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Multi-complexity of Multi-cloud Migrations Means More Complexity and Risk


Multi-complexity of Multi-cloud Migrations Means More Complexity and Risk


by Sasha Gilenson


IT Moving to Multi-Cloud Platforms

Recently in InformationWeek's 2012 State of the Cloud Computing Survey, they saw that at least 73% of respondents were using multiple cloud providers. InformationWeek found that "Given that most IT teams today support a mishmash of applications, operating systems and hardware platforms, it's no surprise that the majority of respondents have multiple cloud providers. Even organizations that embrace "all Oracle" or "all IBM" find it difficult to use their anointed vendor 100% of the time, especially when it comes to email, mobility and productivity applications." 

Leveraging the cloud infrastructure of different cloud providers can allow organizations to benefit from various capabilities provided by different providers for different needs, and improve reliability and performance like boosting fault tolerance, and reducing latency between parts of applications. However this also presents an integration challenge to overcome. Using a multi-cloud platform approach adds complexity to IT operations. 

Generally there are deployment platforms that support multiple clouds. However even with these platforms you would still need to account for specific requirements of each provider or at least to ensure that these deployment platforms cover this. If an organization does not use such multi-cloud deployment platforms then multi-cloud management definitely becomes much more complex. 

InformationWeek 2012 State of the Cloud Computing Survey

Hard for Cloud Providers to Reassure Customers

The cloud is not flawless. With the recent public cloud outages by major cloud vendors, cloud IT has sought to diversify their workloads, and spread their cloud deployments over multiple clouds to mitigate risk.

In February, Microsoft Windows Azure experienced a 12-hour spell of downtime that was blamed on a leap year software bug (Microsoft Windows Azure Downtime Blamed on Leap Year Bug). Last April, Amazon Web Services made headlines with an outage that lasted up to 3 days for some customers, bringing down many big name startups like Reddit and Quora (Amazon EC2 outage downs Reddit, Quora). Then again recently Amazon web service clients went through a 19-minute Elastic Compute Cloud connectivity issue (Amazon EC2 Users Critical of Delayed Status Updates During Brief Cloud Outage) at Amazon's North Virginia data center. 

When outages like this happen, regardless of the length, it can be hard for cloud providers to restore confidence amongst customers that their information and systems are safe, and that they can rely entirely on the single cloud provider's infrastructure.

The Double Complexity of Multi-Cloud

While the multi-cloud approach seeks to minimize risk, it also doubles complexity. The very dynamic nature of cloud-based operations increases the volume of configuration information and changes to keep track of. This complexity is amplified by the added dimension of having a system deployed across several distinct (and unique) cloud platforms. IT has to control and manage activity for cloud operations across multiple platforms, and pay attention to the requirements unique to each vendor's stack.

Just a few examples of the issues related to multiple cloud platforms management:

  • Microsoft Azure requires that you turn off automated Windows updates when migrating a VM to Azure (and not with Amazon EC2)
  • Microsoft Azure requires that some Azure Diagnostic components be installed (while Amazon EC2 obviously does not)
  • When updating a base OS image used for Amazon EC2, you need to ensure that a relevant image used for Rackspace is updated as well

The Impact to Cloud Operations

By not staying on top of this aspect of doubled complexity, performance and reliability of applications in the cloud can be impacted. Failing to properly monitor the configurations unique to cloud platforms and to ensure consistency across multiple cloud providers can result in reduced performance, satisfaction and security issues.

IT operations needs to apply management and monitoring technologies that provide real-time insight into the configuration of applications and services deployed across multiple cloud platforms, to have tighter control over these external IT infrastructures. Such technologies should simplify the overall IT monitoring task by providing visibility of internal and external IT infrastructures from a single, unified view. Intelligent analysis of changes across multiple cloud platforms should be a key attribute of such monitoring technologies in order to efficiently support the cloud's dynamic qualities.

Your Turn
Are you ready to manage operations in multiple cloud platforms?

About the Author
Sasha Gilenson
Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

Sasha holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Latvian University and MBA from London Business School.