Embrace Multi-Cloud Complexity to gain Competitive Advantage

If you embrace the inherent complexity of multi-cloud and address it by modernizing operations, you can effectively turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

Lori MacVittie

June 22, 2022

4 Min Read
Embrace Multi-Cloud Complexity to gain Competitive Advantage
(Source: Pixabay)

Yes, this sounds like a paradox but there are benefits to being multi-cloud if you can manage the menagerie by modernizing your operational practices.

Nearly every company is now a multi-cloud company. Our latest research indicates that just one in ten – 10% - operate applications on-premises only. The vast majority of organizations operate applications across an increasingly diverse set of locations, including public cloud, SaaS, Edge, and colocation centers.

In fact, more than three-quarters (77%) operate applications in multiple clouds and employ an average of 2.9 XaaS. That’s Everything as a Service for the newcomer, which includes business processes, security, software, containers, and just about every app delivery service you can think of. Only 7% of organizations are not using some form of “as a service” today.

And that’s just applications. Looking at the deployment habits of app security delivery services finds companies using an average of 21 different types of services spread across core, cloud, and edge. I shudder to estimate the number of different products and services that introduces, each carrying its own operational model, console, and APIs.

It’s no wonder complexity is a significant barrier to scale and efficiency for organizations trying to accelerate their digital transformation journey. The number of consoles, APIs, operational models, and networks is nearly overwhelming – especially for classically trained teams.

Companies are well aware of the skill gaps in their organizations that make this more challenging. The gap for every skill increased dramatically over the course of a single year. Organizations reporting challenges with toolsets, for example, jumped from 40% in 2021 to 52% in 2022. For cloud provider tools and APIs, the increase was even greater – rising from 33% in 2021 to 55% in 2022. Languages and working with general APIs saw similar leaps year over year.

The challenge is growing, and the reality is that it’s going to continue to grow as organizations eye up edge as yet another environment in which they can deploy apps and app services.

It may be tempting, then, to pull back and address complexity by reducing the number of environments in use or forego expanding to edge. That would, after all, reduce the burden on operations by limiting the number of tools, consoles, languages, and APIs that need to be learned and used on a daily basis.

But there’s a different way to address the complexity challenge that, if executed correctly, can turn that complexity into a competitive advantage.

One way to address complexity without compromising on multi-cloud is to embrace SRE operations as a practice. With the exception of skill deficits for vendor-specific tools, organizations that adopted SRE practices reported skill deficits at significantly lower rates than their counterparts operating using classical techniques. For example, less than half (44%) of SRE-enabled organizations reported challenges with cloud provider tools and APIs as compared to more than half (55%) of non-SRE organizations. Toolset challenges dropped from 52% for non-SRE companies to 40% for SRE-enabled organizations. The impact on the skills gap alone should be enough to convince you that SRE as a practice is something you should adopt no matter how multi-cloud you may be.

How does that translate to competitive advantage? Well, it turns out that SRE operational practices appear to be a catalyst for organizations looking to leverage leading-edge technologies. Literally. Organizations that have already embraced SRE operations lead their contemporaries in edge computing plans and adoption, and their intention to use AI across business, operations, and security.

These technologies are foundational in the third stage of digital transformation, in which AI plays a significant role in decision making, automation, and security. Together, these technologies not only enable businesses to recognize the need to change based on market and technology, but it lowers the cost to do so. That’s a competitive advantage.

More immediately are the benefits of being able to operate across environments efficiently. Imagine being able to operate an app in the most strategic location – whether public cloud, core, or edge – without significant effort? The ability to efficiently operate in a multi-cloud model is significantly improved by the adoption of SRE practices. It’s no surprise that of those organizations that do not operate applications in multiple clouds, 68% have not adopted SRE practices. Conversely, of those who do operate apps in multiple clouds, 98% have adopted SRE practices.

By upskilling your operations and embracing SRE practices, you can leverage a powerful tool for reaching new markets, responding to opportunities, and creating new value for customers in a global digital market.

If you embrace the inherent complexity of multi-cloud and address it by modernizing operations, you can effectively turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

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About the Author(s)

Lori MacVittie

Principal Technical Evangelist, Office of the CTO at F5 Networks

Lori MacVittie is the principal technical evangelist for cloud computing, cloud and application security, and application delivery and is responsible for education and evangelism across F5's entire product suite. MacVittie has extensive development and technical architecture experience in both high-tech and enterprise organizations. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University. She also serves on the Board of Regents for the DevOps Institute and CloudNOW, and has been named one of the top influential women in DevOps.

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