As Federal agencies’ cloud migrations lead to the deployment of multi-cloud environments, agency technology managers must understand the dependencies between infrastructure, operating models, and applications. According to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) 2017 Hybrid Cloud Almanac, the average cloud user operates as many as six different clouds that are distributed across multiple geographies and combine both public and private clouds.

Adopting hybrid cloud or multi-cloud configurations effectively involves using best practices observed both in industry and government. As a result, each agency should consider many variables, as their mission and resources differ from those they may pull lessons learned from, the GSA Hybrid Cloud Almanac states. The first step, however, is to establish a roadmap for hybrid and multi-cloud migration.

“Many organizations are busy working on the move to multi-cloud, but all too often their initiatives are disconnected and scattered, with application developers building in one set of clouds and infrastructure teams building up their multi-cloud capabilities without sufficient alignment with the application teams,” Global Practice Lead of Dell EMC’s Operating Model Consulting Service Enablement Norman Dee wrote in a recent blog.

“When it comes to applications, many organizations have a ‘cloud first’ approach looking to build or update their applications in public clouds without regard to data compliance, inter-dependencies, or real cost. They have expectations of increased availability, scalability, speed, and flexibility at lower costs,” Dee noted.

To build an effective roadmap, technology managers need to understand and integrate infrastructure, operating models, and application activities. There are major dependencies between these areas that impact the success of the transformation.

The first step is for technology managers to understand their current state by focusing on key areas such as services, inventory, asset alignment, software components, security, funding models, physical environment, monitoring, and performance.

Hybrid Cloud, Multi-Cloud Differences

Often hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments are used interchangeably, but there are differences in the two cloud environments. In a multi-cloud solution, an organization uses varying public cloud services, often from multiple providers. According to Joy Su, principal solutions marketing manager for discovery with BMC, “The different clouds are used for various tasks to achieve best-of-breed results or to reduce vendor lock-in.”

For example, a marketing and sales team would have different requirements than a software development team, so different clouds can address their requirements. A multi-cloud operates in combination with on-premise physical, virtual, and private cloud infrastructures, encompassing an organization’s entire information technology ecosystem.

A hybrid cloud combines private and public clouds toward the same purpose, unlike a multi-cloud model, in which different clouds are used for different tasks, Su explained. Because the components of a hybrid cloud typically work together, data and processes tend to intermingle and intersect in a hybrid environment.  In a multi-cloud situation, however, usage typically remains in its own cloud silo.

Configuration management is critical to both hybrid and multi-cloud environments, according to Raphaël Chauvel, director of product management at BMC Software.

“Holistic cloud management includes multiple initiatives, but one of the most important is also commonly overlooked: discovery,” Chauvel writes in a blog.

While multi-cloud discovery may not be the first IT initiative that comes to mind during a transition to a hybrid or multi-cloud environment, it plays a critical role in managing all the moving pieces as an organization’s footprint grows in the cloud, Chauvel noted. Multi-cloud discovery automates the mapping of assets and dependencies. The function helps managers understand how internal infrastructure depends on cloud services and vice versa in hybrid application deployments as well as monitor their multi-cloud environments.

Best practices defined for configuration management processes by frameworks such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) are relevant in environments “that includes multiple vendors, different splits in responsibility, accelerated innovation delivery, and greater emphasis on automation,” according to Chauvel.

Some reports suggest that an organization’s private cloud can serve as the hub of a multi-cloud solution by running management/orchestration software that controls all other clouds. For that strategy to work, having good automation software also is key for provisioning resources on demand for the appropriate cloud resource. This might require a complex initial setup, but enables a seamless multi-cloud environment in the long run.

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