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This article is based on an online round table "Beyond the cloud' organised by Pointury on March 22, 2022, during which a small group of CIO's met to share experiences with multi-cloud environments.

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On Tuesday March 22 we had an open discussion, initiated by Artie Debidien, An Swalens and Peter HJ van Eijk and trusted advisors from F5. We have enjoyed an elaborate dialogue while being served a very nice lunch. It was a pleasure to learn from all the attendees, get the variety of insights, opportunities and challenges.

Cloud environments have become popular as they are critical for modernisation, rapid delivery, high-availability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness and avoidance of vendor lock-in.
Cloud has indeed become a key component in several transformation programs. Some companies have a cloud-first or only-cloud strategy for new application developments. Some companies are trying to standardise on one cloud supplier.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is “is one cloud the answer?”. Or should we indeed benefit from the variety of cloud offers, use the respective strengths of the different clouds and standardise with common technology over all your environments

Intuitive we would want to stay in one cloud environment to reduce complexity, improve cybersecurity, reduce costs and obtains other advantages of standardisation. It is an admirable goal, yet probably unmaintainable. Reality is that more than 80% of organisations already have a multi-cloud environment.

There are several reasons for it.

  • During migration from one cloud to another cloud, companies temporarily have multiple cloud environments and that can be for a long period of time.
  •  Mergers and acquisitions can have the same result.
  • Choices for different cloud environments made by different divisions around the world also result in a multi-cloud environment.
  • Specific applications and functionalities offered by different cloud environments can also be the reason why it becomes very tempting to buy an additional cloud supplier.
  • In some countries, present in most countries, it is difficult to find local experts in some cloud technologies. It is e.g. not possible to find Azure experts in Brazil. Local entities in these countries hence tend to select a locally more popular cloud supplier.
  • A lot of applications and still on prem and cannot easily be lifted to the cloud, so a mix on-prem and cloud might coexist for a long time.
  • Speed of innovation or speed of outsourcing might push organisations towards multi-cloud to benefit from the available applications.

On the other hand, in very regulated environments, complexity can be seen as a cost and standardising on one environment might be seen as the the way to achieve that.

Yet, is it really needed to choose for one cloud environment in order to reduce complexity? And does a one-cloud environment really reduce costs?

Rather that choosing for native cloud applications and functionality, which is only available in one cloud environment, and results in the limited choices from being locked-in in one cloud, it is also possible to go for a cloud-native environment. If you choose for cloud-native tools, you do not really add extra complexity while benefiting from the advantages that different cloud environments offer.

Multi-cloud is a fantastic tool for fast business innovation and competing clouds can still connect. It is possible to use technology in different cloud environments, benefit from it and work efficiently.

If you are driven by costs or stability, it is probably best to clean up your on-prem applications before migrating them to the cloud. Experts in old applications are rare and would then be requested to decommission or clean-up the legacy systems.

Yet when innovation and hence speed of new development is important, it might be best to keep old applications where they are and focus your resources on new developments in the cloud. One might say that the business strategy determines the cloud strategy and the enterprise architecture. In any case it is technically possible to work in multi-cloud environments.

In a multi-cloud environment, you may end up with different firewalls in your on-prem, private cloud and different public cloud environments. F5 can help with standardisation of firewalls, access control, API security, API management, etc. cross different environments, bringing it as a service.

Cybersecurity should be considered from the start by development teams. The control and governance should be standardised as well to make them scalable as well. All of them are important. In the initial period when organisations have a multi-cloud environments, cybersecurity teams might have a few headaches due to lack of experience with the new environment. Different technologies have different risks.

Costs might go up compared to an on-prem environment yet that might be the consequence of the acceleration of developments, the need for business agility, the need for high availability, the desire for scalability and the request for quality of service. It is somewhat challenging to explain the fluctuation of IT infrastructure costs. to business and finance teams.

If you would like to learn more, here is a link to a video on YouTube and to an article about the value of distributed cloud services.

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