For agencies looking at a multi-cloud strategy, managing different vendors and gaining expertise in different clouds is key to take advantage of the nuanced differences and prevent cloud sprawl, said Sanjay Gupta, chief technology officer for the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Speaking at FCW’s Cloud Summit today, Gupta noted that a multi-cloud strategy requires more expertise and resources to implement.

“If you are in more than one cloud, guess what – you need people who are experts, knowledgeable and experienced in whatever number of clouds you are in,” he noted. “That’s the tradeoff you’re looking at as soon as you start, from a people perspective, you need a larger number of people who are experts.”

Other costs Gupta cited include the connectivity costs and the hassle of understanding the different terminology.

Without a controlled strategy, however, agencies can get caught up in cloud sprawl, lifting and shifting a problem from the data center world.

“I know a lot of agencies are going through the Data Center Consolidation Initiative (DCOI) – just imagine if you had to do something like a Data Center Consolidation Initiative three or five years down the road where you had, pick a number, 50, 60, 80, 100, or more CSPs [cloud service providers] that you have a footprint in. Just try and imagine what a nightmare that would be,” Gupta said.

As a strong adopter of cloud, SBA maintains two primary cloud footprints – one in Amazon Web Services for external-facing processes, and one in Microsoft Azure for internal processes, with minor footprints in other cloud services.

Gupta noted that the agency’s mantra is “get to a cloud. It doesn’t matter which cloud it is, make the decision quick, because cloud isn’t your destination … you’re getting to the cloud to leverage the capabilities of the cloud.”

One of the main benefits of a multi-cloud strategy is avoiding vendor lock-in, which Gupta acknowledged. However, he advised that agencies will eventually have to choose, and “rather than try to agonize between cloud A, cloud B, and cloud C, pick a cloud, move on, and make some choices based on that.”

So at the end of the day, should your agency embrace a multi-cloud strategy?

“I don’t think there is a right answer or wrong answer,” Gupta said. “It depends on what your organization is trying to do, and what it is trying to accomplish is going to drive your decision between a single cloud versus a multiple cloud [approach].”

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MeriTalk Staff