There are many reasons why an organization would want to adopt a multi-cloud strategy. With the potential for cost savings, better scalability, improved redundancy, and access to a wider set of features, it's no surprise that so many companies are exploring using multiple cloud vendors as an option. However, going multi-cloud is more than just getting your applications run across different cloud service providers – one of the biggest challenges teams face is supporting multi-cloud applications in production.
While going multi-cloud gives a company access to a wider range of tools, it also means that teams need to be familiar with the different tools and methods of operation in each cloud. This adds layers of complexity for your DevOps teams who now need to broaden their technical knowledge across multiple platforms. If this is not managed correctly, it can lead to significant production issues as the teams struggle to make the best use of each service provider's capabilities.
This shouldn’t necessarily stop you from pursuing a multi-cloud strategy. The benefits are definitely worth it for some businesses. Rather, you should look to prepare your DevOps teams to adopt a multi-cloud strategy to ensure that their efforts are a success. The following tips can help prepare your DevOps teams to be ready for a multi-cloud future.
Invest in cloud-specific expertise
It’s critical that teams upskill to be able to support multiple cloud platforms. However, one common mistake is to require that every engineer learn all available features across the different cloud providers. This has a certain logic to it because you want your teams to support your applications regardless of the service provider they run on. The problem is that your engineers never build deep expertise in the intricacies of each cloud provider because each engineer will spread themselves too thinly.
Instead, allow your engineers to focus on developing skills for one cloud platform at a time and to work towards becoming an expert. Yes, this might create some critical skills dependencies that you would ideally want to avoid, but in the long-term this critical expertise allows you to optimize and support applications on multiple cloud providers better than if all your engineers shared an equally shallow knowledge.
When you have established experts in each cloud platform it will be a lot easier to support and train teams to provide support across the different platforms and cross-skill. But you need to prioritize that initial time and investment to develop or hire expertise or your DevOps teams will struggle to support your multi-cloud strategy.
Consolidate your security
Security is non-negotiable in any modern software strategy and becomes even more important when integrating across the different cloud providers. While each cloud provider has a wide range of excellent security features that you can use, a multi-cloud strategy should include a core security strategy that works in every cloud.
A consistent and centralized approach to security that operates across all cloud providers enables your DevOps teams to manage application security more easily, including troubleshooting and fixing security issues. This is because they won't need to deal with different data, settings, and rules in each cloud.
While you might use different commands and tools across the various cloud providers, you can integrate with their APIs and standardize the security rules and permissions centrally so that your DevOps team doesn’t need to replicate configuration in each cloud.
Build effective performance monitoring
You need to monitor your applications across the different cloud service providers. If your teams use the native monitoring services in each cloud, they will struggle to track the operation of each service and container in operation. They will also lack a complete view of overall application health across all of your clouds.
Instead, if you use a centralized monitoring tool that operates across the different cloud providers, your teams will have the visibility and information required to support your multi-cloud applications.
This might require that you do some additional setup to configure your monitoring platform across the different service providers, but once this is up and running the time and effort your DevOps team saves in supporting the applications will be worth it.
Your monitoring should go beyond just looking at the functional operation of your applications – it should also consider performance. This allows teams to consistently understand the network traffic, container performance, and application speeds across all applications and make adjustments to shift applications between cloud providers to improve performance.
Standardize your containers
For most cloud strategies to work, you also need to adopt a strategy for containers. Having applications run in containers makes it easier to test in a CI/CD pipeline and to spin-up and scale in the cloud. The rules around containers should be standardized for all applications though, with dev teams required to ensure applications can run under the constraints of these container rules.
This allows your DevOps team to more easily get applications running across different cloud providers and ensure that applications can scale easily across all regions and locations without dealing with different configuration rules.
From a quality perspective, it also ensures that containers in test and production environments all follow the same configuration rules, which should give you more reliable operation and performance as you move applications and updates from test to production.
Prioritize your cloud and application migrations
Rushing to migrate of all your applications to multi-cloud deployment at the same time is another critical mistake.
To start with, it is better to prioritize one cloud and allow your teams time to become familiar with it. Afterwards, you can adopt additional clouds.
You also need to prioritize your applications. To start with, focus on migrating applications that would benefit the most from another cloud's features, tooling, or costs, or would benefit the most from multi-cloud redundancy. Ensure that your teams feel comfortable getting these first applications running successfully in a multi-cloud deployment.
In migrating to multi-cloud, take your time and focus on mastery. Don’t move on to a new application until teams feel comfortable in supporting the existing applications. Once they have gained this mastery, each subsequent migration should become more seamless and ensure your teams prioritize the fundamentals: availability, security, performance, and value.
Develop cloud-friendly apps
A successful multi-cloud strategy does not depend only on the skills and planning of your DevOps teams. Moving traditional, monolithic applications into the cloud is not going to yield significant benefits, and will certainly not help DevOps – because they will be forced to support applications operating in an environment they were not designed for.
Instead, you need to build (or rebuild) your applications for cloud-native and distributed architectures to ensure they perform well and are maintainable in multi-cloud deployments.
In general, for a multi-cloud strategy, you should create a development framework that allows the individual application components to operate autonomously and communicate with each other as needed. This will improve your overall efficiency and cloud usage significantly.
Be wary of cloud-specific tooling
You can also run into problems if you build applications with cloud-specific service provider tooling. While this helps to get an application up and running fast and easily on one cloud provider, it makes it incredibly difficult to migrate and support the application in a different cloud provider.
Unless you intend to keep an application permanently hosted on one cloud, avoid cloud-specific tools and use platform-agnostic, cloud-neutral tools instead. You can choose from open-source or third-party vendor options that can provide consistent application management regardless of your cloud provider.
For cloud-neutral application infrastructure that provides centralized application load balancing, security, and visibility, try Snapt Nova. Nova is Application Delivery Control as a Service, providing modern load balancing and AI WAF security on-demand to every node from a centralized control plane and UI. Nova helps reduce the cost and complexity of multi-cloud strategies.