The Keys That Unlock Multicloud Success

A spotlight on how VMware and customers are embracing hybrid multicloud operations

Understanding the importance of good support should be the first step to any multicloud journey.

There are four considerations that companies embarking on a multicloud strategy shouldn’t ignore. The first is that cloud adoption is on the rise, accelerated by a pandemic-induced rush to remote and self-service access to operations.

The second is that organizations are looking to more than one cloud provider or technology stack to support their operations and how they deliver their services. This trend to embrace choice recognizes a desire for flexibility and the best-fitting solution. However, unrestrained and without strategic direction, it paves the way for productivity-draining complexity, which is a known burden on the IT infrastructure and application systems in many companies.

The third consideration is employing the construct of abstraction, treating hybrid IT and multicloud environments as one, with consistent controls, governance, privacy and security policies. This provides a powerful approach to managing the complexity of choice. Simplifying and applying consistency to cross-platform delivery not only improves automation and scale, but also makes productive distributed management possible.

The fourth observation is that deep-seated visibility of the whole operational ecosystem is crucial to the level of control needed for optimized operations. This is especially true when it comes to managing cost and use of cloud platforms, as well as pre-emptively catching vulnerabilities.

Armed with these insights, how should organizations react and where should they start?

Recently, VMWare showcased different approaches to supporting multicloud management for two of its cloud portfolio customers, Growth for Knowledge (GfK) and Salesforce. We believe both offer valuable insights on how to achieve success with hybrid IT and multicloud operations.

Below we explore them in detail as good examples that can aid IT decision-making in this critical and maturing field.

GfK and Salesforce: Unique Approaches to Hybrid Multicloud Operations

GfK is an 85-year-old global provider of data and analytics. Its central IT organization was supported by mature and established on-premises data centres and delivery processes. But even those that are well-equipped with the technical capacity, expertise and robust operational resources recognize the power and value of cloud platforms. GfK saw the benefit of delivering new applications to the market faster and widening their reach, a familiar reason why many other organizations look to expand their on-premises IT infrastructure or transition to the cloud.

GfK’s cloud journey was motivated by this need to rapidly deliver many types of high-performing app. Like many organizations looking to move to a cloud solution, GfK focussed on keeping ownership of core application processing functions, and governance of the cloud services. It aimed to augment and add new capabilities using cloud services from a variety of providers that best serve specific needs.

Another established customer of VMware Cloud is Salesforce, a globally recognized provider of cloud-based, software-as-a-service customer relationship management systems. Salesforce’s multiple acquisitions strengthened its suite of enterprise applications and created a need to optimize the budget spread of different cloud operations brought into its fold.

The different approaches of GfK and Salesforce to engagement and management support offer good examples for understanding what really matters with multicloud operations. Specifically, the technical experience of GfK and the financial directions of Salesforce may provide an effective framework for managing and optimizing hybrid systems and multicloud operations.

GfK’s technical experience highlights the architectural approach, with strategies for sustaining multiple application and cloud technology stacks. In contrast, Salesforce’s experiences emphasize the business imperative for multicloud management solutions to be capable of optimizing use and costs of cloud solutions.

Areas of Success

CCS Insight has identified several areas of success that GfK and Salesforce both demonstrate.

1. Adapting through Abstraction, Consistency and Choice

Firstly, bringing together application services and operational platforms from different providers so that they’re configured and managed in one place offers powerful value. Abstracting the differences without exposing the complexities and dependencies of implementation maximizes the support for scale and automation. And in GfK’s case, it broadened the development scope for its apps team, providing access to features and capabilities without waiting for them to build out their expertise.

This method isn’t a limit to choice, but rather an approach that embraces the model of building and running apps anywhere. It allows GfK’s IT team to focus on the build, delivery, governance and infrastructure support to provide a curated catalogue of services. This gives its apps team the freedom to build the right application and support features using the most appropriate service without constraints. Importantly, the team is able make the most from learning one set of configuration skills and experiences.

2. Single Point of Access with a Marketplace Catalogue

Secondly, a cloud management platform strategy that allows central teams to unify access to multiple services from different systems and providers creates an environment for self-service operations. It’s a feature that GfK’s IT team recognizes as paving the way for a central market catalogue — a one-stop shop for services that meet the different needs of its customers.

3. Visibility Is an Imperative for Optimization

Thirdly, without deep-level visibility, applied consistently throughout a diverse operating environment, it’s hard to get detailed insight into the spending that occurs on different cloud stacks. This makes it difficult to optimize costs and ensure that different parts of the organization are accountable for their cloud spending.

With the right level of visibility, companies can develop better strategies to resolve underused resources, and lean on support tools such as recommendation engines to better assess commitments. This allows for better sizing up of processing power that works with the yearly operating dynamics of workloads. It also helps businesses gain a better understanding of the cycles that happen in different teams.

Companies need a more progressive approach to cost optimization, financial planning and management. Given the spread of hybrid operations and systems within organizations, cross-platform visibility and management that includes multicloud operations presents an opportunity for more productive relationships in the business. Teams with greater accountability for their cloud spending and usage are better placed to discuss yearly budgets, giving them more effective partnerships with financial teams and business heads.

