What ‘cross-cloud’ architects need to know

As the cloud computing space evolves, the necessary skills do, too. Understanding multiple clouds, security, and governance are the tip of the iceberg.

What ‘cross-cloud’ architects need to know

When I hear people say, “I’m a cross-cloud architect,” I wonder what the heck they mean.

I’m seeing an emerging pattern in the cloud computing space where enterprises are morphing from dealing with siloed public clouds a cloud at a time, to dealing with all clouds—including existing traditional systems—as strategic platforms. Or dealing with more holistic IT architecture that uses public clouds, which is a much more complex problem to solve.

Still, what does a “cross-cloud” architect do? I see three areas of primary focus:

Intercloud operations or the ability to operate all public clouds using a “single pane of glass.” This means having an operational abstraction layer that runs over all public clouds, private clouds (if still around), and existing traditional systems (if possible), as well. 

This is, and will continue to be, the harder problem to solve. However, emerging tools such as AIops and IT monitoring solutions are getting better at providing centralized monitoring and automating command and control. However, I can count on two hands the number of people on the planet who can solve this problem correctly.

Holistic security, which means creating a security system that spans all of IT, including clouds. For many, this may build on the existing security infrastructure, but for most this will be a big reset and pivot, including moving to holistic identity and access management after years of resistance.

Although you may think that this would be a separate security and/or cyber-related responsibility, the reality is that holistic security isn’t holistic if it’s not integrated with other peer systems, including ops and governance. Security needs to be part of the design and deployment and be under the control of a single architect or, more likely, a group of architects.

Cross-cloud governance or the ability to set policies that restrict the use of applications, resources, services, and data for all clouds, and perhaps traditional systems, too.

Governance is the guardrails that keep you out of trouble, such as restricting overwriting complete storage systems, saturating a CPU, or overspending on public cloud services accidentally. These systems are integrated with both security and ops, considering that they must share data to be the most effective.

Of course, the list is longer than this and continues to grow. We haven’t addressed data, cost management, or the use and integration of devsecops. It’s all part of the cross-cloud mix. 

This really gets to the core theme that what’s between the clouds is becoming more important than the clouds themselves. I see both ecosystems growing rapidly, but we’re likely to find that we’re limited by a lack of cross-cloud architect and design skills in 2022. Count on it taking a few years for the talent to catch up, or you can be prepared and learn what you need to know now.

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