Vendor-Agnostic Multi-Cloud Management Is a True Game Changer

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Read more about author Tejpal Chadha.

Global spending on public cloud in 2023 will grow by an estimated 20.7% to $591.8 billion, according to Gartner. The benefits of cloud migration are well known. Inherent variable cost structures enable businesses to evolve away from the traditional fixed-cost methods of managing IT infrastructure, adopting cloud-first models that are controllable, agile, and secure; enable operations to readily scale as needed; and optimize cost.

In a global economy of dispersed organizations, many enterprises use multiple cloud vendors, either by design or by inheritance via mergers and acquisitions. A 451 Research report found that 98% of enterprises use or plan to use at least two cloud infrastructure providers, with 31% using four or more services. There are valid reasons for using multiple vendors. Different cloud providers may be selected for specific features that a company may require. Enterprises might want the freedom to run their applications on different clouds, so they are not locked into a single vendor. Plus, if one cloud provider experiences a problem, having alternatives means that business can continue with minimal disruption.

Multi-Cloud Challenges

In addition to many benefits, migrating operations to multi-cloud environments can also present several challenges:

1. Visibility Issues

Lack of visibility across multi-cloud operations, resources, readiness, and health status is a significant obstacle for organizations. Different cloud service providers have distinct requirements, architectures, and interfaces, and different monitoring options and tools. While most cloud vendors offer basic monitoring tools for free, robust vendor monitoring services often come with a serious price tag which soon adds up across multiple vendors.

Lack of interoperability between cloud vendors is another factor limiting visibility. Vendors typically don’t provide interoperable tools to help customers manage cloud services shared with competing platforms. Gaining actionable insights to manage cloud operations efficiently is therefore problematic, creates blind spots, and can make security threat detection and response challenging. What’s more, given the increased focus on cost controls, most IT departments do not have the budget, time, or resources to become domain experts for every cloud provider.

2. Cloud Sprawl and Cost Management

Software bloat, unused storage, and virtual systems that become obsolete have long been problems faced by IT departments. The cloud was intended to remove this challenge, but it has migrated to cloud-native enterprises. Cloud sprawl – the uncontrolled growth of cloud usage – occurs due to a lack of visibility into an organization’s cloud computing resources. Adding cloud resources can be as simple as a few clicks of a mouse, and it’s this simplicity that, without visibility and a cohesive cloud strategy, runs unchecked, leading to over-provisioning and underutilization.

Multi-cloud operations are particularly vulnerable to cloud sprawl, and enterprises without end-to-end visibility can find themselves charged for resources they don’t use or need. The cost of cloud sprawl may not be immediately obvious, but over time, can become a significant financial drain. Gaps in cloud expenditure cannot be found without regularly tracking spending, benchmarking, forecasting, or detecting anomalies. Enterprises need a better method of connecting and managing all cloud processes and expenses to identify and remove charges for unused or unnecessary services.

3. Incident Resolution and Risk Management

Lack of visibility and cloud sprawl can open enterprises up to security risks from increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. Cloud complexity – mixing and meshing on-premise systems, private clouds, multiple public cloud systems – makes managing and monitoring multiple cloud services manually labor-intensive and is one of the main reasons for cloud-related security problems.

Managing cyber-attacks in cloud environments means enterprises paying for vendor-specific security or developing their own structured resolution protocol. Both options require real-time monitoring of multiple clouds, instant incident response data collection, and analysis, which is often relayed to system managers for resolution. Without a comprehensive multi-cloud strategy driven by vendor-agnostic overarching tools that monitor everything instantaneously, enterprises will remain vulnerable to attacks or incur additional costs from vendor-specific security solutions.

The Value of Vendor-Agnostic Cloud Cost Monitoring and Optimization

Defining a clear cloud strategy is key to successfully migrating and managing cloud operations.

Without one, solutions may be adopted without clear guidance, which can lead to technology silos, non-standardized implementations, cloud sprawl, spiraling costs, and greater risk exposure. Effective cloud management requires cloud operations to be comprehensively observed. Basic cloud vendor monitoring is tied to the respective provider, and monitoring each tool time-consuming, cumbersome, and expensive.

