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The art of decision management for multicloud strategies—Part One


This three-part series introduces you to the art of managing the many necessary decisions for managing your multicloud environment.

Why multicloud strategies?

In recent years, cloud computing has become instrumental for companies of various sizes who want to undertake a major business transformation. Its flexibility, scalability, and high availability offer clear advantages for businesses to save costs, experiment with new ideas, and pursue business innovation.

Certainly, individual global and mature cloud computing platform providers, such as AWS®, Azure®, and Google®, can fulfill all common service requirements for any businesses around the world. However, the multicloud strategy is increasingly gaining traction from sizeable businesses across all major industries. A multicloud strategy can simply refer to the deployment of different cloud offerings encompassing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). These offerings could well be offered collectively by more than one cloud platform provider.

Businesses that opt-in for a multicloud strategy usually lean on a handful of reasons—the more popular ones being data sovereignty, user proximity, considerations for performance, reliability, and availability. For some other companies, it might just be a policy to avoid vendor lock-in. Regardless of which drivers prevail, businesses have to make many important decisions, and in many cases, these decisions are not intuitive and straight-forward.

Decision management is instrumental to an effective multicloud strategy

The decisions associated with executing a multicloud strategy might center around target platforms, technologies, governance, skills, security, compliance, migration, and operations costs. While every company has its own unique context, the resulting multicloud strategy must address an overarching question for the entire organization: What viable options does the company have for cloud computing, and how should its pre-existing data center workloads be managed up against these options?

Many different factors can influence the complication of addressing the overarching question for a sizeable company. The most common ones include:

  • Business objectives: The business capabilities and results the company wants to achieve through cloud computing. Such objectives should have well-defined KPIs to indicate the level of success.

  • Stakeholders Priorities: You should address the specific interests of different organizational units, functions, and stakeholder groups throughout the cloud transformation journey. Make sure you clearly understand and recognize these interests. Also, there might be different pathways reaching the same corporate goal, so the chosen path should balance different stakeholder groups’ interests.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Security and compliance usually top the list of stakeholders’ requirements. They cast constraints and decisive factors into different aspects of the target state, and typically limit the company’s viable options regarding migrating individual applications and infrastructure services.

  • Skill and Technology Affiliation: The company might have a significant footprint on specific platforms and technologies, which implicates preferences on a future cloud computing platform. The incumbent skilled resources might also influence adoption decisions because most people prefer the cloud journey with the least friction to their job.

  • Migration Complexity: The investment, technical complexity, and efforts associated with the execution of a future migration could impact the uptake pathway and velocity. Most companies want to have visibility of the challenges ahead.

Developing a successful multicloud strategy requires setting its foundation on an effective decision management process. The process should incorporate guardrails that help narrow down the viable options to only a few and enable an objective thought-process to acquire recommendations for the final decision quickly.

The value of a decision-management process to a multicloud strategy

When developing a multicloud strategy, it’s essential to keep focusing on the ultimate problem the company needs to resolve. With tens or hundreds of applications and thousands of servers, the decisions to orchestrate the transfer of all in-scope applications into suitable cloud computing resorts can be daunting.

Consider a hypothetical scenario with a company that has:

  • Several legacy and back-office systems running on Windows and SQL databases
  • New developments, associated with an on-going digital transformation, that deploy opensource code running on Red Hat® Learning Subscription with a preference for container services
  • Several core business systems and critical databases that they might need to move to other platforms or refactor to incorporate new enhancements
  • Some legacy systems still running on proprietary platforms or technologies residing in the existing data center or an incumbent private cloud.

The following diagram articulates the initial thoughts on mapping workloads to target cloud platforms:

Figure 1: High-level planning for multicloud strategies

The high-level plan in Figure 1 provides initial guiding principles for the company to implement its multicloud strategies. The company might need to execute the strategy, however, at the individual application level. Many factors can influence individual applications so that they don’t follow these principles, and these factors could well be valid exceptions.

A Cloud Decision Management Process (CDMP) helps the company lay out a thought-process framework to collect data and information for individual applications. There, they consolidate, analyze, and abstract the data into migration filters and platform evaluation criteria. The company can then execute the CDMP and reference its recommendation for individual applications before making a final decision on the hosting cloud platforms.

When functioning effectively, the CDMP helps you successfully perform the following tasks:

  • Orchestrate crucial technical information and insights about individual applications
  • Incorporate different constraints and key dependencies for the cloud adoption
  • Prioritize and balance stakeholders’ interests in transforming in-scope application stacks
  • Deliver consistent, speedy, and objective recommendations.

Continue

To learn more, read Part Two of this series.

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Wilfred Wah

Wilfred is a Principal Consultant of Advisory Services, Rackspace Technology North Asia. His area of expertise includes cloud migration assessment, cloud economics, people transformation, cloud adoption strategy, and the transformation roadmap. He has more than 15 years of consultancy experience with major vendors such as Dell/EMC, SAS, and AWS before joining Rackspace.

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