Together, these areas represent important considerations for businesses in pursuit of this strategy. However, another critical aspect is partnering with the right supplier. One company that has been investing heavily in helping enterprises with hybrid multicloud strategies is VMware. Below we take a closer look at its strategy.

VMware’s Cornerstones for Multicloud Operations

VMware’s vRealize, CloudHealth by VMware and VMware Tanzu are core components of VMware’s cloud operating model that illustrate the company’s modular portfolio of multicloud services. Crucially, it showcases its strategy and starting point for unified multicloud and hybrid infrastructure operations and management control.

vRealize provides operations management for vSphere-based private and cloud environments of virtual machines and containers. CloudHealth simplifies cloud financial management and resource use by providing visibility into and across public cloud infrastructure and services. And VMware Tanzu is a modern application platform that supports the building, running and management of Kubernetes-controlled, container-based applications.

Together, these solutions form an integrated set of tools enabling consistent management of delivery, performance, costs and security across multiple technology stacks. They help to streamline operations and improve governance and security, even if customers operate a mix of on-premises systems and cloud platforms from providers. It is the same for building and managing apps deployed to the VMware Cloud platform on-premises and in public clouds, or directly to native public cloud services from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

A Heritage in Cross-Platform Infrastructure Management

VMware is by no means alone in its approach to helping organizations employ the right management controls for their multicloud operations. But several factors raise the profile of its capabilities and highlight the edge it has in a dynamic and competitive market.

The company enjoys the heritage of strong cross-platform virtualization. The broad footprint of its infrastructure management solutions and products within data centres around the globe give the company substantial insights into management control. These traits shine a light on a supplier with commanding credentials for the management of IT operations and infrastructure environments that typically support many organizations.

Studies carried out by CCS Insight continuously highlight organizations preferring any IT transition or adoption journey to begin with a preferred provider or technology with a strong market presence. VMware’s continued focus on a consistent deployment framework to ease the transition to cloud operations for its numerous customers aligns with this preference. This also highlights the company’s ability to support multiple cloud stacks, presenting the opportunity to deliver credible multicloud guidance and management services.

How Salesforce and GfK Deployed VMware Cloud Management

CloudHealth by VMware provided Salesforce the cross-platform visibility and unified view for a multicloud operation built on the acquisitions made by the company. With it, Salesforce knows the unified visibility it provides across its multicloud operations saves it from wasting resources gathering the information. Importantly, it’s opening up the opportunity to explore and gain deeper insights for better resource use, new types of metric, policies and cost-saving strategies to deliver a bigger impact.

GfK’s multicloud management journey began with the company’s long-standing use of vRealize for its private cloud operations. This enabled its IT team to use expertise gained in applying the product’s automation capabilities to smooth out the implementation requirements to extend the team’s vSphere environment onto clouds from AWS and Google. Using vRealize also enabled the team to “shift left” — that is, performing testing earlier in the workflow — some responsibilities and to focus more on governance and helping internal customers use different cloud services more efficiently. Crucially, vRealize has given GfK the space to better engage more with its customers, enabling them to be part of the cloud service life cycle management process, especially when it comes to provisioning and monitoring.

Using VMware Cloud on AWS and Google Cloud VMware Engine has also helped GfK rapidly scale out its on-premises workload to the cloud as and when extra capacity is needed. The company has combined the use of these VMware cloud services with a variety of solutions from AWS and others, opening the way for its IT team to focus on optimizing the cloud services they run, add new ones and explore new cloud support capabilities such as disaster recovery.

A Buoyant Multicloud Market Is ahead of Us

Surveys carried out by CCS Insight in the second half of 2020 and in early 2021 exposed how widespread cloud-based operations are in organizations of all sizes. They show that many firms are committing to transition more of their core business applications and operational systems to run in a mix of public and private cloud environments. They also highlight the sizeable footprint of cloud-based development services, with increasing support and demand for programming and operational systems such as containers and Kubernetes.

Containers and Kubernetes streamline and unify development, deployment and orchestration of services across hybrid IT environments, and serve as important constructs for cloud-native application architectures.

Collectively, our results point to a diverse range of applications, tools and infrastructure, running both in private and public cloud environments. Many providers make up the cloud ecosystem, with hyperscale public cloud platforms from the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google, which have seized sizeable but comparable market shares.

From this alone it would be safe to conclude that support for multicloud operations is set to be a hot area. But this assertion is reinforced by our Senior Leadership IT Investment Survey, 2020, which surveyed 736 decision-makers from small, medium and large organizations in the US and Europe. According to this study, 46% of respondents are pursuing multicloud strategies, driven by choice, innovation, cost and a desire to avoid supplier lock-in. Flexibility and resilience present powerful additional reasons. For some regulatory industries, support for services from multiple cloud providers may even be a requirement for compliance.

Conclusion: Choose Wisely for Multicloud Management

Developing a multicloud management strategy is vital for successful multicloud operations. Choosing the right partner and support services will be determined by a range of factors — breadth and quality of solutions, openness, usability, cost flexibility, training and professional services, to name a few. That said, the journey must start from a position of strength, most notably having the ability to reuse expertise, practices and resources already invested.

As more enterprises pursue a strategy in the area and multiple providers begin to offer solutions, we believe VMware along with customers Salesforce and GfK offer unique insights to help businesses get started in multicloud operations.