Cloud adoption remains one of the biggest talking points throughout the region, with more and more businesses and organisations recognising its benefits. Matthias Pfützner, Cloud Solution Architect at Red Hat, talks to us about the ‘multicloud trend’ and its challenges, and discusses the core elements of using a cloud management platform.
Multiclouds are in vogue: more and more companies use cloud platforms and services in parallel. The main challenge in doing so lies in administrative complexity. The only practical way of coping with this is by using a cloud management platform that supports the integrative administration of heterogeneous private, public, hybrid and multicloud solutions.
Cloud development is progressing dynamically. At present, companies frequently use hybrid clouds. That means that they operate their IT infrastructure partly in a private cloud and partly in a public cloud. The simultaneous use of internal infrastructure is therefore often required for this reason alone as many applications are not even worth considering for use with the public cloud for reasons relating to security, compliance and data protection. A hybrid cloud model is the perfect first step for many companies in optimally tapping the potential of private and public clouds. A hybrid cloud model which comprises on-premises and off-premises resources offers the best of both worlds – the cost-efficiency of a public cloud and the flexibility of a private cloud – for implementing company requirements in areas such as auditing, risk management and policy management.
Yet using a multicloud is the latest trend. There are some basic differences between hybrid and multicloud models: a hybrid cloud consists of multiple clouds of different types (private and public clouds). They are more or less well integrated with one another and can be administered together, for example, through an infrastructure that simplifies workload portability with APIs, middleware, or containers. A multicloud, in contrast, consists of two or more clouds of the same type. It can be composed of multiple private clouds, or multiple public clouds. And of course, there are also hybrid forms: the two cloud approaches do not rule one another out – they can be combined. Many companies actually do count on these types of models.
The extensive discussions surrounding differences between them are ultimately of an academic nature. From a user’s perspective, one thing is for sure: a cloud is a cloud. The challenges for hybrid and multicloud solutions are comparable. These relate primarily to the topic of management.
The multicloud trend and its challenges
Why exactly is it that multicloud models are increasingly coming to the fore? To put it simply, it’s because companies prefer best of breed approaches. Even the biggest public cloud providers can hardly cover all specific company requirements in full – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform supply different offers and services. It is also understandable that they do this because they want to differentiate themselves from one another. Generally speaking, an ‘everything from under one roof’ solution is unrealistic. Moreover, opting for one single cloud provider would inevitably make companies heavily dependent on said provider, which is precisely what companies want to avoid.
Using multiple cloud platforms entails difficulties in itself as these are characterised by different technologies, interfaces and processes, and are therefore not 100% compatible with one another. Consequently, implementing a multicloud model is not a simple process, particularly with regard to consistent management. It involves tasks such as automatic provisioning, workload balancing, resource optimisation and capacity and lifecycle management.
If a company uses its own tools for each individual platform, it is evident that this will make handling more complex for its IT department. Using cloud management platforms (CMP) is therefore necessary, as these offer administrative functions for heterogeneous private, public, hybrid and multicloud environments.
Core elements of a cloud management platform
According to the market research company, Gartner, the CMP sector is a steadily growing yet extremely fragmented market with over 20 active providers. However, market researchers are anticipating market consolidation. As things currently stand, a company is spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding on a CMP solution. As a guide, Gartner has defined five essential functions a CMP solution should offer:
- Service request management
- Provisioning, orchestration and automation
- Governance and policy
- Monitoring and metering
- Multicloud brokering
The first three points are especially important. A CMP solution should contain self-service portals and functions such as for role-based access to IT service catalogues and automatic provisioning. Automation is another key aspect. Red Hat’s CMP solution, Red Hat CloudForms, for example, offers native Ansible integration. Ansible by Red Hat is a high-performance, agent-less open source automation platform that supports simple designing of automated processes. The integration of high-performance automation functions in multicloud environments decreases complexity and greatly improves the performance and security of traditional and cloud native applications. If nothing else, the multicloud management platform must offer the option of defining and monitoring governance and compliance standards with individually defined policies – through the automatic implementation of guidelines.
Future-proof CMP solutions must also meet the following basic requirements:
- Integration with existing enterprise management systems and processes
- Capacity, resource and performance management
- Configuration and change management with regard to applications, middleware and infrastructure software
- Identity management, for example, with consistent access control to the infrastructure
If a company goes with a multicloud model, it can’t avoid using a CMP solution. This is the only way that heterogeneous environments can be administered uniformly and efficiently. And moreover, a modern CMP application boasts wide-ranging advantages, from quicker service deployment, to improved operational transparency and controlling, through to guaranteed compliance and governance.