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Key Design Principles for Digital Transformation through Multi-Cloud

Key Design Principles for Digital Transformation through Multi-Cloud

Ignacio M. Llorente

Chief Executive Officer at OpenNebula Systems

Sep 17, 2021

As organizations continue their digital transformation journeys, modernizing business processes and optimizing IT infrastructures, it’s clear that cloud computing, along with automation and orchestration, are becoming increasingly important. Digital transformation is defined as the process of using digital technology to radically improve the performance and reach of an organization. Cloud computing, however, is accelerating at such a fast pace that it makes it difficult for businesses to keep up, optimize their IT infrastructure for their unique needs, and deliver a consistent experience across a multi-cloud environment.

When considering a move to the cloud, it might be tempting to pick a single provider. But digital transformation services aren’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, there are many reasons why digital transformation requires organizations to make use of cloud services from multiple providers and avoid being locked into a single provider. Increased cost saving and price flexibility, risk mitigation, enhanced security and service availability, unlimited scalability, better agility, and the promise of each provider’s best solutions are all too great to ignore. 

The days of single public cloud deployments are gone. According to Gartner, multi-cloud strategies will reduce vendor dependency for two-thirds of organizations by 2024. The use of multiple clouds is by far the most common pattern among enterprises, with 92% (82% hybrid cloud and 10% multiple public cloud) adopting this strategy in Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report.

The truth is that managing and supporting multi-cloud is not an easy task. In an ideal world, application workloads—whatever their heritage—should be able to move seamlessly between (or be shared among) cloud service providers and to be deployed wherever the optimal combination of performance, functionality, cost, security, compliance, availability, and resilience is to be found—while avoiding the dreaded ‘vendor lock-in’. 

We recommend shaping your digital strategy with these key principles for making multi-cloud adoption a success:

1. Avoid Multi-Cloud through Hyperscalers

Although big cloud providers have spent years ignoring multi-cloud and hybrid cloud, now they are making their first steps towards embracing them. Hyperscalers are now starting to offer new platforms (e.g. AWS ECS Anywhere, Google Anthos) that work on other providers, and pre-configured hybrid cloud appliances (e.g. AWS Outpost, Microsoft’s Azure Stack) that promise to bring the power of the public cloud to the private cloud. While they offer the simplicity of using the same interfaces both on the public cloud and on a private data center, these proprietary solutions do not avoid the pitfalls of single-vendor reliance and can be very expensive in the long run.  

2. Avoid Proprietary-Source Solutions

The evolution of the modern cloud is leading to the creation of highly complex systems, often based on proprietary orchestration solutions by major vendors (e.g. Nutanix, VMware), that expand private clouds with resources from cloud providers. These proprietary-source solutions have predatory pricing and licensing models, are complex and expensive to deploy and maintain, and usually require the user to manually migrate or rebuild workloads. When the solution combines hardware and software, the problem is exacerbated and vendor lock-in is inevitable.

3. Adopt True Multi-Cloud  

Multi-cloud is not only about achieving interoperability, defined as the ability to manage your workload across every cloud from a single pane of glass. A true multi-cloud solution should also bring portability, defined as the execution of your workloads with the same images and templates on any infrastructure and their mobility across clouds and on-premises infrastructure, enhanced security, defined as the use of dedicated, isolated resources with improved security, privacy, and control, and expanded service availability, defined as the execution of applications to meet the quality of service requirements.

4. Not All Workloads Are Heading to the Cloud

Although multi-cloud will become the norm, there’s still a place for the on-premise data center, at least in the near term, either as part of a hybrid cloud strategy or to host legacy applications that, for whatever reason, are not suitable for migration to the cloud. Some of the main reasons to keep using on-premises resources to host workloads include cost, control, security, and performance. Moreover, modern distributed cloud environments can include edge on-premise or on-campus micro data centers in cases requiring extreme privacy and/or latency. 

In the 2020 edition of the Forrester/IBM report, The Key To Enterprise Hybrid Multicloud  Strategy, a survey of 350 global enterprise IT decision-makers found that more than half of mission-critical workloads and 47% of data-intensive workloads will still be run either on-premises or on an internal private cloud in two years. 

5. Be Ready for Cloud Repatriation

Cloud repatriation is the process of reverse-migrating application workloads and data from the public cloud to a private cloud located within an on-premise data center or to a colocation provider. Companies need to think about cloud repatriation upfront, optimize early, and apply a vendor-neutral approach from the very beginning. 

A recent study by VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has found that the cloud accounted for 50% of the cost of goods sold (COGS) in the top 50 public Software-as-a-Service companies—and with the number of public software companies growing, the problem adds up to $100 billion in market value. Cloud expenses are not really OpEx because many large companies end up having to accept spending commitments with the provider. For example, Snap said in 2017 that it had committed to spending $2 billion over five years on Google and $1 billion over five years on AWS. Other studies demonstrate that overprovisioning and always-on resources will lead to $26.6 billion in public cloud waste in 2021, not to mention energy waste…

6. Automate Deployment and Operations 

The original vision of cloud computing was automated, on-demand services that scale dynamically to meet demand. While this vision is now a reality for a single cloud, multi-cloud automation is complex and requires specialized tools to piece together solutions from technology stacks and services offered by hyperscalers. Multi-cloud platforms should be based on the automated deployment of nodes at cloud and edge locations with dynamic configurations to fit the needs of heterogeneous environments, the nature of the workloads, and development workflows. Deciding where to place an application is a complex decision based on infrastructure costs, data fees, performance, uptime, and latency. 

Streamline Your Operations with an Open Source Multi-Cloud Platform

You must find ways to simplify your cloud operations. With each provider you add to your multi-cloud environment, the management and operational complexity increases exponentially. Multi-cloud is familiar to many OpenNebula corporate users who have implemented their private cloud infrastructure with OpenNebula and now effectively operate their workloads in multi-cloud environments fully based on open source software. OpenNebula brings a vendor-neutral platform to orchestrate the datacenter-cloud-edge continuum that provides unified management of IT infrastructure and applications, avoiding vendor lock-in and reducing complexity, resource consumption, and operational costs.

ℹ️ To find out how to set up your Enterprise Multi-Cloud with OpenNebula, visit

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