Cloud-computing technology has entered the application-explosion phase. Driven by digitalization and ubiquitous connectivity, enterprises are exploring their own cloudification and digital transformation roads. At Huawei, IT is used to support both digital transformation and traditional business operations. A single Cloud Service Provider (CSP) can hardly meet all of the requirements, so it follows that a multi-cloud solution is the inevitable choice for enterprises. However, because meeting new business requirements can also pose new challenges to IT departments, how do we embark on the multi-cloud road?
Multi-cloud: The Only Road to Cloudification for Large- and Medium-sized Enterprises
At the high tide of global digital transformation, cloud computing serves as an important support technology. It features on-demand use, elastic scaling, and resource sharing. It helps simplify IT operations, shortens delivery periods, and enables more agile business operations. In addition, the technology enhances resource usage and effectively optimizes the IT cost structure. Other innovative digital applications are being developed based on cloud computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT); therefore, IT application cloudification and accelerating digital transformation through cloud services are irresistible trends and a consensus decision among industries.
When using cloud services, enterprise IT departments must consider multiple factors, including time, cost, support for innovative services, risk diversification, legal compliance, and protection of key information assets. A single CSP cannot meet all enterprise requirements at the same time. The RightScale 2017 research report reveals that up to 85 percent of global large- and medium-sized enterprises have adopted a multi-cloud IT strategy.
The multi-cloud strategy brings distinct advantages to enterprises:
• Form an optimal combination of best services from various domains to meet business requirements
• Flexibly schedule global resources of multiple CSPs to facilitate the rapid development of global businesses
• Choose local compliant CSPs to effectively reduce legal compliance risks in data-sensitive areas
• Avoid vendor lock-in and retain the right to choose while enjoying the best cloud services
Multi-cloud Challenges Faced by Enterprises
The multi-cloud strategy is an inevitable trend and brings huge benefits to enterprises; however, to quote a cliché, ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch.’ What issues and challenges will enterprises face when adopting the multi-cloud strategy?
First, there are no standards for the cloud service architecture and each CSP offers exclusive APIs; therefore, CSP adaption is required for using heterogeneous cloud services. In terms of application integration, APIs need to be aggregated and converted, which raise the requirements for integration flexibility. For security, multi-cloud security governance becomes more complex due to CSP security capability differences, enterprise security requirements, and regulatory compliance in different countries.
Second, large-and medium-sized enterprises have complex IT applications that should be migrated to the cloud by module, path, and phase over a long time period. The migration may involve a great deal of effort to reconstruct or replace the application system, a process that becomes more technically difficult when implementing a multi-cloud strategy. One challenge, therefore, for large- and medium-sized enterprise IT cloudification is to minimize business impacts and risks to better enable a smooth cloud migration for enterprise applications while accelerating cloudification.
To summarize, multi-cloud service integration is an inevitable IT trend for enterprises seeking to leverage the advantages of each vendor. The enterprises should proactively use the service advantages of CSPs for business support to achieve business cloudification and digital transformation. However, they also face new challenges in managing the multi-cloud IT environment and implementing smooth evolution.
Huawei’s Multi-cloud Practice
With 30 years of history, Huawei has increasingly diversified, globalized, and scaled businesses. With 180,000 employees around the world, Huawei conducts business activities in more than 170 countries in Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-Consumer (B2C), or Business-to-Person (B2P) modes. Huawei’s annual turnover now exceeds USD 80 billion. The Huawei IT organization has undertaken the important mission of digital transformation to quickly and proactively meet business requirements, adapt to technical changes, and support global business expansion. At present, Huawei has established an All-Cloud strategy. The corporate IT architecture will transform toward an open, service-oriented, multi-cloud architecture to support Huawei’s own digital transformation.
Some important strategies for Huawei IT cloudification are to provide real-time scheduling management, a consistent experience based on customer requirements, and the allocation of cloud services from multiple vendors to support businesses through multi-cloud management. This is similar to the strategies that have been adopted by today’s popular car-hailing platforms.
Huawei aims to integrate multi-cloud resources and services, leverage multi-cloud advantages, reduce cloudification costs, provide multi-cloud environments for seamless applications, and ensure the security of information assets. Different from a hybrid cloud strategy that only focuses on the integration of private and public clouds, Huawei’s multi-cloud management strategy enables a more complete coexistence between multiple private and public clouds.
Huawei’s IT multi-cloud manager has three core capabilities:
• Multi-cloud secure access
• Multi-cloud service management and service agent
• Multi-cloud application integration
Multi-cloud management is part of the Huawei IT Cloud (HIC) capabilities and a bridge between the private HIC and external public clouds. It facilitates management, integration, and security within the multi-cloud environment. It establishes the HIC as the cloud migration entrance for internal applications and uses the HIC user interface to enable a consistent internal and external user experience. For security, the relationship between many applications and many public clouds (many-to-many) is simplified to the relationship between one HIC and many public clouds (one-to-many). Security management and protection are enhanced through federated authentication and borderless security protection. Multi-cloud management can effectively eliminate security risks when applications are directly connected to public clouds.
Multi-cloud management plays a key role in the cloudification of the multiple business domains supported by Huawei IT. WeLink is a mobile office platform available to Huawei employees worldwide for communication and collaboration, such as instant messaging, multimedia conferencing, live video, email, and document sharing. To support the varied office requirements of Huawei’s global employees the platform integrates multiple public CSPs, intelligent Huawei public cloud enterprise services, and Huawei private cloud services to deliver a solution for all scenarios. By leveraging the unified service agent and integration capabilities of the multi-cloud management solution, Huawei is able to facilitate the invocation and aggregation of cross-cloud services.
The R&D business domain requires elastic scaling and on-demand delivery of development and test resources for staff. Once completed, task resources can be released immediately. The multi-cloud management solution incorporates Huawei’s public cloud into the scheduling scope to form million-level, cross-cloud shared resource pools and enable unified cross-cloud scheduling. This approach greatly enhances resource supply flexibility and improves resource utilization.
Huawei IT cloudification is a complex project that will last for many years. Our goal is to ensure a smooth migration for rapidly introducing external cloud services. As an intermediary between applications and multiple CSPs, the multi-cloud management solution avoids complex direct interconnections, ensures interconnection security, and enables applications to access both internal and external cloud services. This reduces the threshold and implementation costs for enterprises to move to the cloud.
Changing the Role of Enterprise IT
Cloud computing, the IoT, and other technologies are having a huge impact on enterprise IT. Apart from the fast rate of technical innovation, the operating modes for enterprise IT are deeply affected. In the past, the IT department invested time and capital to build and maintain hardware and software in-house; though the results did not always fulfill business requirements. As public cloud services mature we expect that the ‘Build-Deliver-O&M’ mode will evolve into an ‘Introduce-Release-Operate’ mode.
To adapt to this trend, Huawei Enterprise IT is shifting from a cloud service builder to a cloud service integrator. Through multi-cloud management, the IT department will quickly introduce excellent public cloud services into the market and combine them with its own services to satisfy business requirements. The multi-cloud management solution helps enable the smooth transition to IT cloudification and is indispensable to the evolution of IT capabilities both inside and outside of Huawei.