September 23, 2020

A glimmer of light in the multi-cloud management tunnel

Almost every business and organisation is now using cloud services in some form or another. But, like the rest of the world, “cloud” has evolved. Once a simple term essentially meaning “off-premise”, there’s no longer just one cloud. Today’s clouds can now be private, public, hybrid or multi, and while only a handful of the IT team can tell you which they’re using, fewer still can tell you how they’re managing whichever combinations are in use.

A few quick definitions are useful here:

  • Private cloud: on-premises cloud-style virtualisation
  • Public cloud: the various public cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google
  • Hybrid cloud: integration of private and public clouds
  • Multi-cloud: use of and optional integration of multiple public clouds, with or without hybrid and private clouds as well

A recent report surveying 750 global cloud decision makers, including representatives of small to mid-sized businesses1 found that 93% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy and 87% have a hybrid cloud strategy, but only one-third actually have multi-cloud management tools in place! Cloud utilisation is running ahead of cloud management.

What applications and services should go where, and do they move?

Complicating cloud use is the choice about where storage, compute resources, networking and applications should live. There’s no single answer, and each decision can be a mixture of technical and business considerations, making it hard to get just right. Factors influencing the decision will include features, reliability, costs, support, and legal constraints- such as the jurisdictions where data may be stored.

To make life even more exciting, these decisions are not “one-off” for the life of an application or service. New features, vendor pricing changes, variation in application and service performance requirements, and even changes in vendor relationships will argue for the migration of some portions of applications and services over time.

While you may have started out only using private or public cloud, the single-type utilisation isn’t going to last. Suddenly, as well as your existing clouds, you’ve just chosen a second public cloud because it’s ideal for a new project. Before you know it, you’re considering a third for another purpose. Suddenly your environment has become complex, and you can’t take full advantage of the benefits of virtualisation.

Consequently, the more clouds you add, the more management tools you’re adding as well: each vendor has its own services, creating management silos, differing policies, additional complexity and even worse, potentially inviting uncertain security postures.

Someone’s got to learn them all, and use them all, and you can no longer easily aggregate data across your full environment to make informed decisions about infrastructure. What you want is a single interface from which to manage everything.

Trying to build this yourself natively in the public cloud has proven impractical for many, when cost savings (and time savings) are a mainstay of the push to use cloud services in the first place. And, in the fast-moving product space, it’s also an endless game of catch-up.

So what does it all mean? If you’re not already amongst the one-third of organisations with a multi-cloud management tool deployed, you have a journey ahead of you.

VMware’s Approach – Software-Defined Data Centre

VMware promotes a philosophy dubbed a Software-Defined Data Centre, with virtual machines, a software-defined view of storage and a virtualised (also software defined) network. VMware created vSphere for computational resources, vSAN for storage and NSX for networking.

Even with these products, there’s still a missing component: a single point of coordination to enable workloads. The single touchpoint is something you need, to maintain the rapid provisioning and decrease the total cost of ownership that’s driven the adoption of virtualisation and cloud services in the first place.

Enter VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF)2

In VMware’s own words, VMware Cloud Foundation is the hybrid cloud platform for managing VMs and orchestrating containers, built on full-stack hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) technology. Crystal clear, right?

Thoroughly defining each of those terms is out of scope for this article, but the Introduction to VMware should help.

In a nutshell, VMware Cloud Foundation provides a platform which hosts both virtual machines and enables a modern applications environment It also helps manage and automate them, with integrated security a welcome value add.

This is not a lock-you-in-for-life play: VMware has partnered with various cloud providers, including AWS (Amazon Web services), Azure, IBM Cloud and Oracle cloud offerings. Whichever cloud your business or organisation is using (or will choose to use in future), VCF is a candidate to help you manage it.

The Bottom Line

It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but the day you need a consolidated solution to manage your extensive, complicated clouds is coming. VMware’s Cloud Foundation is an early leader in an emerging market. A step ahead of the rest of the market, it gives you a single source for security, high availability and deployment – today.

1Fexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report
2VMware Cloud Foundation