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How companies can take control of their multi-cloud investments

Maintaining a solid view of your hybrid estate requires standardized procedures and processes throughout the enterprise.

If you're like the vast majority of companies, according to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud report, you are accelerating your hybrid cloud strategy. You might still keep your mission-critical apps and data on premises, but most likely you're moving several of your workloads to the public cloud. And if you're like many IT organizations, the road hasn't been easy. You're struggling to manage costs, meet government regulatory compliance requirements, and ensure maximum visibility into what's consumed across your public and private cloud environments.

Sound about right?

According to Flexera's survey of cloud decision-makers, 87 percent of organizations now have hybrid cloud strategies in place, and 59 percent say their cloud use is higher than before COVID-19 hit. At the same time, IT organizations are running into difficulties managing all of their data and applications across their private and public cloud infrastructure.

Had everything remained on premises and, maybe, one public cloud environment, things might have been different. Most companies, however, want to avoid getting locked into any one service provider, with 72 percent saying they use some mix of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, and other public cloud platforms.

Part of the problem with that approach lies in the fact that each cloud provider's environment is proprietary. On their own, they function quite well, offering the visibility, metering, and analytics you would want to efficiently manage and secure your data environments. But they do not interoperate. Not really. So it becomes almost impossible for IT, operations, and financial leads to get an accurate sense of how much data and other resources are regularly consumed by individuals or departments across the enterprise.

The result of all of this, according to the Flexera study, is that organizations often find themselves over budget on cloud an average of 23 percent and wasting an estimated 30 percent of their cloud spend. And, as for on-premises environments, businesses typically find that they overprovision by almost 70 percent in order to avoid running out of capacity. Additionally, they are running into compliance and security issues as their apps and data become more distributed and complex.

But it doesn't have to be this way. By adhering to the following guidelines, IT organizations can gain better control and insights across their hybrid estate.

Prioritize visibility into usage and spending

Visibility—or the difficulty gaining it—is easily the most pressing problem for most organizations after migrating to multicloud environments. It's not that IT professionals can't use native tools offered by each cloud solution. Some of them are actually rather good. But when overseeing multiple private and public cloud environments, the process can be painfully tedious, time consuming, and inefficient.

This is where a unified software platform designed for hybrid environments can help. The best of the bunch will provide a central console offering an incredibly clear line of sight into how, when, where, and by whom data, applications, and other resources are being consumed across the enterprise. This is no small accomplishment when you stop to think about it.

 

Apply consistent tagging methodologies

Visibility into your consumption data is one thing, but can you gain insights from that data that make sense to your stakeholders? This is relevant because, in all likelihood, you pay for services as you consume them, and you want to make sure that you're paying for services that are a) being used, and b) meet the needs of the business.

This is where resource tagging comes into play. Whether it's storage, compute, virtual machines, containers, or any other resource you're consuming, proper tagging methodologies let you add business context to your consumption data so that you can report usage and spend in meaningful ways. But if each cloud has its own proprietary tags, and you are operating in multiple environments, gaining a holistic view becomes impossible. Adding to the complexity: 30 percent of organizations with more than 1,000 employees say they have different business units using different cloud vendors, according to the 451 Research report "Public cloud lock-in concerns incongruent with successes seen in multicloud deployments."

This is where unified consumption analytics platforms offer particular value. By aggregating usage and cost data across the hybrid estate and enabling you to apply consistent tagging methodologies, they can drive more accurate cost and forecasting reporting along with deeper insights into your hybrid estate's activities.

Design automatic triggers to identify opportunities

Applying rules to the consumption data you collect helps identify any important cost and compliance improvement opportunities. Then, with the right unified software platform, you can set up automatic triggers that let you know it's time to take some recommended action.

For example, looking across the entire cloud estate, the service provider could flag which departments are getting the most out of their cloud access, which ones are hardly using it at all, and which ones might be leaving the virtual meter running while away from the office, costing the organization unknown dollars. Similarly, the provider's holistic visibility could expose costly system anomalies or issues that need to be addressed.

Automate controls for consistent compliance

Another area of particular significance is compliance. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to comply with a variety of compliance frameworks, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, HIPAA, and GDPR, with stiff penalties for noncompliance—not to mention the impact on a company's brand should a breach occur. One of the most significant benefits unified software platforms provide is that they make it easier to manage IT security and compliance across hybrid estates through rich tools and expertise.

According to the Flexera survey, 83 percent of enterprises point to cybersecurity as the top challenge they face with their hybrid cloud environments. Data governance, which relates to all of the back-end work supporting regulatory compliance efforts, was cited as a top concern by 79 percent of participants.

Partner to optimize cost, compliance—and more

The trouble many organizations face in both of these regards is that, while they tend to be highly skilled at fortifying their own data centers and tracking private data within them, they're not as experienced at holistically optimizing hybrid cloud environments to achieve greater visibility and manage budgets and overall spending or regulatory compliance. Even when they are, they typically benefit from offloading many of those responsibilities to a qualified third party.

For instance, Interoc, a Swedish construction firm, wanted to ensure industry compliance and better management of numerous projects by switching to an all-digital cloud solution. It knew from experience that paper-based record-keeping could be time consuming and inefficient, especially in its industry. Any lack of accurate record-keeping could have created a huge regulatory issue.

 

"Increasingly, we're being asked to show environmental or regulatory compliance," says Henrik Andersson, a supervisor at Interoc. "We need to be able to show live updates or to attach video or photo evidence. Paper-based records are more than an inconvenience. We have to change our approach, to digitize project management. All parties want it: contractors, regulators, suppliers, and management."

By turning to a managed service, however, Interoc was able to reduce project management reporting time by 60 percent and uncover potential regulatory hurdles before they became bigger issues.

Some unified software platforms can help companies detect provisioned resources that are out of compliance. The better ones do that across the entire hybrid cloud estate. They promote faster and easier gathering of relevant data across the network in preparation for regulatory audits. And they make it possible to holistically implement, manage, and enforce process-rule compliance. In a nutshell, they provide complete visibility and real-time alerting for governance, risk, and compliance data.

The trend toward hybrid cloud environments doesn't appear likely to subside anytime soon. If anything, it's accelerating and giving rise to a host of visibility, business context, and security and compliance challenges. By turning to a unified software platform, however, organizations can achieve the level of continuous cost and compliance they need to keep everything running smoothly, safely, and securely.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.