Q&A

Managing Multicloud Environments Amid the Cloud Boom

From cloud security to multicloud management, this IT industry expert provides great insights into where the cloud is and where it's headed.

Sitting on the fence when it comes to cloud adoption is no longer an option. With the cloud's accelerated growth over the last few years, more enterprises will continue to migrate more business data to the cloud. And with major cloud players providing different vital services, the multicloud approach makes business sense for many enterprises.

To help break down where today's cloud market is headed and how your enterprise can get the most out of a multicloud deployment, cloud expert Elias Khnaser, Chief of Research at EK Media Group and former Cloud Research VP at Gartner, shares his years of experience and insights to tackle some of today's toughest questions when it comes to the cloud.

Redmond: The global cloud computing market, which was valued at $442 billion in 2021, is expected to reach $1.3 trillion 2028. What's driving that growth?
Khnaser: There's a lot of reasons for the growth. The move to digital is definitely driving the growth. Additionally, I think all of the challenges that we're seeing worldwide, whether it's political or economic, are driving folks towards avenues to reach more customers and more places to compensate for revenue that they're potentially losing in some areas.

I think the pandemic was a very big lesson learned for organizations that were hesitant or were slow to adopt the cloud. They really felt that during COVID, with their inability to access or acquire servers and their inability to gain access to their datacenters, really slowed down business. As we start to emerge from the pandemic, many are asking, "Is there something else that's coming in and how do I deal with that?"

How big of a role has the work-from-home trend over the past few years contributed to this growth?
I think the work-from-home [trend] is helping but I think there's also work-from-home fatigue. A lot of customers that I'm talking to are moving to a hybrid model and many have returned fully to the office.

While I think it is a factor, there's also a more macro factor, which is the move to digital. The customers and organizations that are going to get there first are going to capture the greatest market share. So I think that is definitely helping that acceleration more than the work-from-home trend.

Some industry watchers have suggested that recent security concerns are going to slow that cloud computing market growth. What's your take on this?
I'm going to be honest, I'm a little biased. I'm a strong believer in cloud. I believe security concerns and risks have existed for a very long time. I believe the cloud providers in general are able to offer significantly better security than whatever organizations can do on-premises.

When I talk to a customer, I always ask them how many security professionals they have. If you've got 10, AWS [Amazon Web Services] has 1,000. If you've got 50, Azure has 3,000. The cloud providers are definitely secure. The question is, are customers using them securely? I think that's where a little bit of that disconnect comes in. So if you're deploying on the cloud, but you're not securing your assets, you're not adhering to best practices, then you're going to face some of these challenges, whether you're in the cloud or out of the cloud.

I think the the record for the cloud in general has been good. I mean, most of the major breaches that we've seen have, for the most part, all originated from on-premises datacenters.

"I think all of the challenges that we're seeing worldwide, whether it's political or economic, are driving folks towards avenues to reach more customers and more places to compensate for revenue that they're potentially losing in some areas."

Elias Khnaser, Chief of Research, EK Media Group

What are some worst practices when it comes to multicloud management?
Selecting multiple management tools to manage your multiple clouds as closely as possible is a mistake that I see a lot of organizations make because they end up with tool sprawl. The goal is to have some sort of standardization [and] consistency across your multicloud. So if you are acquiring a tool, you want to make sure that that tool gives you feature-parity with the cloud providers that you have.

The other mistake that I see is when customers think that just because they're in a multicloud, they think they're going to take their VMs or containers and constantly move them around depending on what the price is per provider. That become a huge challenge and a major time investment that just isn't worth it.

The third mistake I see is not having the right skill sets for the providers that you're trying to manage and not understanding how you're going to manage them.

Do you recommend third-party or native tools for multicloud management?
I think most customers are going to have to use both. When we're talking, for example, about cost optimization, I would say third-party tools do a fantastic job, [from] monitoring the environment to giving advice, for instance, for VM family changes, or whether you have reserved instances that are not helping you to save money. In some cases, they can also be great for security. For example, if you have a port that's open that maybe you didn't intend on having open, a third-party tool can flag it.

Third-party tools when it comes to provisioning are lacking. Customers always find themselves reverting back to the native tools to compensate for features or capabilities that you can't find with a third-party tool. Backup is one where, for the most part, you can probably find the backup tool that helps you backup everything. But then you're always going to find that one service on one of the cloud providers doesn't integrate with your backup solution. As a result, you revert back to the native backup solution.

I don't think we'll ever get to a point where we can have a single pane of glass, one tool, to sort of rule them all. With the way that these cloud providers are innovating [and] the number of services that they're releasing, it'll be incredibly difficult for anyone to be able to do it.

With the growing number of cloud outages due to environmental factors and with emerging technologies like the blockchain using high levels of resources, how can providers and customers balance sustainability with their cloud needs?
It's an evolving environment. We need to be able to find solutions that don't prevent folks from doing what they're doing, but also not damage the environment. There's a lot of technologies that are coming, [like] submerging servers in oils or water to control to control the heat. There are solutions, but they are expensive. But at some point, the cost is necessary. If this is the business that you're going to be in, then you're going to have to find a solution that doesn't harm the environment.

About the Authors

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Chris Paoli (@ChrisPaoli5) is the associate editor for Converge360.

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