise IT team’s highest priority.
A multi-cloud strategy requires teams to be able to identify sources and significance of data and to be aware of insight-killing data drift. Data drift occurs when there are data quality issues that start skewing sets of data. Simple input problems from users or automated processes can make huge differences, especially when machine learning turns this drifted data into actionable insights. Girish Pancha has written a good introduction on data drift and how it can impact informed decision-making.
3. Using Data Economically
Cloud platforms have gained popularity largely because of the underlying economics of the architecture. Concepts like multi-tenancy efficiency, server utilization costs, and the scale of giant data centers have been huge economic advantages over on-premise systems. That said, a multi-cloud environment can help organizations maximize the cost savings and trade-offs for the systems they use to run their business.
Coming out of the data management process, organizations should build a map of the most cost-effective ways to store their data. Snowflake, as a good example, is a platform that has been making waves in IT departments because it has made warehoused data more retrievable and useful.
4. Building a Center of Excellence Rather Than Mediocrity
Cloud platforms allow organizations to move faster and respond to changes faster than ever. That said, a multi-cloud environment needs a team that can operate at a multi-cloud speed. This has little to do with technology and has to do with methodology, organizational change management, and team structure. Agile practices need to be taken seriously and be built-in into how the organization makes decisions and performs actions. Change management should be a part of all technology decisions so that new features are absorbed by the users as seamlessly as possible.
With Elevate, Get Help from Multi-Cloud Experts
Finally, organizations need to understand their internal talent and when to get help from consultants. Consider a programmatic approach to management and optimization — like you get with our Elevate service. Building the human infrastructure to support a multi-cloud environment is as important as the platforms themselves.
Learn more about Elevate and how we can support your multi-cloud strategy.