The omnicloud is becoming omniscient

An Omnicloud strategy can add to the benefits of multi-cloud by providing a unified and integrated cloud platform that allows users to access and manage their data and applications from a single location, regardless of where those resources are physically located. The approach can help organizations to increase their agility, scalability, and flexibility while reducing costs, improving security, and enhancing user experience.

About the author

Chad Collins

Sr. Consultant, Product Perfect

As a senior software consultant and author with deep expertise in complex application development, Chad has 20 years of experience designing and developing large scale and program critical systems.

“An omni-cloud strategy can enable organizations to leverage the unique strengths and capabilities of multiple cloud providers while simplifying operations and reducing costs. By providing a unified and integrated cloud platform, organizations can improve their agility, scalability, and flexibility while enhancing security and user experience.”
David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Why be on just one cloud when you can diversify to multiple clouds? It’s now a thing. So many IT infrastructure executives are now adopting a multi-cloud strategy. This is not surprising, given the benefits it can bring. Multi-cloud allows businesses to leverage the strengths of multiple cloud providers, rather than being locked into a single vendor. This can lead to increased agility, scalability, and flexibility, as well as cost savings and improved security.

A hybrid cloud strategy, which combines both public and private clouds, is also becoming increasingly popular. This approach allows organizations to take advantage of the benefits of public cloud services, while keeping sensitive data and applications in a private cloud environment.

This omnicloud strategy is an interesting development. Taking full advantage of transition to the Cloud required careful allocation of resources and proper scaling among various applications. Multi-Cloud configuration requires the same kind of process among the different Cloud providers utilized. Governance at this level defines the omnicloud. It’s a focus on streamlining and dashboarding... managing different clouds, and providing a crisp user experience across different platforms.

But it takes work to set all this up. So, let’s break down the benefits of doing this in detail.  

  1. Moving to omnicloud brings powerful flexibility
    Scale-up or scale-down a cloud item on demand. Not in need of a high-volume processor server on a different cloud provider? Just flip the switch and it turns off. No big deal. The application running on that different cloud provider would not even be aware of it. It’s IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) too, so some DevOps firepower is also needed, but that’s a given.
  2. You’re most likely going to save money on the omnicloud
    Yes, you can save a little cash. That’s because cloud providers are not pricing their services the exact same. While 3 cents a day savings from moving images from a Microsoft Azure Blob storage container to an Amazon AWS bucket, (big whoop), the other areas of cloud, (Content Delivery Network caching, virtual machine charges, etc), may offer a far more dramatic savings opportunity. Keep in mind that the cloud providers themselves are counting the beans too, and they will find their pricing strategy with loss leaders and other techniques.  
  3. Overall, it’s better security
    A multi-cloud solution means you’re leveraging a combination of gritty tools and pass-through network gates... usually this is a very good thing. It allows a combination of security capabilities of several different cloud platforms. If done well, (which is a big “if”), this can mitigate the risks of cyber threats, data breaches, and other security threats. Remember- cloud security has lagged behind traditional server security for a while, but in the last few years it’s arguably achieving near full parity and that has made all the difference for network security engineers.
  4. The user experience of a single dashboard is far easier to understand the true picture and full costs
    It’s usually a tighter and cleaner overall experience. Less nonsense to parse through. Less complexity. More simple, intuitive screens with just a few options. But this means you have to get the right dashboard and the right product in place. Not all omnicloud products are the same and not all are worth their salt.

The cloud is maturing, paving the way for mature cloud-based products

In his article, 10 Emerging Cloud Computing Trends To Watch In 2020, Joseph Tsidulko claims current cloud computing trends are on a path to standardization and increasing compatibility, which is usually a sign of increasing maturity for a business. Cloud infrastructure is becoming less siloed. Containers, the workhorses of cloud computing, are getting even more portable while data streaming is becoming more ubiquitous. Tsidulko says the robustness of open source explains this standardization. It allows “a shift in focus up the stack, with new channel roles emerging to support application-level processes,” claims Tsidulko.

In his article Three challenges on the path to omnicloud, Kris Beevers calls omnicloud “The next generation of modern enterprise infrastructure.” It can bring together the best of each cloud computing provider says Beevers. Google’s machine learning application TensorFlow might be particularly appealing to a client who also uses Microsoft Azure as their analytics suite and Tableau for data visualization.

“Multi-cloud is also a way of defining architecture in which applications traverse many different utility computing paths. In this situation, the various cloud vendors are regarded as fundamental compute with an abstraction layer that hides the individual details. This is, in effect, the direct route to omnicloud... It’s like having the best of both worlds: omnicloud removes the infrastructure while delivering much wider coverage as well as added flexibility and lower latency.”
Kris Beevers, author

Beevers believes many companies claiming to be operating their own edge networks are in reality utilizing an omnicloud strategy. Because of the abstraction and orchestration layers being used, the kind of infrastructure a system runs on is immaterial, what is important is finding the most effective and cheapest distribution of the application workloads, argues Beevers. Usually, working with one provider only isn’t the most cost-effective.

