How to keep multicloud complexity under control

“Multicloud” means that you use multiple public cloud providers, such as Google and Amazon Web Services, AWS and Microsoft, or all three—you get the idea. Although this seems to provide the best flexibility, there are trade-offs to consider.

The drawbacks I see at enterprise clients relate to added complexity. Dealing with multiple cloud providers does give you a choice of storage and compute solutions, but you must still deal with two or more clouds, two or more companies, two or more security systems … basically, two or more ways of doing anything. It quickly can get confusing.

For example, one client confused security systems and thus inadvertently left portions of its database open to attack. It’s like locking the back door of your house but leaving the front door wide open. In another case, storage was allocated on two clouds at once, when only one was needed. The client did not find out until a very large bill arrived at the end of the month.

Part of the problem is that public cloud providers are not built to work together. Although they won’t push back if you want to use public clouds other than their own, they don’t actively support this usage pattern. Therefore, you must come up with your own approaches, management technology, and cost accounting.

The good news is that there are ways to reduce the multicloud burden.

For one, managed services providers (MSPs) can manage your multicloud deployments for you. They provide gateways to public clouds and out-of-the-box solutions for management, cost accounting, governance, and security. They will also be happy to take your money to host your applications, as well as provide access to public cloud services.

If you lean more toward the DIY approach, you can use cloud management platforms (CMPs). These place a layer of abstraction between you and the complexity of managing multiple public clouds. As a result, you use a single mechanism to provision storage and compute, as well as for security and management no matter how many clouds you are using.

I remain a fan of the multicloud approach. But you’ll get its best advantage if you understand the added complexity up front and the ways to reduce