Untangling Multicloud Complexity

The cloud hasn’t been as simple to manage—or as cost-effective—as many business leaders expected.

September 15, 2023 | min

The public cloud has emerged as a crucial component of IT infrastructure for businesses of all sizes, as they aim for more efficient data storage and management, agile application development and reduced on-premises data center burdens. And while shifting to the cloud has unleashed tremendous digital innovation, it’s also created a new layer of complexity—and sometimes unexpectedly high costs.

“The typical enterprise now has multiple data centers and public cloud providers, and many are also using lots of different colocation facilities and multiple edge locations,” says Scott Sinclair, senior analyst for TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group.

“The fast pace of change and development has sort of led to this free-for-all mentality around the cloud,” Sinclair says. “It presents a new paradigm with companies having to look at different factors and considerations like cost, portability and security, because their data is no longer all locked in one room.”

The Never-Ending Cloud Journey

Organizations may discover the cloud provider they originally chose is no longer the right fit, because of costs or the availability of better tools or lower latency elsewhere. Or they may need to move workloads back to an on-premises location to address compliance or data sovereignty issues, says Lee Caswell, senior vice president, product and solutions marketing, at Nutanix, a company that assists with managing hybrid and multicloud environments through a universal cloud operating model.

“The cloud gets you flexibility and agility, but companies are starting to find out that it’s expensive,” Caswell says. “So they’re looking more closely at where they put their workloads over time and realizing that each place—whether particular cloud providers, on-premises or the edge—has its own advantages and disadvantages.”

The 2023 Enterprise Cloud Index, a survey of more than 1,450 IT decision-makers by Vanson Bourne, found that 56% of respondents said they planned to focus on gaining more visibility into their cloud consumption and costs this year, while 52% planned to use solutions that minimize cloud waste. More than half of the respondents (51%) said they planned to move some applications from one public cloud provider to another.

Visibility into cloud costs has become a major challenge as companies navigate the cloud marketplace, with 76% of IT decision-makers reporting they are concerned about their organization’s spending on cloud. “Cloud providers set their prices differently, offer different services and have their own egress fees,” Caswell says. “And while it costs money to put your data on the cloud, it also costs a lot of money to pull it out.”

We’ve seen this massive explosion of data and applications, and companies have all these important decisions to make around it. More than ever, they need simplicity—and they need a partner to provide it to them.

Scott Sinclair,
Senior Analyst, TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group

It can also take a significant amount of time and consume major IT resources if a company has built applications and placed petabytes of data with a single public cloud provider. Workload migration to the public cloud is a complex and costly initiative, often requiring application refactoring, app interdependency mapping and specific skill sets. And, it can be a one-way street, with limited flexibility to move them back on premises, if needed. Portability has become a greater concern as IT leaders see they may need to move workloads over time due to changes in workload growth and maturity, or changes in the regulatory or security landscape. “Organizations are coming to the realization they don’t know which workloads are going to see massive growth in the next two, three, four years,” Sinclair says. “So, they’re realizing they need the ability to pivot and potentially move those workloads—within days or weeks, not months or years.”

Simplifying Infrastructure and Decisions

As enterprises increasingly depend on multiple public cloud providers, in addition to their own data centers and edge computing solutions, the need for a unified approach to manage these disparate environments becomes paramount.

As the University of Texas at Dallas began migrating workloads from on-premises data centers to public cloud providers, its IT leaders started to face the same challenges that many businesses do when it comes to cloud migration, from cost and complexity to the need for portability and flexibility. UT Dallas started using Nutanix in 2022 to more quickly and cost-effectively move data and applications between its two major cloud providers and back to on-premises data centers, as needed.

As an enterprise cloud platform that brings together compute, storage, networking and virtualization in one simple tool, Nutanix enables the university’s IT team to determine the optimal location for each workload based on a wide range of factors, including costs, latency requirements, workload type and portability.

“We don’t want to get boxed in and become solely dependent on a single cloud provider,” says Brian Dourty, the campus’s chief technology officer. “As a public university, a lot of it comes down to price and cost-effectiveness. Nutanix gives us a mechanism where we can move those workloads with little or no disruption to our customers.”

The ability to quickly migrate applications without having to rebuild them is also a big draw, Dourty says. “We’ve got that landing zone on Nutanix, and we can just go through the interface and move workloads from one cloud to another. That makes it a lot easier for our engineers and minimizes downtime and disruption.”

Some companies also find that a hybrid multicloud approach gives them the flexibility to scale up and down as needed. Apparel retailer Lands’ End uses the platform to deal with the seasonal ebbs and flows of shopping, using the cloud to scale up during busier seasons while scaling back during slower times.

“We find the ability to run Nutanix both in our physical data centers and in our clouds very empowering, allowing us to rapidly scale without purchasing hardware that would sit idle most of the year,” says Karl Richards, Lands’ End’s senior director of IT infrastructure and information security. “The ability to mix and match has proven to provide the best TCO for Lands’ End.”

As the enterprise cloud marketplace matures and companies realize the need for the flexibility to quickly move workloads to improve speed and performance and contain costs, they need a platform that can bridge their cloud, edge and on-premises environments together while giving greater visibility into their decision-making, Sinclair says.

“We’ve seen this massive explosion of data and applications, and companies have all these important decisions to make around it,” he adds. “More than ever, they need simplicity—and they need a partner to provide it to them.”

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