Vendor lock-in? Or vendor blindfold?

In their Forbes article How Computing Has Evolved, And Why Multi-Cloud Is The Future, Debanjan Saha and Eyal Manor claim “Customers adopt multi-cloud strategies in an attempt to increase agility, minimize vendor lock-in, take advantage of best-in-breed solutions, improve cost efficiencies, and increase flexibility through choice.” That last phrase, through choice, is the key focal point of this article. If you go omnicloud, you basically achieve a flexible approach. You can lean left to AWS, or lean right to Azure, or pull back to IBM, or a mixture of local on-prem with AWS and yet a touch of Azure. It’s going to  invert the paradigm a bit, because instead of locking in the corporate customer, it does the opposite. It blindfolds executives to what they’re really running on, and gives the power back to the IT guys, (DevOps Larry in the back), to make some engineering decisions and be left alone to turn the knobs and tighten the screws to his liking. Normally this is concerning to IT executives and senior management, but again, DevOps Larry in the back is the most knowledgeable expert in the organization and should be valued and trusted rather than discredited and disgruntled. That’s right... he needs to be empowered and trusted to make some of these short term and long technical decisions carefully and thoughtfully, (with accountability and upward exposure of course).  

But blindfolded or not, let’s go through the major providers’ omnicloud-compatible strategies and products to tap on their heads in a fun game of duck, duck, goose... First up is AWS...

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS has been expanding its offerings to enable customers to build and manage their applications across multiple cloud environments, now playing more friendly in the omnicloud mindset. AWS Outposts is a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools to customer premises, while AWS Transit Gateway enables customers to connect multiple virtual private clouds (VPCs) and on-premises networks.

Google Cloud

Anthos, a platform offered by Google Cloud, allows customers to oversee all their  applications on different cloud environments including as Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure. It offers a single web based platform for viewing, deploying, managing, and securing cloud-based web applications and APIs. Anthos is constructed based on open standards, which grants customers ultimate freedoms and full flexibility to determine how to they wish to configure and navigate their Multi-Cloud ecosystem overall.

In June 2020, Google introduced its Anthos-powered BigQuery Omni for Multi-Cloud Analytics, an analytics solution allowing users to analyze their data across Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Azure datasets in a single view. According to Saha and Manor, BigQuery lets data analysts with limited SQL knowledge do petabyte-scale data analysis.

Why BigQuery Omni is a Big Deal Source: Yitaek Hwang

Google's BigQuery is a data warehouse platform that allows businesses to store and analyze large amounts of data. In addition to its powerful data processing capabilities, BigQuery also features built-in machine learning models that enable users to gain insights and predictions from their data.

To further enhance the capabilities of BigQuery, Google Cloud offers a tool called "Data QnA." This innovative solution leverages AI voice-activated technology to enable users to interact with petabytes of data stored in BigQuery in a conversational manner. This means that users can simply ask questions in plain language, and the system will provide relevant answers and insights. One of the key benefits of Data QnA is that it can be seamlessly integrated into a user's workflow. For example, if a business analyst needs to quickly get insights on a specific dataset, they can simply use Data QnA to ask a question and receive an answer, without having to switch between different applications or interfaces. Users won’t have to switch contexts and make ad hoc requests to often-overburdened business intelligence teams, contend Saha and Manor. Instead, a sales manager can query a chatbot about monthly sales trends, helping analysts save time as well as gain a deeper understanding of their data.

Microsoft Azure

In an article with a title that says all that needs to be said about Microsoft’s new omnicloud strategy, Azure stealthily implements omni-cloud features that mirror those AWS, Kurt Marko explains that while Andy Jassy, AWS CEO had loudly claimed a stake for AWS as the cloud über alles, Microsoft was covertly building a similar horizontally scalable cloud solution based on Azure and the Azure Stack. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, agrees with Jassy that the cloud “is an operating and service model for infrastructure and applications, not a place.” Glad we got that straight... Below visualizes this:

Network Edge Compute (NEC) and Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) have many inherent differences.
Microsoft Azure Network Edge Compute Offerings. Source: Microsoft

Challenges and barriers to the adoption of omnicloud

Implementing an omnicloud solution can be a complex and challenging task for businesses. Beevers contends a lot of time and considerable financial resources are needed to deploy mnicloud successfully. Leading deep-pocketed big tech companies have invested in omnicloud and so have some of the most cutting-edge, innovative start-ups. While the former have IT budgets in hundreds of millions, the latter had simplified journeys to the cloud because they weren’t burdened by legacy systems that required massive code rewrites.

