For years, the phrase “digital transformation” has been used to describe everything from the process of modernizing applications to creating new digital business models. While many organizations were embarking on a digital transformation strategy before 2020, the pandemic increased the urgency for businesses to embrace a new IT model. With employees working from home, any processes that were still manual needed to be reinvented and brought online. The result was a spike in the usage of cloud technologies, as organizations raced to keep their businesses running. The rapid pace of cloud adoption also brought a number of critical realizations that CXOs are still working to solve.

Data centers are changing to deliver services closer to the customer, but the location of specific workloads is dependent on a number of factors, including business, regulatory, and geopolitical impacts. Today, a majority of businesses are embarking on a multi-cloud strategy, which includes on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud platforms.

What is the right placement for your organization’s workloads? The answer is: It depends. By using different clouds for different purposes, you can optimize according to the strengths of each platform. Gartner predicts “By 2027, 85% of the workload placements made until 2022 will no longer be optimal, due to changing requirements.” 

Traditional data center models locked organizations into one vendor or model. With a multi-cloud strategy, organizations can change workload placements and take advantage of best-of-breed solutions based on their unique business environment. Many organizations establish a primary cloud vendor for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS), then use a secondary cloud for specific use cases or to lower costs. Relying on more than one cloud can also reduce any perceived vendor-related risk and increase flexibility. Lower risk and more options — what’s not to love about multi-cloud?

Data mobility and multi-cloud

Unfortunately, a multi-cloud strategy isn’t as straightforward as signing up with a few cloud providers and allocating workloads. Ask any data storage expert and they’ll give you a long list of technical reasons why you can’t move your mission critical structured data to and from a public cloud with a few basic clicks. Whether your business has a deliberate multi-cloud strategy or it evolved organically, you need data mobility — the ability to securely move your block data between cloud platforms.

Cloud migration can feel like a process of elimination. The migration solution you use for one cloud provider might not work with the next. For example, you might be fine using a free tool from AWS to move your data onto their cloud, but that same tool is unlikely to enable you to repatriate that data. The amount and type of data being migrated matters a lot too. There are plenty of solutions available for file data or small block migrations, but when it comes to enterprise-level block migrations, your options get limited fast.

You can try to manually move data between platforms, but data migration, especially mission critical block data, involves a lot of work that’s both tedious and very detailed. You’ll need to migrate hundreds or even thousands of LUNs, including the painstaking steps of LUN creation, host-group creation, WWPN/ IQN association, and LUN masking. The process is time-consuming and extremely prone to human error. These lengthy setup processes often slow data migrations and these delays often snowball along to digital transformations falling behind.

Beyond disrupting your business processes, these lengthy processes can also hurt morale on your IT team as cloud experts are forced to oversee configuration work instead of more strategic initiatives. Now imagine going through that process every time you want to use your secondary cloud provider. It would be a nonstarter for most.

This high-level review of some of the risks associated with cloud migration underscores the importance of data mobility that is simple and secure.

Overcoming challenges

Put simply, the most common challenge of multi-cloud infrastructure is managing complexity. When your cloud applications and workloads are spread across multiple cloud platforms, it can be difficult to oversee how everything is performing and to fix issues as they arise. Complexity can also increase security risk, as system complexity and failures in compliance increase the cost of potential breaches. The stakes increase when you start adding mission critical block data into your multi-cloud environment.

The result? Many businesses face tension between the flexibility of multi-cloud and its potential to increase complexity. There are options to manage the complexity and take advantage of the benefits of multi-cloud. By following best practices, your organization can be prepared to migrate workloads to the best location based on your unique business case. Here are a few tips to consider.

  • Experience matters — Don’t risk your mission critical databases and applications to migration solutions designed for disaster recovery or small data sets. Not all data is the same and not all solutions are designed natively for the cloud.
  • Embrace automation — It’s important to consider the difference between data migration and data mobility solutions. Data migration is for one-time moves from one platform to another. To fully maximize a multi-cloud strategy, you need the ability to move data between platforms accurately and without delays. The right data mobility solution can enable you to perform migrations four to six times faster while reducing the chance of errors.
  • Enforce limited downtime — Look for data mobility solutions that keep your critical databases and applications online during migration. Your business can’t afford to be offline for long periods, any downtime should be nondisruptive and limited to seconds at cutover.
  • Ensure any cloud — One of the main benefits of multi-cloud is the ability to utilize best-of-breed platforms. Don’t limit your options with a data migration tool designed for one vendor. Be sure your data mobility solution can smoothly migrate workloads across all major clouds, private-clouds, and on-premises platforms.

Whether your organization is just starting with a multi-cloud strategy or your digital transformation has been underway for some time, it’s not too late to maximize the benefits of your multi-cloud. Data mobility solutions designed for business critical databases and applications deliver flexibility and reduced risk while accelerating timelines. The right solution will bring you one step closer to your digital transformation goals.