Enterprises heavily invested in cloud computing across multiple service providers understand the tremendous effort it takes to manage policy in a unified fashion. Because of this, many IT decision makers are looking to multi-cloud management platforms as the solution to their problem.
But while multi-cloud management tools can indeed provide benefits to streamline processes, it's important to note that this is still an emerging market and many solutions aren't yet fully baked. Therefore, today, we're going to explore what you should realistically expect from your multi-cloud management solution in 2017 -- and what you may have to wait for until 2018 and beyond.
As might be expected, multi-cloud management tools today focus on supporting the largest cloud service providers first. Most multi-cloud platforms support one or more commonly implemented private cloud architectures as well as the top 3-5 public cloud offerings. So, if you operate with smaller, niche cloud providers, you may have to manage them independently for the time being. Keep in mind, however, that the number of cloud providers being supported is growing all the time. So it might be worth it to work with your multi-cloud platform vendor of choice to see what their service provider integration roadmap looks like.
Another thing to consider when reviewing the capabilities of current multi-cloud management platforms is that you may have to retrofit how individual cloud policies are implemented -- so that they become easier to manage in the long run. There is more than one way to bake a cake, and the same is true for how network and security policies are created and enforced within a service provider. But you may find that the methods you used to build your cloud aren’t practical when looking at them from a multi-cloud management viewpoint. You may have to restructure processes so they can more easily adapt to other cloud providers’ architectures and ecosystems. This is true even if you happen to like the way a certain cloud is designed and built.
The usefulness of your multi-cloud management platform will also vary depending on what apps you are using in the cloud. The more customized, the more legacy, and the more complex the application is to set up and secure, the fewer benefits you'll see with a multi-cloud management solution. Current platforms have the basics down pretty well. But you're going to have to spend a significant amount of time investigating how -- or if -- you can pull off the management of more customized, one-off applications or policy implementations.
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At this point in time, the more vanilla your applications are, the better. While you likely could create added value by leveraging multi-cloud management API tools to integrate complex and legacy apps, keep in mind that this is something that may cause issues down the road. So you need to weigh the benefits of programmatically creating what you want today against the risk of painting yourself into a corner in the future.
Finally, make note that specific multi-cloud management platforms tend to favor one type of computing environment or architecture over others. For example, management products from companies like VMware are going to operate better if your underlying cloud infrastructure utilizes other VMware technologies. That’s not to say that they won’t ever play nice with other vendors or public cloud providers that use underlying architectures. But you’re clearly going to get more out of the management tools right now if you stick with the technologies and service providers the management platforms advertise.
It's safe to say that multi-cloud management solutions are still in their infancy. That being said, if they can help eliminate even a portion of the manual processes your IT staff manages on a regular basis, then it's certainly worth the effort to look at your options in 2017. Don’t be overly concerned about ramifications of being an early adopter. If they’re built on a solid framework and are incorporated properly into your multi-cloud management strategy early on, new features and functionality should integrate easily. In other words, as you grow over time with a unified multi-cloud management platform, the solution will grow right along with you.