Multi-cloud as viewed from a strategic perspective

The right cloud service for every use scenario, no vendor lock-ins, a high degree of reliably at the best possible level of performance – companies undergoing the digital transformation are increasingly recognizing the benefits of heterogeneous cloud environments. A white paper produced by the Cross-Business-Architecture Lab explains how EAM can help with the effective planning and management of such environments.

The introduction of cloud solutions is often accompanied by a paradigm shift: Instead of defining long-term target architectures, enterprise architectures are adapted over time on the basis of expanding knowledge and experience and through the use of iterative approaches. Traditional project organizations and hierarchical structures are pushed to their limits in such a setup, which means a new organization needs to be established.

“In the past, enterprise architecture focused on controlling risks through ever more precise planning,” says Björn Oestrich, Coordinator of the Cloud Guide III workstream, which produced the aforementioned white paper. “However, in the future, the decisive factor for ensuring the viability of a company will no longer be risk avoidance or risk prevention but instead adaptability – and adaptability also requires rules and guidelines. 

Enterprise architecture management will be expanded to include cloud management elements, which means it will have to become more agile. In addition, EAM will need to be able to effectively address uncertainties.” Nevertheless, the main tasks of enterprise architects will not change – i.e. they will still mainly be responsible for the transparent planning and implementation of the business and IT strategy, as well as the provision of a corresponding architecture.

Key messages in the white paper

  • The introduction of cloud solutions necessitates the reorganization of processes and hierarchies.
  • When choosing cloud services, you should initially identify the one that offers your company the most added value.
  • Multi-cloud strategies ensure the most effective exploitation of the innovative capability of each provider and also make it possible for the company using the cloud services to diversify its risks.
  • However, a multi-cloud approach also increases technical complexity, makes data integration more difficult, leads to additional security requirements, and makes accounting models more complicated. 
  • The services offered by cloud providers are becoming more and more similar, which is why a company should choose providers that best suit its strategy.

Even though the multi-cloud approach involves using the services of various selected cloud service providers, planning should not initially focus on being able to shift around applications easily. What’s more important is the ability to choose from among all selected CSPs the cloud services that offer your company the most added value. For example, a digital e-commerce initiative might require the use of a cloud platform designed for maximum scalability, while another initiative could involve transferring an extremely heavy analysis workload to a cloud platform developed especially to accommodate large storage pools.

The advantage offered by this multi-cloud or “best of the best” approach is that companies can utilize the innovative capability of each provider while also diversifying their risks. At the same time, the decision to use multiple providers should never be made on the basis of a single project. “Project-related decisions lead to a situation in which there is no structured incorporation of the CSP into the required cloud management processes, which in turn results in the creation of an uncontrolled component of the company’s IT system,” Oestrich explains.

Indeed, (multi-) cloud environments do have certain pitfalls which in particular can affect the management of technological complexity, as well as data integration, accounting models, and data security, and this presents enterprise architects with new challenges. Consider DevOps, which require agile project management – i.e. efficient and close cooperation between development, operational, quality assurance, and security units.

In the future, the decisive factor for ensuring the viability of a company will no longer be risk avoidance or risk prevention but instead adaptability. 
Björn Oestrich
Workstream Coordinator

Because many companies now face the challenge of incorporating the services of various cloud providers into their IT systems in an ordered and scalable manner, it makes sense to compare how CBA Lab member companies are addressing these integration issues. The Cloud Guide III workstream white paper therefore examines the network and communication level, the application and service level, and the data level.

In the area of network security, for example, the majority of the member companies utilize one of two approaches – on-premises control or cloud control, whereby the choice depends on their IT strategy, their goals, and the capabilities of their cloud provider. 

Integration with large providers such as Azure from Microsoft or AWS is usually implemented using the cloud control approach, since not doing so would lead to too much network-automation potential being left unused.

With regard to the data level, the choice of the integration approach depends heavily on the degree of protection the data requires. By definition, there is of course no approach that can be used with data that absolutely may not leave the company. In terms of data with lower protection requirements, the options are full integration into the cloud, partial integration, and encrypted integration. 

Conclusion reached in the white paper

Cloud providers are becoming more and more interchangeable in terms of the basic services they offer. Companies should therefore first define their strategy and then look for two cloud service providers whose strengths best fit that strategy. Proceeding in this manner also limits the number of integration approaches to be considered and used. Once again, the company strategy must be defined in advance if such a procedure is to be used successfully.

Please also read the professional article on this topic "EAM for better planning and management of multi-cloud solutions"

Download the white paper (German)