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Multi-Cloud is Now the Norm, Nutanix Study Finds

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted most business operations as organizations shifted to work-from-home environments. Nearly two years later, organizations continue to offer a more flexible work setup for employees, and multi-cloud is the model they’re using to support it.
Multi-cloud — which combines multiple clouds, public or private — is more commonly deployed by enterprises and is expected to grow. Worldwide, 36% percent of organizations are currently using multi-cloud, with adoption expected to soar to 64% in the next one to three years. Multi-cloud adoption for enterprises with 5,000 or more employees is even greater, with more than half (57%) using multi-cloud.
The findings come from Nutanix’s fourth annual “Enterprise Cloud Index,” a study exploring the state of global enterprise cloud adoption. Nutanix, in partnership with market research firm Vanson Bourne, surveyed 1,700 IT decision-makers from various industries around the world in August and September 2021. Respondents were asked about their current cloud use, challenges, future plans, and how the pandemic impacted their IT strategy and priorities.
Although multi-cloud adoption is on the rise, most organizations have trouble operating across multiple clouds. The leading multi-cloud deployment challenges cited by the respondents are managing security (49%), data integration (49%), managing cross-cloud costs (43%), and app performance (42%). These challenges can be attributed to organizations struggling with effectively managing mixed cloud environments and moving workloads among them.
Organizations currently running on-prem data centers are planning to transition away from them soon. Only 5% of organizations expect to have traditional data centers in one to three years. Whether organizations follow through with their intentions remains to be seen. Many have legacy mission-critical apps that older data centers can support, while others find it challenging to rewrite apps for a cloud environment. Businesses tend to be overly pollyannaish about their ability to transition technology. Think back to mainframes to PCs, TDM voice to VoIP, and physical servers to virtual servers. In each case, migration took businesses much longer, and that will likely be the case with multi-cloud. In many ways, how fast it happens isn’t as important as the fact the industry is trending that way.
Most (87%) IT decision-makers agree that multi-cloud success can be achieved by simplifying management and operations. Over the last year, 91% of organizations have moved one or more apps to a new IT environment, citing key reasons like security (41%), performance (39%), and gaining control of apps (38%). However, 80% feel moving workloads to a different cloud environment remains costly and time-consuming, with 77% saying workload portability is a big challenge. I believe AIOps will play a key role in making managing large-scale, multi-cloud easier. Today, AIOps is in its infancy, but IT professionals should be investing heavily in this area.
The majority of IT decision-makers believe hybrid multi-cloud — where multiple private and public clouds have interoperability between them — is an ideal model. They feel hybrid multi-cloud can provide the flexibility and agility most organizations need today, while simplifying operations. This model can also address key deployment challenges cited by the respondents, including security, data integration, and app mobility.
Hybrid multi-cloud can provide a unified cloud environment where security and data governance policies are equally applied. But first, an organization must adopt tools that unify and automate cross-cloud operations and management. In the coming year, organizations will likely focus on simplifying operations, according to the study.
Organizations realize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and many are taking a strategic approach toward their IT infrastructure. Some of the most common reasons why organizations are changing their IT infrastructure models include: improving remote work and collaboration (40%), supporting customers better (36%), and strengthening business continuity (35%).
Organizations feel the best cloud environment for each workload or app is based on factors like security, compliance regulations, accessibility, performance, cost, and where an app is in its lifecycle. These factors can change over time. So, to prepare for a multi-cloud IT infrastructure, organizations must have integrated tools that enforce security policies across clouds. Additionally, organizations must be able to move apps among infrastructures efficiently.
That’s where hybrid multi-cloud comes into play. It will help organizations move away from managing these complexities and enable IT infrastructures to work for their business, the report concluded.
One of the aspects of multi-cloud that the report did not investigate is the appetite for distributed cloud, which can be thought of as multi-cloud with edge computing. In this case, the cloud expands from centralized clouds and adds in multiple edge locations, hence the term distributed. I’ve talked to IT professionals in industries like retail, manufacturing, entertainment, gaming, and others that are currently looking at how to incorporate the edge into their cloud strategy.
The cloud industry moves fast, often faster than most IT professionals are comfortable with. But businesses should heed the data in the report and understand that multi-cloud is the path forward, which I believe will quickly give way to distributed cloud. Some might view a move to multi-cloud as risky, but soon it will be riskier not to move.