As cloud becomes the foundation for digital transformation, federal agencies are starting to buy services from more than one of the major cloud service providers (CSPs). Agencies may do so because one CSP does not offer needed capabilities, or because they hope to mitigate risks related to vendor lock-in, system redundancy, and compliance.

The complexity of managing a multi-cloud environment can quickly compound, though. Often, agencies take a minimalistic approach to utilizing cloud services, leaving out native services, like big data, machine learning, AI, and serverless computing, that are essential for the future of work.

How can federal agencies get the most value out of multi-cloud deployments?

Multi-cloud increases complexity, needed resources

To best manage multi-cloud, agencies should first understand what they are getting into. It’s time-consuming to manage even one CSP.

Without a carefully considered strategy, adding more providers can:

  • Complicate procurement processes
  • Increase the administrative burdens of managing costs, compliance, and services across CSPs
  • Introduce or further complicate interoperability
  • Strain the skills required from IT teams already pressed for talent

Getting the most value from even a single cloud requires a thoughtful approach that avoids a simple “lift and shift.”

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Learning how to optimize a single cloud deployment with a cloud native approach helps prepare agencies for multi-cloud.

Opportunity costs of not using cloud native services

Federal agencies miss out on the cloud’s full range of benefits by not adopting cloud native services. Capabilities such as machine learning, big data, and artificial intelligence are critical to future-proofing systems for the ever-evolving pace of technological change. When used properly, the cloud can help make emerging technologies ubiquitous over time.

For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office augmented on-premise search tools with AI to help more than 9,000 patent examiners perform rapid and thorough searches. The solution was supported by Google’s machine learning models and Accenture’s design, prototyping and data science capabilities.

When agencies should go multi-cloud

Agencies should migrate to a multi-cloud environment when the deployment is essential for meeting mission objectives.

For example, multi-cloud strategies are essential to allowing agencies to draw on the elasticity and performance of vendors individually at different points, delivering peak performance despite fluctuating workloads. An agency should not have to force a cloud environment to work; instead, it should be able to select the cloud environment best aligned for mission objectives and related tasks.

Four elements of a successful multi-cloud strategy

When there is a legitimate need for multi-cloud, it then makes sense to develop a detailed action plan addressing mission needs. A multi-cloud strategy should:

  • Minimize the risk of sprawl: A detailed and thoughtful multi-cloud strategy will reduce complexity and lower the overall administrative burden, ultimately increasing return on investment. Well-defined cloud governance models, cross-cloud tagging, and resources discovery are critical to capitalize on the benefits of multi-cloud while minimizing the complexity it introduces.
  • Drive innovation: A well-grounded and carefully executed multi-cloud strategy supports the use of innovative cloud-based tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Ensure future readiness: With solid governance in place, IT leaders can guarantee interoperability among multiple cloud iterations, creating a consistent way to evaluate and incorporate emerging offerings across the multi-cloud ecosystem.
  • Simplify IT portfolio management: When planning a multi-cloud infrastructure, it makes sense to perform an application discovery, to understand which applications will perform best in which cloud environments. That up-front effort will ensure that multi-cloud simplifies overall portfolio management, rather than adding new layers of complexity.

A strategic approach to multi-cloud helps to ensure compatibility, minimizing the pain around application portability and ensuring smooth inter-cloud connectivity. Ultimately, the hope is to reduce both costs and time to value.

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A strategic approach to multi-cloud helps to ensure compatibility, minimizing the pain around application portability and ensuring smooth inter-cloud connectivity.

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A cloud management platform – such as the Accenture Cloud Platform for Government – can help federal agencies increase the visibility they need to build their cloud strategy and properly manage their multi-cloud environment.

Multi-cloud talent is key

It’s also important to recognize the human component underlying all of this.

Few agencies will have sufficient in-house technical expertise to manage a fully realized multi-cloud infrastructure. Most will find it necessary to grow their talent base, either by up-skilling existing personnel, or by taking advantage of support services and training offered by the cloud providers and other vendors operating in that space.

Building out the IT skill set is a key element in the strategic approach to multi-cloud, along with solid governance, and the thoughtful alignment of applications to cloud resources. With all these pieces in place, it’s possible for federal IT to go from merely using many clouds, to truly using multi-cloud in a way that builds business value and delivers on mission need.

Read all the chapters in our series on unleashing cloud potential for federal agencies:

  1. Strategic cloud procurement future-proofs federal agencies
  2. You can’t get multi-cloud right until you get single cloud right
  3. Rethinking hybrid cloud: Running cloud services on-prem [coming soon]

Mike Yen

Senior Manager – Accenture Federal Services, Cloud Advisory

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