For many, when you mention the term “clouds,” they think of hurricanes, tornadoes and storms. In aviation, pilots are trained to never fly into a cloud as they can often destroy the plane. To help pilots and those earthbound, meteorologists help guide them and others to safety.

For cloud communications, we may need a similar approach to forecast, model and manage the impact of clouds in our business. If you prefer another analogy, you can choose to call it a cloud “conductor” as the leader of the orchestra – it knows how each instrument sounds and how to apply that knowledge to all the music in the symphony. In either case, cloud communications and computing are proliferating like a growing thunderstorm in our business lives. The thought of “everything in the cloud” is all the rage. Yet, as often in nature, too many clouds may cause a storm or worse. The enterprise cloud should really be thought in terms of providing the means to simplify network management, security, scalability, content, privacy, resilience and much more. Simply put, cloud solutions should lower costs, simplify business processes, enhance collaboration and improve customer services.

What are some key considerations for the CIO/CEO to evaluate multi-cloud strategies?

I have spoken with many C-levels on cloud issues and the key is to have a plan not just for one, but for integrating many, many clouds within the business. Multiple clouds from multiple providers might be a strategy for redundancy, the result of acquisitions, an effort at vendor leverage, the outcome of reining in a rogue line of business or any of a host of other reasons. But, it is an increasing reality, no matter the reason.

What this really means is that you will have more than one cloud – sometimes for even the same applications. Moreover, clouds will be connected to other clouds via application programming interfaces (APIs) and third parties and so on until there is just a thunderstorm of good intentions and potentially bad unanticipated consequences such as soaring costs, complex governance and management needs.

These unintended consequences do not mean that multi-cloud strategies (or realities through whatever circumstance) cannot achieve lower costs, simplified business processes, enhanced collaboration or improved customer services. But, it’s not going to happen without some planning, hard work and the right tools.

Avoiding the Storm When Clouds Gather

A few of my cloud clients have organized a template or specification for clouds ranging from simple checklists of required capabilities to preferred resource combinations or configurations such as FlexPod. This is shared, socialized and a common approach or outline is provided to all. This approach provides users seeking a specific cloud for their use case with a template to include in their RFP key elements, requirements and guidelines. These simple tools allow the C-level in charge of all clouds a better means to manage requests for cloud while managing overall business enterprise issues.

More sophisticated tools for managing multi-cloud environments are emerging. For example, CenturyLink offers a Cloud Application Manager to manage applications from start to finish. It can schedule deployments, scale, update, terminate workloads, and automate migration across environments to any cloud to best suit business needs and the needs of a given workload. It’s a single platform that gives management visibility and continuous auto discovery of available resources seamlessly and in any infrastructure on a single platform.

This approach is particularly important as any enterprise is increasingly faced with “build or buy” scenarios for their applications. All too often in real-world practices I have found that no one cloud “fits all sizes” and can lack specific requirements in key features, management tools, scaling, deployment or even training. For one global client, after analyzing more than 50 cloud providers, ease of use was found to be lacking, which was unacceptable to key managers. In the end, the client decided to build their own cloud. In the case of CenturyLink, Cloud Application Manager gives its use-case managers the ability to manage “building” applications from start to finish, schedule deployments, scale, update, terminate workloads, and automate migration across environments to any cloud to best suit business needs.

Bottom-line – Like forecasting the weather or even simple technology, new tools are available now to manage cloud development and delivery and all the additional resources required for their ongoing success to the business. But, you need a plan to move your applications and workloads from one cloud to another… and another… and so on.

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