As organizations continue their digital transformation, many are now discovering why they need to tap into the flexibility of multi-cloud environments. With multi-cloud environments, great flexibility comes with great challenges. The gnarliness associated with deploying a multi-cloud environment can cause organizations to avoid multi-cloud entirely — to their detriment.
Organizations can utilize the strengths of each cloud provider in a multi-cloud environment, providing coverage and unique capabilities. Resilient cloud-native applications should look beyond the lock-in of a single cloud provider to reduce the risk of infrastructure change or issues. Overall, relying on only one cloud provider not only limits the benefits of the cloud, but also causes more challenges down the road.
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As someone who’s delivered dozens of apps to various cloud estates, the lack of visibility across cloud providers and complicated compliance frameworks are always top of mind, but I’ve learned the hard way that identity and access management is brutal in multi-cloud. It’s not just managing disparate security policies, but the skills gap that makes management — much less improvement — challenging. Some 78% of IT leaders in a recent Forrester study said managing user identities in the multi-cloud environment was their biggest challenge. This same study also found that 62% of IT decision makers felt the lack of skills made it more difficult to support cloud-based IAM. Do these challenges sound familiar?
Before going into detail on how to best resolve these concerns, it may be helpful to first explain why so many organizations see the value in multi-cloud environments.
Benefits of multi-cloud environments
It is important to note that much like an engineer has a favorite programming language, technology teams usually have their favorite cloud provider. Whether it’s AWS, Azure or Google Cloud, they understand how to best leverage their platform of choice. That said, only relying on one solution for all instances probably isn’t the best bet. One size does not always fit all.
The choice of the best cloud for you should be based on the problem that needs to be resolved. Different clouds are tailor-fitted for specific use cases. Do you need to migrate an entire application architecture that uses .NET to the cloud? Chances are Azure will be your best bet. Does your team rely on open source with prior AWS experience? Try AWS.
The point is, different clouds are useful based on specific use cases. That is the true benefit of multi-cloud environments. In fact, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency is looking at its own multi-cloud solution in order to take advantage of the best aspects of each cloud infrastructure, and this is part of a wider trend in the intelligence community.
What is important to keep in mind, however, is that there will always be gaps that need to be filled when it comes to building multi-cloud environments.
How to bridge the multi-cloud gap
Closing any gaps within cloud-focused or cloud-native technology teams empowers them to realize the full potential of their organization’s investment in their multi-cloud environments. Bridging this gap should always start with gaining a holistic and comprehensive view into your multi-cloud infrastructure by integrating governance and management principles. This often seems like a daunting, time-consuming task. However, with the right focus, organizations can streamline this process.
It is essentially impossible to find tech talent proficient across every cloud provider, and it is also difficult to find a solution that works across them all. This is where organizations need to remember the key components of a successful multi-cloud approach: Visibility, automation and management. Organizations that leverage these aspects will be able to achieve the full value and benefits of a multi-cloud environment while avoiding vendor lock-in, achieving better cost controls and utilizing each provider’s best-in-class solutions.
Regarding IAM concerns, a robust governance plan can help an organization navigate these often troublesome waters and mitigate the security risks inherent with improperly managed identities, along with reducing manual labor associated with permissions grants. It is important for organizations to take control of their identities by restricting services based on the specific conditions and compliance standards your organization requires and also request exemptions so only specific roles can access select services. These ensure that your organization subscribes to the principle of least privilege, in which identities across your organizations only access what they need, when they need it.
Why you should adjust your cloud management
Organizations looking to get the most out of their multi-cloud environment must rethink how they approach their cloud management strategies and ask themselves how they can better enable themselves in a multi-cloud environment.
Some organizations rely on difficult-to-navigate approval chains, help desk tickets and manual processes that can negate any of the benefits of a multi-cloud infrastructure. Look to a solution that can automate many of these processes to free up your time and that of your user population. This will empower your organization to reap the benefits of your multi-cloud, without the burnout.
Additionally, ensure that your multi-cloud infrastructure doesn’t bankrupt your organization. It is often difficult enough managing spend with one cloud provider, let alone multiple. A solution that sets guardrails to help you control spend, as well as gain visibility into your cloud costs, is more important than ever in 2022, especially in an era of constrained resources.
While there are other steps to be mindful of when it comes to a successful utilization of a multi-cloud environment, having a window into your cloud infrastructure ensures it can continue running smoothly, often without cumbersome manual processes. It’s important you have insight into how to best maintain a multi-cloud environment so that it enhances your life, not controls it.
Shane Quinlan is the Product Management Director at Kion — building the only single platform approach to cloud enablement. Prior to Kion, Shane was the Product Portfolio Director at Rise8 for the USAF Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) and the Chief Product Officer at Certilytics, Inc. He has 8+ years experience in product management and digital consulting, with a particular talent for communicating complex ideas. He previously worked for Washington, DC-based cybersecurity companies CBV Cyber and Ntrepid LLC.