2021 will be a break-out year for multi-cloud, says IDC. Events around COVID-19 have accelerated the bigger, long-term trend toward hybrid cloud that's causing organizations to reinvent themselves. The corporate response to the global pandemic has been to accelerate and expand virtual working and online services for staff and customers.
While we already see widespread adoption of cloud technologies, many organizations aren't using them to their maximum potential. Those preparing broader adoption in 2021 should look at why. Many organizations have mixed in some simple Software-as-a-Service. Others have started down the lift-and-shift route—simply re-hosting existing applications on a provider's server without re-architecting or re-writing code to make them cloud-native. Alternatively, others move nonessential workloads to the cloud rather than tackle the gnarly back-office and mission-critical applications.
These are all perfectly valid first steps to cloud architecture. Different organizations will embrace them depending on their requirements and circumstances. But for those wanting to break out and go fully cloud-native, there's something bigger to grapple with: complexity.
Cloud-native won't happen overnight, but here's how you can break through the complexity to make sure it does happen.
Plan for cloud-native
The successful rollout of a fully cloud-native architecture means overcoming a host of specific organizational challenges. It means fully understanding the relationships between legacy and modern applications, different hardware, and devices. It involves assessing the feasibility of migrating on-prem applications, on-prem versus cloud costs, and rightsizing the best cloud instances. It means spinning up new services while maintaining existing services and ensuring consistent levels of availability and performance across both environments. Finally, there are the organizational challenges of budgets, corporate priorities, and lack of experience that might hinder your architecture's design and implementation.
Ensuring your architecture breaks through this list of challenges means undertaking a phased rollout. And an important part of any such rollout is a documented strategy. A documented strategy is important because it serves as both a record of corporate objectives and provides a blueprint for hitting them. According to Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Donna Scott: "Having a cloud strategy will enable you to apply its tenets quickly with fewer delays."
Documenting this provides a means to ensure that the decisions made when defining and building your cloud align with the corporate's goals and provide a way to measure risks.
Read and repeat—in a good way
Formulating the plan is just one part of the process; securing buy-in from architecture leads throughout your organization is another important step. That means moving discussion about your multi-cloud architecture outside the realms of the IT team and its niche debates about technology and tools. It means involving those on the business side and giving the whole organization a say in what it wants from multi-cloud architecture.
As the plan takes shape and becomes a force for modernization and change within your organization, it's important to make sure that it doesn't become a binding article of faith or a piece of dogma that is enforced. A successful move to cloud takes pragmatism as much as vision. As Gartner's Elias Khnaser says, "cloud first" does not mean "cloud always" and legacy applications and workloads should move to cloud only when the conditions are right.
An important part of the plan, therefore, involves knowing when to move applications and workloads. This means establishing continuous assessment and analysis of workloads and conducting an ongoing evaluation to determine when the existing location is satisfactory. Therefore, tools for continuous assessment, analysis, and evaluation play an important part in establishing the benchmarks to decide when an application or workloads should be moved and re-architected for cloud-native.
Make the plan stick with governance
Governance in a single cloud environment is a challenge, multi-cloud in a mixed legacy environment doubly so. A well-built service on a multi-cloud offers the potential for on-demand and self-service features with endless capacity. These factors are powerful for users but can be dangerous for budgets and regulatory compliance.
Therefore, it's crucial that management and governance systems scale as segments of the plan are delivered and new services become available, so you can see not just what's being consumed but also manage those assets. This means developing your plan around the policies and procedures of different organizations and groups as much as specific technology and tools. It means making sure the plan—and the framework it implements—scales as segments of your infrastructure move to the cloud.
Hybrid cloud was always coming—COVID-19 has only accelerated that. Cloud is no shoo in, though, and Enterprise Architects should expect operational forces to combine with the need to integrate on-prem and multiple providers in a way that raises the bar on complexity. These two forces can inhibit rollout. Only a well-crafted plan can combat the potential for a corporate stall that creeps in when your cloud is young and help make rollout repeatable and sustainable across the whole of your organization - ensuring the plan is fulfilled. And only a plan that's well documented can ensure all the members in your organization agree on the outcomes and objectives - closing the gap on expectations.
It will, in short, ensure your architecture delivers in 2021—and beyond.