multi-cloud computingA funny thing happened on the way to the cloud. IT became more difficult to manage. Most IT organizations today either already are or soon will be trying to manage multiple clouds, primarily for one of two reasons. The first is simply organizational inertia. Developers inside the organization favor different clouds. Once their application starts to scale, they often dump the management of that cloud on the internal IT organization. The second major driver of multi-cloud adoption is a desire to be able to play one cloud service provider (CSP) off another. Before too long, however, many internal IT organizations find themselves overwhelmed trying to manage multiple stacks of computing.

A new survey of 1,355 IT professionals published today on behalf of VMware finds that 57 percent of respondents cited technical challenges and the demand for new skills and staff as unexpected challenges associated with implementing a multi-cloud strategy. Specifically, respondents reported the integration of legacy systems (62 percent) and understanding the new technology (61 percent) as the toughest challenges.

The survey also reveals that the shift to multiple clouds had a significant impact on almost every aspect of the IT environment, including changes to security protocols (70 percent), staff training (64 percent), budgeting (64 percent), processes (63 percent), staff (53 percent), and culture (53 percent).

Overcoming multi-cloud computing challenges

Most managed service providers are more than familiar with these issues. In addition to Amazon Web Services (AWS), many MSPs have added support for both Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in the past two years. Plus, many of the on-premises environments they manage are evolving into cloud-like platforms thanks to next-generation private cloud offerings such as VMware Cloud Foundation.

The good news is that as more IT organizations encounter the challenges associated with managing multiple clouds, the more likely it becomes that they will want to engage an MSP to help them. Most internal IT organizations struggle to manage isolated stacks of Windows and Linux servers running in a data center. Multiple public clouds essentially multiply the number of stacks they need to master in a way most of them aren’t capable of handling.

Race to support multi-cloud computing

Of course, every IT organization dreams of being able to operate a hybrid cloud computing environment one day. VMware is arguably furthest along in making that dream a reality as it makes VMware for AWS increasingly available. But Microsoft and Google aren’t that far behind. Because each CSP built their own software-defined networks and storage systems to support a different virtual machine variant, though, creating and maintaining unified control across multiple clouds is a difficult endeavor. VMware is trying to circumvent that issue by putting the same stack of hypervisors and associated networking and storage software everywhere.

MSPs can take comfort in the fact that enterprise IT isn’t likely to become simpler to manage anytime soon. Multiple advances are being made to applying machine learning algorithms to automate rote tasks. But, it will be a long time before application workloads are automatically matched with the right IT infrastructure. In the meantime, MSPs should encourage customers to experiment with as many clouds as possible because once they do it’s only a matter of time before they cry for help.

Photo: alphaspirit/Shutterstock.com

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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