In this recent Cloud Technology Partners podcast, The Next 5 Years Will Have More Digital Innovation Than the Last 50, cloud computing expert David Linthicum talks to Mike Bainbridge, former Chief Technologist of Rackspace about the role of the cloud in IT modernization.

As one of the cloud industry’s thought leaders, David Linthicum is well-known for his pioneering work in cloud computing. In their podcast, both David and Mike offer terrific insights around how enterprises are transforming themselves via the cloud.  Well worth the listen.

Towards the end of the discussion they touch on the topic of multi-cloud. This is one area where I disagree with their advice for enterprises. Multi-cloud refers to using more than one cloud vendor such as ASW, Azure or Google for your applications and workloads. Some companies opt for this approach to ensure that they don’t get locked into one particular platform.

David and Mike advocate enterprises choose a single provider for all their cloud needs. They talk about the risk of vendor lock-in being overblown, and advocate for strategic commitment to a single cloud platform with benefits like gaining in-depth knowledge and expertise, laying down standard deployment and management processes, etc.  My interpretation of their advice was…just make a decision Mr. CIO, stick with it, and force your organization to use the cloud of choice. 

I didn’t like this approach.  The idea that IT command and control rules the roost is no longer valid in today’s business and technology world. Enterprises must embrace the cultural changes of DevOps, self-service and the democratization of technology that is happening all around us.  Today’s best CIOs don’t look for innovation and technical solutions in a Gartner report or executive forum, and then lay down marching orders for the enterprise.  They tap into their technical teams and ask “What do you like?”  “What tech are you using in your personal projects?” “Show me proof of concept for something that might solve this problem.”

In an ideal world enterprises could simplify on a single cloud platform, but I don’t see that as reasonable option with independent business units/product teams and different innovative services being offered by the different cloud providers. In addition, enterprises need to consider the strategic impact of vendor lock-in in terms of cost, security and innovation. For example, will GCP’s strong focus on containerization change the fundamentals of IaaS economics and leap-frog AWS in three years?

A multi-cloud approach can offer not only many benefits including the flexibility to integrate best of breed technologies and services, but also enable basic vendor management of pitting one cloud provider against the others to drive value. And, multi-cloud environments CAN BE MANAGED with cloud agnostic automation technologies like DivvyCloud.  With pervasive data harvesting to identify problems or opportunities, and Bot automation to remediate issues without the need for human involvement many of the biggest risks and inefficiencies of multi-cloud management can be addressed.

Today’s cloud services are easily accessible and today’s employees are increasingly technologically sophisticated. The better path is to allow product and technology teams to use the clouds that best fit their needs and stay out of the way. Don’t try to force all your technologists, engineers, and developers through an old-school CMP, broker services, or service catalog approach.  It won’t work. 

They will go around you, setting up applications and services that will ultimately grow your shadow IT.  Instead, it’s better to have enterprise accounts across different cloud providers knowing your baseline cost, security and governance policies will run in the background and be ready to take action when someone wanders outside the lines.  Maybe in multi-cloud you can have your cake and eat it too!

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