Crafting a Strategy to Support Multicloud Reliability

Suppose your organization is concerned about optimizing the availability of its services or overly worried about being reliant on a single cloud provider. In that case, you might be considering moving to a multicloud solution. Migrating from a single provider to multiple providers is a lot more complicated than deploying your applications in a different environment. 

Moving to a multicloud solution presents many unique and complicated challenges in terms of both deployment and support. In a previous article, we discussed the top four challenges that SREs face when working with multicloud environments. In this article, we will address some different approaches that you might consider using to address these challenges. 

Clearly Defining Your Goals and Objectives

There are many reasons why your organization might be considering a multicloud approach, and it’s critical to the success of the project that you are clear about the reasons for the move and the advantages that your organization is hoping to gain by doing it. Once the objectives are clear, you must communicate them to your development, operations, and SRE teams so that they understand your expectations and can work to achieve your goals.

A plan for implementing a multicloud approach in order to ensure constant availability will look very different from a plan designed to optimize costs or reduce vendor lock-in. The costs of implementing and supporting these systems differ dramatically.

Start with Security and Access Management

All of the major public cloud providers offer an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution. While these solutions work well within their own platforms, cross-platform access can be hard to handle given the importance of managing access and ensuring that users have sufficient permission to complete their tasks. In addition, you also need to limit access where it isn’t required. Ideally, you need an approach that addresses access across all accounts. 

One approach is to use a third-party system that can integrate with each of the cloud providers and provide single-sign-on capabilities for your users while also maintaining a single control plane for management and auditing. 

Simplifying Integration with an API-First Approach

An API-first approach to system design and development helps avoid many of the complications introduced by the slightly different service implementations used by various cloud providers. You begin by defining how services will interact and share data, and then you implement that API for each of the underlying systems that support it. 

Using a standard API makes it easier to access a service hosted with a different cloud provider since the contracts will be the same. This approach will require additional engineering effort for each implementation, and it will reduce the operational overhead needed to support the solution.

Using an API to standardize interactions with your services regardless of where they are deployed has the added advantage of making it easier to test your services across platforms. This approach also benefits the SRE team, since it limits the breadth of knowledge required to support a system that might be deployed on different platforms.

Integrating Data

One of the most significant factors affecting the cost and complexity of a multicloud approach is how the organization plans to manage datastores. As with the multicloud strategy as a whole, you must be clear on your objectives. Do you want to store the data on a single provider, thus optimizing cost, or do you want to replicate data across providers for increased reliability and resiliency?

Depending on your chosen approach and your objectives, you might replicate data as you receive it and implement measures to ensure consistency or periodically sync data between providers. Where and how you store your data can affect your costs and increase your risk as you introduce additional access points and points of failure to your system.

Centralized Observability

System observability is crucial for your SRE team. Your SRE engineers must have accurate and timely visibility into the health and operations of all aspects of the environments they support.  Like IAM, each cloud provider has its own monitoring, and it can be challenging and costly to integrate each of these systems into a comprehensive and cohesive observability platform.

One approach is to standardize the way in which you instrument your systems across all platforms. Recent projects like OpenTelemetry from the Cloud-Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) provide a standardized approach to gathering application metrics and can help you craft a unified observability strategy. As with IAM, you might consider partnering with a third-party provider that offers integrations with each of the platforms you use. 

An Intentional and Collaborative Approach

The decision to migrate your applications to a multicloud platform requires a great deal of thought and consideration. Your organization could benefit from this approach, depending on the rationale for the move and the costs associated with it. Given the many reasons for migrating and the different methods of accomplishing it, it’s impossible to address all aspects of such a move in a single article. Your strategy will need to be carefully devised and implemented based on the needs of your organization.

As you consider migrating to multicloud, you should seek advice from those who will build and support the systems that you intend to develop. Your SRE team can provide valuable insights into which strategies can be implemented and properly supported by your organization. Their experience and early involvement will help ensure that your organization approaches this challenge from an informed perspective and considers all aspects of the organization. 

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