3 multicloud lessons for cloud architects

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3 multicloud lessons for cloud architects

Many cloud architect friends of mine see multicloud on the horizon, but they don’t think they’re prepared for its extra complexities. Most of them initially pushed back on the concept of multicloud much like they pushed back on cloud computing in general before it became a thing.

Cloud architects who now look down the barrel of multicloud deployments can increase their chances of success by applying these three tips:

Have an open mind about all potential solutions. Those whose knee-jerk reaction is to push back on multicloud confuse me. Here’s some general advice: Never push back on a solution before you understand the problem. Multicloud is a solution pattern. If you announce that multicloud is a bad solution, that statement comes off as a bit disingenuous if you don’t understand the specific problem you need to solve.

Like all other IT architectures, multicloud is not the answer to all problems. However, it is a clear fit for some. It’s important to keep an open mind; otherwise, you’ll just provide opinions, not solutions. Just saying. When I approach an architecture problem, all options are on the table, including traditional non-cloud solutions. If you don’t consider all the possibilities, you’ll likely end up with an underoptimized architecture that becomes a value drain for the business for years to come.

Implement federated security architectures and evaluate other cross-cloud solutions. For most architects, it’s simple to figure out a single cloud deployment’s security: Pick the security layers that the primary cloud provider recommends. This usually includes identity management, directories, encryption, even industry-specific security support, such as for healthcare or finance. These solutions work—for the most part—they are well supported, and although they are sometimes not as cost-efficient as I would like, they do hold their own.

Multicloud is a different animal. If you use the same single-cloud security approach to multicloud, the number of moving parts will quickly create too much complexity and this becomes a security issue unto itself.

A better method is to use cross-cloud security services. They provide the same security service layers, implemented using whatever native security services are needed for each specific cloud provider. This gives you a single stack of technology that has a single approach and interface for security operations (secops), including the ability to launch a unified defense in case of attacks.

Understand and deal with cloud finops. You need finops to understand your cloud spending, including how much is being spent, where, for what, and by whom. You’ll have no chance to optimize cloud spending without this knowledge, which means you could lose millions of dollars per year.

Here’s the most common issue I see with finops. If you ask the cloud architecture team to deal with finops, they will likely tell you that they have it in place. But it’s often a single person in the cloud business office who tracks costs via spreadsheets and relies on the cloud provider to produce the spending and usage information. This is not what finops is or should be. It is very important to get it right.

A cloud finops solution for multicloud is critical to success if you have more than one or two clouds to track, each with different terms, pricing, and service-level agreements to manage. Even if you get cloud cost tracking down pat, finops also includes cloud spending observability and, most important, cloud spending optimization. This means you can identify ways the multicloud solution could support all applications and data storage systems more cost-effectively. Simple examples would be to use reserved instances to drive discounts for purchasing capacity before it’s needed or to proactively remove instances that are no longer needed, etc.

Of course, cloud architects don’t yet fully understand dozens of other issues. They’ll need this knowledge to be successful, and I’ll cover those topics here at a future point. For now, these three tips should be at the top of everyone’s multicloud to-do list. Approach multicloud solutions with an open mind, deploy federated security, and implement an effective finops solution. Get these right and you’ll be much more likely to succeed with multicloud.

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