As More Companies Use Multiple Clouds, What Are the Challenges They Face?

multi-cloud, maze, complexity

RightScale, a respected cloud management platform, recently released the results of its influential annual “State of the Cloud” survey of IT decision makers. Its findings align with what we at Rackspace are hearing from our customers, and they make interesting reading for business execs as well as IT pros.

Both the number of companies using multiple clouds, and the number of clouds they’re using, are growing, and finding the right expertise to manage those clouds is a key concern among the 1,002 IT professionals surveyed.

Most of those surveyed work for midsize companies and larger enterprises, which on average are now running applications in two public clouds and two private clouds. They are experimenting with another two clouds in each form factor. That means the typical organization is using or experimenting with eight clouds — up from six in last year’s survey.

Why are more companies using multiple clouds? The RightScale report doesn’t address this issue, but Rackspace customers cite two main reasons.

The first is to accommodate the incremental nature of IT adoption. Central IT at a typical company might run Oracle ERP on VMware servers in its corporate data centers, and then start to move those workloads out to a VMware private cloud. Central IT might run other workloads on Windows, while the marketing organization separately spins up some instances at AWS and yet another department experiments with an OpenStack private cloud.

The second, related reason for using multiple clouds is that some workloads run better on one cloud platform while other workloads achieve higher performance and superior cost-efficiency on another platform.

Among the top concerns cited by respondents to the RightScale survey, finding the right expertise was tied for first place, along with ensuring security and managing cloud spending. Mature cloud users cited cost management as the most critical challenge, while neophytes were most concerned with security.

Below are the top eight cloud concerns reported in the RightScale survey, and the ways in which we at Rackspace are working to help our customers meet those challenges.

Lack of expertise and other resources

We’ve been hearing this concern for many years from customers who can’t hire and retain all the expertise that they need to manage multiple, complex, fast-changing cloud technologies. Other customers say they could hire all that expertise in house, but prefer to say fast and lean, and focus their scarce engineering talent on their core business — on the new products and customer service that differentiate them from competitors. Both types of customer are looking for a trusted partner to manage the tasks that all cloud users have in common — from IT architecture to migration and security and ongoing operations.

In response to these customer needs, Rackspace constantly adds new capabilities. We’re now the only provider that offers expertise and Fanatical Support for all of the leading clouds — across public and private clouds and dedicated servers; across AWS, the Microsoft cloud, OpenStack and VMware. We help customers tap the power of multiple clouds without the cost and complexity of managing all those technologies on their own.

Ensuring security

In my conversations with CIOs and other IT leaders, security is a key concern, for workloads running on-premises and in the cloud. More of these IT pros are realizing that they can get better security from an experienced cloud provider than by trying to hire in-house all the expertise that they need. This is especially evident for those who use multiple clouds.

At Rackspace, we employ more than 300 digital security experts, including the former chief network security architect for the Pentagon and other world-class leaders from the NSA, Britain’s GCHQ, and the U.S. Air Force Cyber Command. With operations on four continents and customers in 120 countries, our security team has seen and deterred a far greater variety of cyber attacks than the teams at even the largest individual cloud users. And we are making that expertise available inside customer environments with our fast-growing Rackspace Managed Security service.

Managing cloud spending

Respondents in the RightScale survey estimated that 30 percent of their cloud spending is wasted, while RightScale measured actual waste of 30 percent to 45 percent. Yet “only a minority of companies are taking critical actions to optimize cloud costs, such as shutting down unused workloads or selecting lower-cost clouds or regions,” notes the report. Optimizing cloud costs is the top initiative for more than half of all cloud users and almost 65 percent of mature cloud users.

Rackspace expertise and focus on optimization across all major clouds enables customers to run each of their workloads on the platform that will deliver the highest performance and cost-efficiency. We also offer tools and dashboards to identify opportunities for efficiency and cost savings.

Meeting compliance obligations

Compliance assistance is a popular and growing element of our Rackspace Managed Security service. It’s really the flipside of the security coin, but for many companies it’s an imperative before migrating to the cloud. Just last week, Rackspace announced its HITRUST certification, which goes above and beyond HIPAA requirements, bringing additional peace of mind to healthcare providers struggling to keep medical data secure.

Ensuring cloud governance and control

One of the best ways to manage cloud spending is through thoughtful governance of who in each organization is allowed to do what with its IT resources. Our engineering teams are constantly improving our tools and capabilities in this area, to give customers the visibility and control they require.

Managing multi-cloud services

Despite the dominance of AWS among public cloud infrastructure providers, the RightScale survey found, Azure has increased its market share over the past year, while Google Cloud has grown to consolidate its position in the top three.  On the private cloud side, VMware and OpenStack are the leading platforms, while Azure Pack/Stack is “showing significant growth.” No company is better positioned than Rackspace to provide expertise and Fanatical Support on the leading cloud platforms.

Managing the complexity of building a private cloud

More and more midmarket and enterprise customers are moving workloads out of their corporate datacenters. And very few of those workloads are being expensively re-architected to run in a public cloud. Instead, most companies are moving those workloads to private clouds and dedicated servers, where Rackspace offers deep expertise and experience.

We’re one of the few cloud providers offering expertise and support for three flavors of private cloud: OpenStack, Microsoft and VMware.

Ensuring performance

Some providers sell and support only one cloud. Not surprisingly, they argue that their one size fits all. We take a different view. We help each customer find the best fit for its unique needs, running each workload on the cloud platform where it will achieve the best performance and cost efficiency.

In addressing each of the pain points identified by RightScale, we share with new customers what we’ve seen work — and not work —for other customers over our 18-year history, across all the major cloud platforms.  We provide them with advice, best practices, monitoring and Fanatical Support.  We set them up for success.

If you’re a multi-cloud user and would like to explore ways to achieve higher performance and cost-efficiency, we’d love to hear from you. Visit us at to learn more about the clouds we support; scroll down to request a free quote or chat with a specialist today.

John Engates joined Rackspace in August 2000, just a year after the company was founded, as Vice President of Operations, managing the datacenter operations and customer-service teams. Two years later, when Rackspace decided to add new services for larger enterprise customers, John created and helped develop the Intensive Hosting business unit. John played an active role in the evolution and evangelism of Rackspace’s cloud-computing strategy and cloud products. John met frequently with customers to hear about their needs and concerns, and to discuss Rackspace’s vision for the future of cloud computing. John's final positions was as the company’s Chief Evangelist. John is also an internationally recognized cloud computing expert and a sought-after speaker at technology conferences, including CA World, the Goldman Sachs Techtonics Conference and Cloud Expo. He speaks on the future of cloud computing, enterprise cloud adoption, data center efficiency, green data center best practices, and more. Prior to joining Rackspace, John was a founder and General Manager at Internet Direct, one of the original Internet service providers in Texas. John is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a B.B.A. in Accounting.


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