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Multicloud isn't necessary, says Gartner … until it is

The downside is complexity. The upside, if you strategize properly, is specialist services and diversity

Broadcom's $61 billion acquisition of VMware is predicated on the world needing Virtzilla's multicloud management tech. But analyst firm Gartner this week said orgs should neither assume they'll need multiple clouds, nor rush to use them.

Gartner's definition of "multicloud" is using two clouds for similar services. If you use Salesforce and AWS, that counts as one SaaS and one IaaS – not multiple clouds. But running VMs or K8s in Azure and AWS means you're a multiclouder.

If that's you, our deepest sympathies. Gartner senior director analyst Hassan Ennaciri told the IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference in Sydney on Tuesday that orgs using multiple clouds have it tough. Clouds are sufficiently diverse that working with more than one is hard, because you need people with the specific skills. Finding that talent for one cloud is hard – finding people with the skills to work across multiple clouds is even harder.

Ennaciri also pointed out that big clouds are open to negotiated discounts – the more you spend, the more they are willing to talk. "You will be offered lower discount tiers if you split your spend," he warned.

Forget the idea that using multiple clouds improves resilience, he added, because app portability is largely a myth.

So what's Broadcom smoking?

Ennaciri said that while using multiple clouds isn't necessary, it's possible you'll find a good reason to use more than one cloud – so a strategy is necessary.

Working with more than one cloud might just come in handy the next time something like a pandemic comes around. Ennaciri shared a story of an org that needed virtual desktops in a hurry during COVID and couldn't get all it needed from its biggest cloud provider. A smaller supplier was able to save the day.

The analyst also pointed out that clouds offer specialist services you might need for a particular app, but which are not needed for the bulk of your workloads.

Ennaciri therefore recommended picking one cloud supplier as your primary, and ensuring you have the skills to use it well. But as needs arise, don't rule out using other clouds if their services meet your needs.

"We see most success when organizations pick a primary provider, and only allow use of a secondary when there is a need or business justification," he explained. But don't use that secondary or subsequent cloud for things you've learned to do well with your primary providers – use them tactically for their particular strengths instead. That approach leaves you with the tricky task of managing multiple clouds, but hopefully not exposed to the far harder task of running a multicloud architecture that requires the kind of security and identity overlays Broadcom and VMware want you to buy.

Those vendors are probably still going to do alright, though. Ennaciri said 80 percent of organizations already use multicloud – they just ended up that way accidentally, so will need to manage the mess they created. ®

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