How to get a handle on multicloud management

Multicloud management tools promise to bring order, control and insight to disparate environments.

As enterprises pile more cloud activities onto the platforms of more cloud providers, many IT and network managers are feeling overwhelmed because each cloud provider comes with its own toolset, rules and user demands. In a multicloud environment, this convoluted mixture quickly leads enterprises into a pit of complexity, confusion and cost.

Coming to the rescue are more than a dozen vendors, ranging from IT stalwarts to startups, offering multicloud management tools designed to bring order, control and insight to data centers juggling multiple cloud services. IBM, BMC Software, Cisco, Dell Technologies Cloud, DXC Technology, VMware, HyperGrid, and Divvycloud are just some of the firms promising stable and reliable multicloud management. Many cloud services also provide some degree of management and integration with other cloud providers.

Operating in a multicloud environment makes a difficult task even moreso, says Peter Phillip, general manager of the Houston office of Sparkhound, a digital advisory-services firm. "The complexity of managing, securing, allocating and running a cloud environment is complex enough, but adding multiple environments exponentially increases the difficulty and risk."

Multicloud management challenges

Managing technology assets across multiple cloud service providers is an enormous challenge, says Jason Mao, a senior technology consultant at IT consulting firm Ten Mile Square. "A company needs to manage at least one version of each technology asset, such as configuration, passwords, encryption keys, applications and deployment pipelines, for each cloud provider," he advises. If you want to be able to deploy or redeploy any version of a production environment, such as a container of snapshots of technology assets, you have to be able to track not only revisions of technology assets  but also the relationship among those assets, he says. Such tasks already pose a challenge for any enterprise migrating to a single cloud. "Needless to say, this challenge grows exponentially with additional cloud service providers," Mao says.

Organizations entering the multicloud universe need to find a way to drive consistency across disparate environments, says Varun Chhabra, a vice president at Dell Technologies Cloud. "This allows multicloud environments, whether they be any mix of public, private or clouds at the edge, to be managed, monitored and automated from a single control pane," he notes. "It also breaks down silos and creates transparency across all assets, no matter where they reside, [providing] more control and greatly reducing maintenance time and effort."

For Steve MacIntyre, vice president and shared security services lead at Fidelity Investments, creating a unified management structure was essential for keeping pace with a spiraling number of cloud resources spread across multiple providers. "One of the biggest challenges of managing multiple cloud environments is the need to continually evaluate and display the current state of cloud resources and service configurations in a meaningful way," he explains. "Each cloud environment has its own unique services and capabilities, making it difficult to be able to prevent, detect and respond from a single platform."

Like MacIntyre, Christopher Gerhardt, founder and managing partner of management and IT consulting firm GrayBeard, appreciates having the ability to harness the flexibility of a multicloud environment, using a management tool to strip away the operations complexity inherent in such as infrastructure.

"From a workforce perspective, there's an increase in operational cost that would negate the value of multicloud if we did not have a ... common management solution across our cloud providers," he says.

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