A vendor-agnostic cloud cost monitoring and optimization (CCMO) tool simplifies cloud monitoring, operating independently of any cloud provider, leveraging AI and machine learning to provide a closed-loop solution for public and private clouds. Essentially, an agnostic CCMO tool provides a customizable, automated way to aggregate all cloud assets into a single source of data, delivering multiple benefits and significant competitive advantage for organizations moving to the cloud. 

Here are some of the key areas in which an agnostic CCMO can support enterprise cloud management strategy:

1. Uniform Visibility

An agnostic CCMO tool provides complete visibility of all cloud assets, regardless of vendor, location, technology, application, or platform. Taking stock of all cloud assets is the first stage in reducing cloud sprawl and complexity. An agnostic CCMO tool does away with time-consuming manual audits by automatically ingesting data from all cloud resources such as virtual machines, disks, databases, load balancers, and virtual networks, and mapping the entire infrastructure in real time.

Integrating all these assets seamlessly in a centralized monitoring console gives a holistic view of an enterprise’s cloud operations in a single “pane of glass,” bringing greater transparency and observability in real time. Intelligent actionable insights can be generated, and granular data analysis executed to understand usage and distribution by region, service provider, or business units within the organization. This intelligence drives cloud optimization, improves cost visibility, and identifies and addresses cloud sprawl and excess elements before they spread.

2. Improved Financial Management

The enhanced observational functionality of an agnostic CCMO tool can track cloud expenditure and conduct comprehensive cost analysis, comparing existing expenditure with the value realized, pairing it with spend-tracking protocols, and benchmarking against performance. Applying anomaly detection analyzes patterns, identifies trends, locates outliers, identifies root causes, and escalates potential issues to enterprise cloud teams.

Full visibility of costs versus required assets and usage enables right-sizing recommendations to be generated to ensure assets are fully optimized and potential savings highlighted. Teams can identify even the most minor revenue leakage, forecast cloud costs, and plan budgets with great accuracy. The net result is accelerated business value realization from cloud deployments.

3. Improved Governance Through Tagging

To identify specific resources in the cloud, enterprises use a tagging mechanism where each asset receives a tag, providing a detailed overview of cloud usage and associated costs. Improper tagging of resources can lead to inflated bills and under or over-utilized resources. An agnostic CCMO tool improves the tagging mechanism by identifying resources without tags, allowing enterprises to establish tag policies across all cloud vendors, business units, technologies, and applications. 

An effective tag-based access management system enables administrators to detect cloud sprawl by evaluating entities associated with mandatory tags such as business unit, application, and environment. Providing a better understanding of cloud resource and service usage allows administrators to charge usage to the correct business unit, improving security and compliance, and, from a governance standpoint, ensuring that only assigned users have access to designated resources.

4. Autonomous Cloud Life-Cycle Operations

Employing an agnostic CCMO tool for autonomous cloud life-cycle operations enables routine tasks to be managed and performance optimized across increasingly complex cloud environments. Automation tools can be leveraged across the entire architecture to handle service requests for life-cycle operations such as user management, health checks, event management, and compliance. Resources can be freed up, and service disruptions minimized for scheduled upgrades and patching.

The streamlined, centralized monitoring of a CCMO tool facilitates proactive system health checks and automated IT event management across the cloud ecosystem. Constant monitoring captures the readiness and health of each system, identifying any alerts and analyzing them with a closed-loop approach to determine probable cause, recommend fixes, and heal incidents autonomously. Incidents that cannot be resolved autonomously are elevated to relevant stakeholders for remediation. This results in less downtime and shorter mean time to resolve.

A Fundamental Game Changer

In the emerging era of cloud-denominated commerce, enterprises migrating to the cloud must do so strategically and responsibly. There are numerous challenges. However, embedding a robust vendor-agnostic CCMO tool – a dedicated independent resource to measure utility, effectively track assets, automate a multitude of tasks, detect anomalies, and optimize costs, all in real time – at the heart of a cloud management strategy can be a fundamental game changer, positioning enterprises for success.