5 things to look for in a partner that can help ease the pain of managing a multi-cloud environment

We can’t avoid the complexities of living in a multi-cloud world, but partners can help

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

In the early days of cloud computing you could pick a provider by the development environment or application you were implementing and didn’t have to worry much about integration with other systems. But as the number of cloud resources grows, so does the need to simplify management and integration across different implementations, often times across different clouds. Several recent studies show the majority of companies are already running multiple clouds and they are expecting to have even more going forward.

Take for example a company that had chosen AWS to collect and store data from a large number of real time data collection devices (think Internet of Things). The information is then selectively sent to a private cloud for business and customer facing services and to a separate public cloud application. One company with three clouds, two sets of data and a need for a common way to manage across them.

If this is similar to a challenge you are faced with, here are five things to look for in a partner that may help avoid (or at least simplify) some of the pain in managing your multi-cloud environment.

* DIY or partner (management). Step one in determining the right partner for you is ensuring you need a partner in the first place. Managing a cloud application is not rocket science for someone who has done it in their own data center, but it is different and requires new skills. In a multi-cloud environment, that learning curve gets multiplied since all clouds provide different sets of services, service and management tools. If you are not committed to investing in, learning and maintaining the skills for each cloud environment, including design, security, networking and management, it would be judicious to find a partner who does that for a living. It’s best to look for one who can operate as an extension of your team 7x24.

* You can’t manage what you can’t see. Troubleshooting system problems can be difficult even when you have access to all the components and the tools to see what is going on. The level of information and transparency into the cloud environments vary widely, as do the tools you may have to use to get the data. Learning all these tools can be not only time consuming but a pain to try and monitor on a daily basis. It can be even more painful if you are integrating applications across multiple clouds. There are tools, particularly at the application and data base level, that will run across multiple clouds. And while they may not give you the best of everything, the time you will save will be worth any shortcomings.

* Security strategy not security solutions. Security is never a “one and done” process. No matter how secure you believe you are there is always someone out there that wants to prove you are not. Security today requires constant monitoring to detect problems as early as possible to limit any damage. Building security solutions on a cloud by cloud basis is not only difficult to monitor, but creates security holes whenever the systems are sharing information. If you are not equipped or interested in building a comprehensive security solution and monitoring it, look for a partner who will.

* Down or down and out. Cloud has made it cheaper and easier to set up disaster recovery operations, but despite being cheaper it’s not free, so you need to know what you need to have recovered quickly and what can wait. The challenge in a multi-cloud environment is the data and applications you need to get back up and running may be scattered across multiple environments. Coordinating not only what gets brought back up in the recovery process, but the order things get restarted can be critical to getting live again. Considering where you put your recovered systems and how it will talk to the other clouds will be an important part of the planning that is far more complex in a multi-cloud world.

* Cost controls. Cloud billing can be confusing and often requires heroic efforts by a spreadsheet jockey to decipher. Because it operates on a consumption basis and in general we are not very good at paying attention to usage when we are in the middle of a project, it often results in some nasty surprises at the end of the month. In a multi-cloud world the complexity gets multiplied as every cloud has its own pricing model. However, using tools that are common across most clouds -- like setting monthly spend caps, setting up accounts by budget area/project, and pre-buying a quantity of services -- will help. It may still take a spreadsheet pro and cloud expert to wade through the monthly reports.

For many of us, multiple and hybrid clouds are a fact of life. While we can’t avoid some of the complexities of living in a multi-cloud world, keeping these five areas in mind as we are planning and implementing our cloud strategies and selecting a partner to help with them should make the process a bit more manageable.

INetU, a ViaWest company, is the customer-centric cloud company that combines state of the art managed cloud and hosting solutions with the industry’s premier service and support. Industry leading companies have chosen INetU for their reliable, flexible, secure, and compliant hosting services to safely accelerate their business growth while reducing their investment in managing their own IT infrastructure. Visit www.INetU.net for more information.

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