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Five Key Design Principles for a Multi-Cloud Environment

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Dr. Prashant Pradhan, Chief Developer Advocate, IBM India/South Asia in conversation with dynamicCIO elucidates cloud’s standing in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey while giving insights into managing multi-cloud environments.

Q. How is digital transformation driving cloud adoption?
Generally, there are two broad pieces in digital transformation – systems of record which refers to the backend and systems of engagement which refers to the frontline of the digital transformation. The systems of engagement side of it is the most suited workload for cloud, and that is where we will see digital driving cloud-adoption.

Q. Where does cloud stand and what role does it play in the enterprise’s digital transformation strategy?
It will be fair to call cloud the cornerstone of an enterprise’s digital transformation strategy. One reason is that the very nature of the workloads in digital is best suited to cloud. Digital is, generally, characterized by elastic demand on the front end and workloads that are generally dynamic. Cloud is structurally very well aligned to that.

Secondly, a lot of the front end experience in digital – whether its through an app or intelligent kiosk or smart devices – and a lot of the new age technologies in that space are actually born on cloud.

Also, people who are designing the digital transformation projects can find readily usable APIs or platforms on cloud, which they can use. Not just from an infrastructure workload perspective but also from the whole design perspective a lot of digital projects heavily leverage APIs. And, that drives them towards cloud.

Q. What is driving the proliferation of multi-cloud environments among enterprises?
Multi-cloud environment is becoming a reality with a majority of the organizations. In some cases, it may be happening organically due to exigencies of the business and in other cases it may be an explicit design choice to avoid vendor lock-in and de-risk themselves.

What tends to happen in most enterprises is that different Lines of Businesses (LoBs) may have need for certain kind of agile capabilities and they procure their own capabilities over time. This may make business sense to the LoBs based on their requirements of quickly getting on board or catching up to competitive threat fast and they may not have the luxury of going through the traditional IT procurement or governance channel. This is beyond the CIO’s control. Over time, with the different LoBs doing things independently there is a proliferation of many different kinds of piecemeal cloud capabilities.

Similarly, an enterprise may have multiple ISVs critical to its business and each ISV would bring its own choice of cloud to the equation, which the enterprise would have to use in order to serve the business. Again, because of this constraint many organizations may find themselves in a multi-cloud environment.

Q. What are your suggestions on the right way to approach a multi-cloud environment?

My suggestion for CIOs is to follow the below mentioned five key design principles to maintain organization wide discipline and enforce the rigor in a multi-cloud setup.

Data Governance: This includes data residency and locality. You need to have a storage and data strategy that makes sure they have the right levels of backup and governance on their data architectures.

Security and Compliance: It is extremely important that your architecture delivers the security and compliance requirements that are expected from your organization – could be regulatory requirements or requirements of your own policy based on how you have seen attacks in the past. Ask yourself this question – what is the security and compliance architecture that you have designed for yourself and does it hold good in a multi-cloud environment?

Integration or API Management: When you are working with different APIs, both in-house as well as third party APIs, you need to ensure that they are adhering to the architectural guidelines of your organization. Also, while looking at the integration and API management point ensure that your cloud vendor is offering truly industry standardized offering rather than some vendor standardized offering.