The multicloud challenge: Building the future everywhere

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Fear of the cloud has evaporated. Instead, most companies now use at least several public clouds, from AWS to Azure to Salesforce to Slack. Hence the ascendance of the term “multicloud,” which now encompasses not just the management of IaaS and SaaS clouds, but also private clouds of virtualized on-prem resources.

The low barrier to entry of the cloud has been both a blessing and a curse. The ability to simply open a cloud account and start using an application or building one has delivered unprecedented agility. But it also makes it easy for stakeholders to go off in their own directions, sometimes with too little regard for cost or security risks.

Multicloud’s problem is as old as IT: the problem of governance. For some that’s an ugly word, because it smacks of a bureaucracy that stands squarely in the way of getting things done, as in: Fill out your request in triplicate and you’ll get a couple of cloud VMs in six weeks if you’re lucky. But few would advocate anarchy, either – you don’t want developers running around building cloud applications on a whim using, say, pricey AI/ML services and live customer data.

In a recent CIO Think Tank, Thomas Sweet, vice president of IT solutions at GM Financial, introduced a well-chosen phrase: “minimum viable governance.” Instead of pummeling people with prohibitions or elaborate approval processes, give them lightweight cloud “guardrails” to prevent duplicate efforts or poor cloud security. Couple those with cost ceilings and a catalog of pre-approved cloud services, and developers or enterprising LoB managers have the freedom they need to experiment and innovate.

In particular, the big three IaaS clouds – AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure – provide environments where innovation can flourish, in part because they’re cauldrons of emerging technology, from serverless computing to AR/VR app dev platforms. For many organizations, “multicloud” really refers to adopting two or more big-three IaaS clouds, mainly because the second or third cloud offers a new or better cloud service others lack. Wrapping guardrails around that multiplicity is an endless governance challenge.

But that’s where the future is pointing: Toward a world where we assemble hundreds of cloud services from multiple providers into the applications we and our customers need, iterating and innovating as well go. This collection of articles from InfoWorld, CIOComputerworldCSO, and Network World explains how forward-looking organizations are moving toward that goal and the lessons they’re learning along the way.

Eric Knorr is Editor in Chief for IDG Communications.

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