Enterprises across industry segments are adopting digital and related technologies to drive business growth, become more agile, innovate continuously to stay competitive and thrive in the marketplace. Cloud is the primary technology platform that is powering the digital transformation, be it small or large enterprises. In this journey, there are more than one hyperscalers with compelling breadth and depth of services, and enterprises too are choosing more than one cloud to address their varying needs.
In a Multicloud/ hybrid cloud landscape, there is a need for co-existence of multi clouds in a harmonious manner. To achieve this, an enterprise needs to build ‘capabilities’ for cloud orchestration, interoperability, and portability in line with the enterprise and application requirements.
Cloud led digital transformation is expected to deliver a wide range of outcomes like optimize cost, improve IT resilience, build new customer experience, drive business growth, bring in higher business agility and more. For the outcomes to be delivered the ‘capabilities’ for multi-cloud co-existence need to wisely consider the timelines & investments needed to achieve it.
Orchestration, the first level ‘capability’ is the ability to leverage the right cloud as per enterprise application needs for workload placement and manage the provisioning lifecycle. Interoperability, the second level ‘capability’ extends abilities on application integrations & data flows, consistent security implementation, development & deployment experience, and manageability, ensuring business service levels , while services on individual clouds are leveraged to the maximum extent possible. Portability, as a ‘capability’ makes it possible to run the application in an identical manner across clouds through abstraction of underlying cloud services, and potentially limits access to cloud native capabilities.
What does implementation of portability involve?
The implementation of portability needs to consider people, process, and technology facets across all the vital building blocks in the IT stack,
- Infrastructure, Application Platform & runtime (like application server, container orchestration, database, messaging systems, etc.) and Business applications
- Security – Comprehensive & consistent implementation of Identity & access management, secrets management, encryption, vulnerability management.
- Management – Tools of trade in operations like monitoring, patching, backup, recovery, provisioning & configuration management.
- Developer Experience – DevOps, version control systems, code repository, release management, testing, etc.
Portability can be defined at the architectural & design level or at complete implementation level. The former provides the option to port-out at later point in time with limited investment upfront with better speed to market and the actual cost of porting expended only when the incident to port-out really occurs. The latter incurs the entire cost of implementation portability upfront and typically takes more time to implement.
Determining the extent of portability needed
To evaluate the need and extent of portability, critically examine the influencers and considerations to make this decision.
- Regulatory & compliance requirements for the business applications, especially the ‘Material’ applications/ systems.
- Long term commitment to the partnership with hyperscaler and any potential conflict that might arise in the foreseeable future
- Required control over key technologies that provide compelling advantage like launching disruptive products & services
- Ability to invest in platform capabilities to provide the required level of innovative technologies at price point on par with hyperscalers.
- Capacity to attract and retain talent to deliver the platform capabilities and required skills to build application with portable application technologies.
Defining the right journey forward
In a multi-cloud IT landscape, building Interoperability capabilities is essential. The portability roadmap can be created as follows:
- Start with regulatory needs. Typically, they mandate an ability to move out of a hyperscaler should a need arise, and timelines provided for that are quite liberal.
- Determine which part of business applications need portability to meet business objectives and resiliency targets. What is the primary reason to implement?
- Deploy simultaneously across two hyperscalers for scalability and resiliency.
- Port out in response to global and regional outages with hyperscalers?
- To build capabilities for portability and innovation, is the business willing to put additional money upfront for the cloud transformation program?
- Talent acquisition plays a major role. Is your organization the destination for those people who are creating platform technologies?
- On the application development side, currently the talent availability is balanced between hyperscaler technologies and portable open source-like technologies but this space needs to be watched closely.
- Commercial model and discount structure with hyperscalers require commitment on consumption. Porting out may lead to missing on the commitments and would have penalty implications.
- The hyperscaler may a technology partner now and could become a competitor on the business later, making it unviable to work with them.
Summarizing, the level of portability needed and scale of implementation in the enterprise, needs a well-thought out approach with adequate investments upfront and agree on some compromises that has to be made.