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Multi-cloud is seen as the quickest path to digital nirvana

Most enterprises now run in two to six clouds, a recent F5 Networks survey finds. Those moving ahead with digital transformation tend to have more cloud engagements.

Information technology professionals have embraced the digital dream, and want to play greater roles in helping their organizations get there. The way they're going to do it is through the cloud -- actually, through multiple clouds that provide the flexibility and greater options to compete in today's digital economy.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the gist of a recent survey of 3,460 IT managers and professionals, conducted by F5 Networks, which finds high levels of interest in building digital foundations, and are increasing adopting multi-cloud strategies to make it happen. The bottom line is a recognition that no enterprise can truly realize digital capabilities without turning to cloud computing at some level.

One-fourth of organizations with digital transformation projects in place now have a majority of their applications in the cloud, compared to only 15 percent of organizations without digital transformation projects. When we look specifically at public cloud infrastructure, the trends are similar across application types--digital transformation companies report higher usage of public cloud services.

At least 47 percent stated that the drive to digital and cloud is changing how they develop applications, and 41 percent reported exploring new application architectures such as containers and microservices.

In addition, the F5 survey shows, most organizations are now pursuing a best-of-breed strategy for each application deployment, leading to multi-cloud architectures. Nearly nine in ten respondents reported using multiple clouds (87 percent), with 56 percent saying cloud decisions are made on a per application basis.

Applications most likely to be found in the cloud (public or private) include those dealing with internal finance, billing, human resources and the Internet of Things.

Getting to a cloud-borne enterprise takes time, however. Cloud decisions tend to be made on a case-by-case, per-application basis, as shared by 56 percent of respondents in the F5 survey. finds. On average, they have about 200 applications under their watch, with varying requirements. "It's no surprise that most respondents are operating in multi-cloud environments," the survey's authors state. On average, respondents reported that they have deployed applications in 2.1 clouds, up from an average of 1.8 clouds in 2017. A majority (59%) report they are in two to six clouds.

The survey also shows that the drive to digital transformation is inspiring new architectures and IT optimization initiatives. Optimizing IT infrastructure and processes remains the primary driver for digital transformation projects, according to 72 percent of respondents, while nearly half said digital transformation is encouraging the delivery of applications from the cloud (49 percent).

Multiple clouds also mean multiple headaches, however. Applying consistent security across all company applications was reported as a challenge by 42 percent, followed by 40 percent citing concerns about protecting applications from existing and emerging threats. IT managers are also worried about optimizing the performance of their applications in the cloud (34 percent) and gaining visibility into application health (31 percent).

The survey finds broader adoption of various application services and IT automation to address some of these headaches. On average, organizations take advantage of 16 different application services, including SDN, API, IoT and HTTP/2. In addition, nearly three in four (74 percent) see the use of automation in the operation of IT infrastructure as important, and 70 percent are using automation to realize leaner IT with the goal of reducing OpEx, while 51 percent are looking to scale to meet demand.