Applications can be built from scratch, providing them with the latest cutting-edge technology available. Currently, the omnicloud model is in its earliest stages, says Beevers, but several barriers will need to be addressed before there is widespread enterprise adoption. Some of the main challenges that companies face in implementing an omnicloud solution include:

  • The complexity of integration
    Integrating different cloud platforms and applications can be a complex and time-consuming process. Companies need to ensure that their cloud platforms and applications are compatible and can work together seamlessly. One of the biggest challenges for omnicloud is figuring out the best way “to get data to the right place, at the right time, to serve the requests or workloads that need to be served,” states Beevers. It is difficult and costly, and moving data between cloud services adds a level of data insecurity to the process. That is the last thing any Cloud application needs...
    Of course, with massive amounts of data comes issues of utilization, or orchestration, as many like to refer to it. A sister problem to data mobility is the orchestration of resources and workloads across various clouds and applications. Kubernetes addresses this challenge, but still, for enterprises, it can be a significant barrier to adoption of omnicloud, necessitating specialist technical knowledge and help.
  • Handling data security and compliance
    Managing data security and compliance can be a challenge when utilizing multiple cloud platforms. Companies need to ensure that their data is secure and compliant with regulations across all cloud platforms.
  • Having skills and expertise
    Implementing and managing an omnicloud solution requires specialized skills and expertise. Companies need to ensure that they have the right people with the necessary skills and expertise to manage and optimize their omnicloud solutions. This is a small pool of candidates...
  • Optimizing costs
    Managing costs can be challenging when using multiple cloud platforms. Companies need to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their cloud spend and optimize their cloud usage to avoid cost overruns. One forgotten instance left running over a weekend can be a $300,000 oversight...
  • Ensuring optimal performance and low latency
    For connectivity, another barrier that exists  is, according to Beevers, “the management of application and service traffic in the application stack, ranging from the cloud to the user, so that performance and resource use are optimized.” DNS is an important leverage point for connectivity and “the ability to abstract that complexity away by automating traffic steering through DNS unlocks the power of omnicloud,” contends Beevers.
  • Managing change
    Implementing an omnicloud solution involves significant changes in the way IT resources are managed and deployed. Companies need to ensure that they have a clear change management plan in place to minimize disruption and ensure a smooth transition to the new cloud ecosystem.

Implementing an omnicloud solution requires careful planning, specialized skills, and expertise to overcome the challenges and reap the benefits of this approach.

Graphic displaying the benefits and drawbacks of the public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud.
Public vs private vs hybrid cloud: At a glance. Source: BMC

A look around and a look ahead

In its April 16, 2021 Cloud Computing Market Sizereport, Fortune Business Insights™ sees the market for cloud computing growing at a CAGR of 17.6% over the next few years, reaching USD 684.55 billion by 2027. A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money...

Looking more closely at enterprises that openly operate their own edge networks, what becomes apparent is that they have actually established an omnicloud infrastructure. They can “intelligently orchestrate their application traffic and automate the life cycles of the resources that support it,” claims Beevers, even spinning up and controlling capacity in close proximity to their audiences. He provides the example of a gaming company that utilizes “Amazon Web Services in Singapore, Google in Amsterdam, and Azure in South Africa to ensure the best performance for those regions.” Additionally, it may spin up a workload in Australia to support elevated capacity during the launch of a new game says Beevers. The abstraction layer means that the infrastructure running underneath matters little. The only important thing “is the successful distribution of the application workloads,” states Beevers. Perhaps this is the first example of what will be called the Meta-omnicloud...

The complexity of customer experience and customer personalization solutions has grown exponentially since AI and machine learning were added to the process. Trying to send the right offer at the right time for the right amount on the right channel at just the right time is an incredibly complex task. And with today’s big data environments getting bigger with the addition of real-time streaming, and the explosion of IoT data just around the corner, things are not going to be getting any easier any time soon. Cybersecurity continues to haunt enterprises, one that can no longer be ignored as the newest bad actors are not just hacker groups but, in some cases, nation-states eyeing corporations for their coveted IP. The future could look challenging for already overworked IT departments but they might just find some respite in the cloud. While omnicloud doesn’t address all of the issues facing overburdened IT departments, it certainly addresses some of the key ones and is definitely ruling the cloud strategy for most progressive organizations.

Takeaways

The omnicloud is red hot. Here’s what you need to remember.

  1. Simplified management of so many details
    An omnicloud platform can provide a single pane of glass for managing resources across multiple cloud environments. This can simplify operations and reduce the burden on IT staff.
  2. Improved agility across so much complexity
    With an omnicloud platform, organizations can quickly provision and de-provision resources as needed, allowing them to respond more rapidly to changing business needs.
  3. Enhanced security is achievable
    An omnicloud platform can provide a consistent set of security policies and controls across multiple cloud environments, reducing the risk of security breaches.
  4. Increased flexibility overall
    An omnicloud platform can allow users to easily move workloads between cloud environments, enabling them to take advantage of the unique features and capabilities of each cloud provider. Swap things, make changes, and do it in seconds or minutes at the most.
  5. You will save money, because it simplifies the complexity
    By leveraging multiple cloud providers, organizations can select the most cost-effective services for each workload, reducing overall cloud costs.
  6. Better user experience and smarter visuals
    An omnicloud platform can provide a consistent user experience across multiple cloud environments, making it easier for users to access and use cloud resources. It also shows executives the simpler and more comprehensible data that they could not get in the past from jargon and gibberish techno-babble from the IT guys.


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