How to optimize costs and minimize technical debt in a multi-cloud environment

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Cloud infrastructure is one of the necessary foundations for organizations that want to keep their competitive edge and agility in the era of AI. This will be true both in the short term and for years to come. Yet, in the face of economic headwinds, most organizations are working hard to juggle the cost of innovation and a flat IT budget. This can sometimes result in complex multi-cloud environments made up of quick-fix cloud computing solutions which solve a specific pain point.

Ensuring that your organization is getting the best value from its cloud infrastructure has never been more critical. Yet, whilst multi-cloud environments offer huge scalability, each platform has its own nuances and intricacies to grapple with. Understandably, this means we often see developers making short-term decisions, using outdated hardware or software, or even neglecting best practices when it comes their multi-cloud environments. Developers will, gradually accumulate ‘technical debt’ - which is the increased maintenance burden and reduced infrastructure quality - as they try to juggle their respective platforms.

However, maintaining a successful multi-cloud environment doesn’t have to also mean a growing level of technical debt. Cloud optimization and troubleshooting should be an ongoing and iterative process.

There is a role for providers to play here, alongside their customers, to optimize their whole estate. This shouldn’t just be in terms of cost optimization, but also in technical terms – from conducting a thorough audit across the entire IT infrastructure to assessing processes and streamlining legacy systems. Ultimately, providers should work with their customers to apply best practices to any cloud adoption journey, making it most cost-effective for them in the long run.

Lizzie Donnachie

Director of Product Marketing, Azure Business Group, Microsoft UK.

Multi-cloud: a cost optimization approach

For many, the decision to adopt a multi-cloud environment in the first place may have been a cost-conscious solution to address diverse business needs while maintaining infrastructural flexibility. Beyond the benefits offered by third-party clouds – which could include enhanced agility and security - embracing a multi-cloud environment allows businesses to leverage the strengths of different cloud providers while mitigating the risks associated with vendor lock-in.

This flexibility also enables organizations to strategically distribute workloads across multiple clouds, each reflecting the specific requirements of the respective team or business function. This could be factors like performance, scalability, or even geography. In short, businesses can select the most cost-effective provider for each workload or application.

However, it’s not uncommon to see the flexibility of the multi-cloud environment inevitably morph into a double-edged sword. The customizability of the multi-cloud environment means that many organizations are still using legacy platforms that are only in use for one application, often resulting in increased data latency and hidden costs – and this is when businesses might start to feel the impact and shadow of technical debt.

Addressing the technical debt

Therefore, ensuring a successful multi-cloud strategy must go hand-in-hand with streamlining the overall digital estate. To optimize costs and enhance efficiency, cloud service providers must closely work with the business to conduct comprehensive infrastructure analyses – from evaluating the entire application setup to identifying which applications can seamlessly transition to the cloud, assessing which ones require modernization, and which ones may need refactoring.

Rather than creating a lot of work for a minimal payoff, conducting such an analysis can allow an organization to drastically reduce its tech debt, adding a great deal of benefits to its applications. It can also support broader efforts to futureproof your operations, not least with new ways to extract insights from the organization's data pool.

Gaining a holistic view of the structure of your entire digital estate creates opportunities for organizations to identify legacy operational burdens and future-proof their infrastructure - paving the way for innovation and growth.

Finally, the cornerstone of any successful multi-cloud environment must be a security-first mindset. While multi-cloud environments offer significant advantages to organizations, they also introduce greater infrastructural complexity, which can result in security vulnerabilities and inefficiencies. Unprotected cloud environments are vulnerable to data breaches, unauthorized access, and compliance violations, posing risks of reputational damage and financial harm.

According to the UK Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey, the average cost of one single cyber-attack on medium to large businesses will cost more than £19,000. Therefore, organizations must ensure consistent security across their entire digital infrastructure, regardless of the chosen cloud provider, to mitigate risks of data breaches and compliance violations.

Ensuring security

Investing in the highest possible overall security posture and comprehensive protection is arguably the best cost-saving investment any business can make amidst the turbulence of the current digital threat landscape. Bolstering security in multi-cloud environments requires comprehensive visibility into all assets, effective network monitoring, and implementation of cloud network security measures. Leveraging tools provided by cloud service providers enables organizations to monitor, manage, and optimize resources across the multi-cloud landscape, making informed, data-driven decisions to enhance resource utilization and cost-effectiveness.

In this dynamic era, a strategic, multi-cloud approach is not just about cost-effectiveness; it's an investment in long-term success and resilience. By prioritizing security and leveraging innovative technologies, organizations can navigate the complexities of the digital landscape with confidence, paving the way for sustainable growth and innovation.

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Lizzie Donnachie, Director of Product Marketing, Azure Business Group, Microsoft UK.