Although a multi-cloud environment may offer significant benefits in terms of scope and flexibility, it also carries the burden of higher complexity. "Organizations should strive to limit the number of clouds, since reducing IT complexity has cost savings, productivity, and operational efficiency benefits, provided they are not sacrificing performance," observes Isaac Gould, research manager at technology research and advisory firm Nucleus Research. "In a perfect world, two clouds would be best, where you can back up vital data on a different cloud in the event of downtime or a cyberattack."
Management and Cost Challenges
Managing a multi-cloud environment is complex and challenging. There are three major cloud service providers (CSPs): Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). "Imagine being the conductor of a band with three highly skilled instrumentalists, each playing music, but each with their unique differentiating sound," says Andy Tay, global lead of Cloud First at business advisory firm Accenture. "You'll need to determine the role you want each [musician] to play, when you want them to play, how they hand off to each other, how you ensure the integrity of each [performer] to maximize their value and their collective final output." That's not easy, he says.
While services, application programming interfaces (APIs), and billing format differences between CSPs are well known and understood, variations in approach, particularly around security, are less obvious, says Justin Shirk, cloud growth and secure mission lead with Accenture Federal Services. "Perhaps most importantly, the knowledge needed to manage different CSPs is not easily transferrable," he notes. "There are a lot of AWS folks or Azure folks, and many aren't certified." Cloud engineering is highly technical, and integrating enterprise applications across clouds is doubly so, Shirk says. "Having the right talent is extremely important."