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Going all-in with a single cloud vendor and moving to a multi-cloud environment is a trend becoming more common in today’s world. This means not only traversing the private and public cloud by deploying workloads in both, but also actively deploying and managing resources in multiple public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
There are many aspects to consider when searching for the right way to oversee your multi-cloud environment, including managerial processes such as cost control. Still, there are five basic components you should always keep in mind: cost management, security and compliance, inventory, utilization, and automation and self-healing.
When virtualization (VM) was first introduced into most data centers, the concept of virtualization sprawl quickly followed. Because it became so easy to provision a virtual machine—which, in some cases, was perceived as an entity that had little or no cost—people left machines on longer than necessary, often requesting resources far beyond what they actually needed. As soon as this happened, a whole range of companies began popping up to manage this problem.
With cloud environments, the problem of VM sprawl is a lot worse, amplified by the ease with which you can provision massive amounts of resources. It can be tedious and difficult to keep track of how much you spend each month; who is responsible for the costs accrued; if the resources you have provisioned are actually sized correctly (or if you’re just wasting money); and more importantly, what that money is being spent on. The cloud providers do have built-in tools to handle these issues, but they are far from perfect. Moreover, it can be challenging to correlate the costs of a single project or business unit across all resources in use in all clouds.
Taking this a step further, venturing into the realm of more than one cloud provider complicates your day-to-day budget management significantly, since every cloud provider measures its resources in a different way. Also, the metrics are not the same for each cloud, so the aggregation of costs across clouds is extremely difficult to achieve using the tools provided by each vendor. A tool such as CloudCheckr, which supports multiple cloud providers, will enable you to view and manage resources across clouds.
Security and Compliance
Major cloud providers use different methods when it comes to protecting your resources. AWS utilizes security groups and NACLs, Microsoft Azure uses Network Security Groups on interfaces and subnets, and Google uses Firewalls. While each of these vendors have technology that protects your resources, none of them have built-in mechanisms that offer a comprehensive, holistic, security story. A third-party tool that can understand each of these methods, ensure all of your resources are protected, and conform to your security needs, is crucial when managing workloads across multiple clouds.
Keeping track of your applications in a single cloud can be a daunting task. You should be tagging all resources you deploy in the cloud, which will allow you to categorize them and eventually attach a cost to each resource. Embracing a standard tagging convention early in your cloud deployments will enable you to organize resources across different cloud providers. Tagging helps you understand which resources are being used for certain projects and who has permission to use them. This enables you to apply different policies depending on the importance of the resources in use. For example, you could save money by shutting down resources when they are not in use. Development resources could be shut down after-hours and on the weekends while production resources need to be constantly running. With proper inventory management, you will be able to track dormant cloud resources such as proof of concepts that were forgotten or resources of projects that are no longer needed.
Many people move to the cloud because of its flexibility and pay-as-you-go billing model, which allows you to pay only for what you use. There is no reason to provision large-scale instances to handle a load spike that occurs once every six months. Rather, you should be able to scale your resources up and down based on capacity and demand. To do this, it is critical to understand the actual usage of your resources in the cloud. The metrics, of course, differ from one provider to the next. Both the frequency of data points and the scale upon which the metric is measured can vary.
This is why you need third-party tools to collect metrics from your workloads (regardless of which cloud they are running on), normalize the data, and present it to you in a way that helps you understand what resources your applications are using. These tools can also show how the ideal placement of your resources across the clouds will enable you to optimize both performance and cost.
Automation and Self-Healing
There is only so much that your DevOps team can do in a day. Automatic remediation of issues and events in your cloud will enable your teams to invest in further improvement and better automation across your workloads. For example, when your instances are suffering from increased load, it would make sense to scale the instances to meet the influx in traffic. However, managing a solution that resides in multiple cloud platforms is not something that the major cloud providers offer. You will need an intelligent suite of software that can react to events across multiple clouds, take appropriate action, and record a trail of events in a centralized location for future auditing purposes. This will provide overall insight into your infrastructure, across all of your clouds.
Managing resources in a single cloud comes with more than enough of its own challenges. Yet when venturing into the world of multiple clouds, the amount of challenges and their complexity grows exponentially compared to the number of clouds you are using. Building on the basic foundations mentioned above and understanding how to manage your resources in a multi-cloud world will enable you to grow your presence across the cloud providers of your choice. This will allow you to focus on the important parts of your business—without having to invest large amounts of resources and time into managing the underlying infrastructure.