4 steps agencies can take to avoid multi-cloud chaos

Late last year, the Defense Department announced a $9 billion multi-cloud contract spread across Amazon Web Services, Google, Oracle and Microsoft. The Pentagon...

Late last year, the Defense Department announced a $9 billion multi-cloud contract spread across Amazon Web Services, Google, Oracle and Microsoft. The Pentagon’s decision to pursue a multi-cloud approach reflects a growing trend among federal agencies. A recent survey by SAIC and Market Connections found approximately 70% of agencies already utilize two or more cloud vendors.

Adopting a multi-cloud strategy is a smart move. It provides federal agencies with the flexibility to use the best cloud for any workload, objective and budgetary consideration. It also provides redundancy. If one cloud provider experiences an outage, agencies have alternative options they can turn to.

Despite these benefits, a multi-cloud strategy can often feel chaotic, complex and difficult to manage.

To fully leverage the advantages of multi-cloud approaches, the federal government must have an effective strategy in place. Let’s look at four steps they can take to build a supportive framework.

1. Observability is key

Multi-cloud environments present a big challenge for IT, DevOps and cloud teams: visibility.

Without a bird’s eye view into their environments, IT pros struggle to understand the overall health, performance and security of their IT infrastructure. If an issue occurs, conducting effective root cause analysis becomes difficult, hindering the ability to address problems swiftly and efficiently. The problem is exacerbated by an overload of information generated by disparate and siloed monitoring tools.

This has led to the rise of observability.

With intelligent, single pane of glass observability into hybrid and multi-cloud environments, teams gain a holistic overview of their cloud IT systems. With this full-stack visibility, they can monitor network, database sources, infrastructure and application data from a single vantage point. Unlike traditional monitoring, observability leverages AIOps and machine learning-powered anomaly detection and forecasting to proactively detect issues before they impact performance, compliance and resilience.

2. Map the agency’s workload

With many cloud providers at their disposal and critical systems, applications and data at stake, federal IT teams must determine which workload to run in which cloud. To achieve multi-cloud success, IT pros need a workload placement process for determining where their applications and databases live and run.

While each CSP has strengths and weaknesses, IT teams must assess the requirements and characteristics of each workload so they can make informed decisions about where it should reside and operate.

Factors such as workload dependencies and relationships, data sensitivity, compliance regulations, performance requirements and cost considerations all come into play during the workload placement process.

3. Match each workload with the right cloud

When assessing the right cloud for each workload, agencies must start with data.

After all, databases underpin any workload and require the most storage, computing and network cloud consumption. They also represent the bulk of cloud costs. Agencies must assess each cloud provider to determine if it offers the right balance of security, availability and performance for their preferred database technology.

Data placement decisions must also consider federal data sovereignty and compliance requirements. If these require agencies to maintain complete control of certain databases, these should be kept on-premises or in a private cloud.

4. Put it in a container

Containerization is a critical element of multi-cloud environments. Packaging applications and databases in a container allows for portability across clouds, without sacrificing performance. It also makes it easier for DevOps teams to test various apps in different clouds.

Another important benefit of containerization in multi-cloud environments is cost control. When developers use native technology specific to a given cloud, the agency can quickly get locked into expensive long-term agreements with a single cloud provider. But with containerization, developers can use the same code base while moving the application from one cloud to another or back on-premises – while keeping an eye on the costs across different providers.

Agencies can also incorporate platforms like Kubernetes and Docker to orchestrate and manage containerized workloads seamlessly across cloud providers to ensure databases and applications are optimized.

The freedom to choose

Multi-cloud environments are a new reality for the federal government. When done right, these environments do not have to be chaotic or complex. In fact, with an effective multi-cloud strategy in place, IT, DevOps, and cloud teams can experience a sense of freedom, allowing them to leverage the most suitable cloud for each specific task while ensuring optimal dexterity, performance and cost control.

Krishna Sai is global vice president of engineering at SolarWinds, leading ITSM, AIOps, and next-generation initiatives.

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