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Spread too thin? The downsides of service provider complexity

They say too many cooks can spoil the broth, which is often the case when it comes to working with multiple managed service providers. Eltjo Hofstee, MD at Leaseweb UK, explains how to build a more efficient cloud strategy with fewer moving parts.

Using a variety of cloud services and providers to build modern outsourced infrastructure is, today, increasingly common. These hybrid strategies are popular because they give organisations the flexibility to cherry pick solutions that are right for them in the short and long term. 

However, organisations should also be looking at how they can deliver on their cloud strategy without adding unnecessary layers of complexity, administration and cost.

When looking for efficiencies, many can be forgiven for focusing on the technology, whereas the answer lies in building a strategy based on working with a smaller number of managed service providers. With the right strategy and implementation, hybrid cloud will reduce costs in most of the cases.

Breadth and complexity

One only needs to look at the breadth of the ‘as a Service’ market to see how much potential there is to build complexity into the average cloud strategy.

Adding almost any IT function as a prefix to ‘as a Service’, from backend, containers and desktop to virtualisation and workspace will lead to a wide choice of providers. This translates into organisations that, on average, use almost five different cloud platforms, according to industry research, which can become a real headache to manage properly.

And in a wider sense, the sheer diversity of cloud technologies is enormous, and the trends driving cloud adoption add to the pressure on organisations to frequently change course and refine their approach. The result? More providers and more complexity.

Five years ago, for example, public cloud was becoming a strategic priority across the IT landscape. Today, the situation is more nuanced and with experience, people have realised it’s not the answer to everything. For example, the demand for private clouds in dedicated racks that are completely separated from everything else has increased.

So, businesses need to be increasingly mindful that despite the undoubted benefits of cloud computing, complexity can be a serious impediment to effective delivery and RoI. Indeed, industry experts have argued that cloud complexity is not only inevitable, but is the “number one reason enterprises experience failures with the cloud”.

Among the many advantages of cloud and the ‘as a Service’ ecosystem is that it frees enterprise IT teams from much of the perennial management and administrative tasks that side track highly qualified professionals from focusing on more strategic objectives.

Many organisations have gone on record to share their experiences of cloud-enabled efficiency. However, as the layers of cloud infrastructure and services increase along with the use of more managed service partners, the administrative overhead is inadvertently built back into the system. Whether it’s managing and integrating specialist MSPs to deliver key elements of a cloud-based infrastructure strategy, contract and service-level agreements or a strategy that means an in-house team must liaise across multiple lines of support, effective administration should be a benefit of cloud partnership, not a feature.

To overcome some of these issues, it is beneficial to use technologies to provision services within the cloud, without the need to log into each server or cloud. This means creating an additional management layer that looks after the infrastructure within several cloud platforms. 

The value of expertise and experience

As the availability of cloud infrastructure and services continues to diversify at the provider level, so does the variety of use cases where organisations are spreading their investment.

Major technology trends from AI and big data, to IoT and now remote working are disparate technologies that together deliver the multi-purpose, highly integrated systems needed to address business needs.

In these circumstances, having one management process for the whole infrastructure stack is an advantage, but in many cases, that can only come by simplifying and reducing the number of partner relationships.

In reality, there aren’t many cloud providers with the ability to integrate services such as dedicated servers, colocation, private cloud stacks and CDN in a way that gives organisations all the flexibility of modern hybrid cloud infrastructure.

But, focusing on finding the right partner with the same level of energy as buying the right technology is the missing piece of the jigsaw many of today’s enterprise cloud strategies need.

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