The primary factor that most organizations consider when choosing a cloud service is how well the service meets their functional needs.  However, this must be balanced against the non-functional aspects such as compliance, security and manageability. These aspects are increasingly becoming a challenge in the hybrid multi-cloud IT environment found in most organizations. This point was emphasized by Virtustream during their briefing in London on September 6th, 2018. 

Virtustream was founded in 2009 with a focus on providing cloud services for mission-critical applications like SAP. In order to achieve this Virtustream developed its xStream cloud management platform to meet the requirements of complex production applications in the private, public and hybrid cloud. This uses patented xStream cloud resource management technology (μVM), to deliver assured SLA levels for business-critical applications and services.Through a series of acquisitions Virtustream is now a Dell Technologies business.   

The hybrid multi-cloud IT environment has made the challenges of governance, compliance and security even more complex. There is no single complete solution currently on the market to this problem.   

Typically, organizations use multiple cloud services including office productivity tools from one CSP (Cloud Service Provider), a CRM system from another CSP, and a test and development service from yet another one. At the same time, legacy applications and business critical data may be retained on-premises or in managed hosting. This hybrid multi-cloud environment creates significant challenges relating to the governance, management, security and compliance of the whole system.

Managing the Hybrid Multi Cloud

What is needed is a consistent approach with common processes supported by a single platform that provides all the necessary functions across all the various components involved in delivering all the services.   

Most CSPs offer their own proprietary management portal– which may in some cases extend to cover some on premises cases. This makes it important when choosing a cloud service to evaluate how the needs for management, security and compliance will be integrated with the existing processes and components that make up the enterprise IT architecture. The hybrid IT service model requires an overall IT governance approach as described in KuppingerCole Advisory Note: Security Organization Governance and the Cloud - 72564

An added complexity is that the division of responsibility for the different layers of the service depends upon how the service is delivered. There are 5 layers:

  • The lowest layer is the physical service infrastructure which includes as the data center, the physical network, the physical servers and the storage devices. In the case of IaaS this is the responsibility of the CSP. 
  • Above this sits the Operating Systems, basic storage services and the logical network. For IaaS, the management of this layer is the responsibility of the customer. 
  • The next plane includes the tools and middleware needed to build and deploy business applications. For PaaS (Platform as a Service) these are the responsibility of the CSP. 
  • Above the middleware are the business applications and for SaaS (Software as a Service) these are the responsibility of the CSP. 
  • The highest plane is the governance of business data and control of access to the data and applications. This is always the responsibility of the customer.

An ideal solution would be a common management platform that covers all the cloud and on-premises services and components. However, most cloud services only offer a proprietary management portal that covers the management of their service.    

So, does Virtustream provide a solution that completely meets these requirements? The answer is: Not yet.  However, there are two important points in its favour:

  • Firstly, Virtustream have highlighted that the problem exists. Acceptance is the first step on the road to providing a solution.
  • Secondly, Virtustream is a part of Dell and Dell also own VMware. VMware provides a solution to this problem but only where VMware is used across different IT service delivery models. VMware is used by Virtustream and is also supported by several other CSPs.

In conclusion, the hybrid multi-cloud environment presents a complex management challenge particularly in the areas of security and complianceThere are five layers each with six dimensions that need to be managed, and the responsibilities are shared between the CSP and the customer. It is vital that organizations consider this when selecting cloud services and that they implement a governance-based approach. Look for the emergence of tools to help with this challenge. There was a workshop this subject at KuppingerCole’s EIC earlier this year.