Dell IT

Strategy for a Brave New Multi-Cloud World: Navigating the Public, Private, Hybrid Cloud Frontier

Stephen Stack By Stephen Stack Director of Enterprise Architecture, Dell Digital April 16, 2019

Leveraging multi-cloud architecture is essential for modern IT operations to deliver the development speed and infrastructure flexibility that today’s business demands. But navigating the multi-cloud world presents a unique set of challenges that require a thoughtful strategy to avoid getting mired in the many facets of this shifting frontier.

Dell IT is in the midst of developing and implementing that strategy to allow us to seamlessly and securely manage a combination of private, public, and hybrid cloud resources.

As we are progress along our digital transformation journey, the insights we have gained thus far may help you navigate your way in the multi-cloud world.

Delivering in a New IT Landscape

To understand the need for this transformation, you need to look at how IT has evolved. Not long ago, delivering good technology for the business meant developing traditional applications with a strictly on-premise delivery model. We built a traditional three-tier application architecture – data base tier, middleware tier, and a web front end. We put all that on our physical data center infrastructure and that often took a long time to deploy and manage. Developers worked within this rigid model, with little flexibility to meet business demands and a low time to value.

Today, that approach has been totally eradicated with the rise of the multi-cloud ecosystem, the escalating pace of business demands and the changing role of developers in meeting those demands. The developer has become king and IT now needs to focus on unlocking the developer experience to bring value to the business as quickly as possible. That means giving developers what they want when they want it, leveraging the flexibility and agility of multiple clouds.

Tackling this new model of service delivery raises two fundamental questions: What does the strategy for multi-cloud look like and how do we transform ourselves in terms of people, process and technology to deliver it?

Defining our Multi-Cloud Strategy

For Dell IT, multi-cloud encompasses an on-prem cloud environment made up of our private cloud (software defined data center) and multiple public and managed cloud services being used by our applications and development teams depending on their preferences.

Creating a multi-cloud strategy and architecture includes several key capabilities, from foundational to value creation. For our foundation, we built security, governance and automation features on-prem that align with the public cloud to drive a frictionless developer experience while protecting company assets.

To harness value in the cloud, our developers needed to embrace a new style of development based on cloud-native principles. Cloud-native apps are built in smaller chunks of code—or micro services— rather than traditional monolithic blocks. Micro services can be deployed, tested and changed quickly. The cloud-native approach enhances IT’s ability to operate and manage software across private and public cloud environments. Dell IT uses Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) a turnkey platform for cloud native applications. One example use case of this is ‘How Dell is Evolving Online Buyer Experience with PCF and Pivotal Labs Methodology.

A major part of our multi-cloud strategy has been reviewing hundreds of our traditional apps to determine which should be rewritten in PCF and be migrated to the cloud, retained in their current form, retired or re-platformed.

At the same time, we are two years into a multi-year modernization journey powered by VMware Software-Defined Data Center architecture – a core component of our multi-cloud strategy. Results so far include enabling automation, rapid provisioning of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), enabled Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) infrastructure, and deployment of some cloud-native apps on-prem and on public clouds.

Creating a Single Pane of Glass for Multi-Cloud

As we continue to migrate apps to multiple clouds, a growing challenge is to manage and understand how company assets are being deployed, used or exploited. We are in the process of creating a central portal to view and manage our multi-cloud environment—an agnostic single pane of glass into the various clouds.

Thus far, we have developed the preliminary infrastructure for our Cloud Hub architecture, which aims to abstract the management and operation of multiple clouds from the clouds themselves. The hub will provide automated services to developers and avoid manual enablement of individual discrete clouds. Instead, our operations and engineering teams will manage multiple clouds through a single, central exchange.

Consumers will use three methods to access this new platform:

  1. Web-based self-service for developers or engineering management and operations.
  2. Application Programming Interface (API) driven consumption.
  3. Engineering management and operations access so they can see what we are doing, what we’ve got for resources, advanced troubleshooting, etc.

We are continuing to shape this abstraction layer using multiple technologies, including VMware vRealize Operations, vRealize Automation and others from the vRealize Suite.

Cloud Skills are Job #One

Certainly, standardizing on the right technology is important to successfully transition to multi-cloud, however, transitioning your IT staff from legacy to having modern— multi-cloud skills is even more important to your cloud strategy success.

Team members need to understand the diversity of capabilities on each cloud that you use. In our case, engineering and operations need to enhance and enrich their skills to help them manage, engineer and architect for multiple different clouds as well as the abstraction layer. The complexity is enormous. The need for new skills stretches across all of our infrastructure, engineering, operations and security teams. Leaders also need to understand new cloud organizational models, thinking about a future goal of consolidating siloed and discrete teams into balanced or product driven teams.

Concepts like automation and robotics, which are counter to the manual, methodical operations IT is used to, are central to creating business value in a multi-cloud world. Overall, team members need to shift to building infrastructure that is more cloud-like—i.e. automated, elastic, on-demand, multi-tenant, scalable, self-healing and measurable.

While our engineers have trained for a number of years on cloud skills, we launched a broader education effort a year ago and are now accelerating our training campaign.

Lessons Learned for Multi-Cloud Strategy

As you navigate the multi-cloud world, here are some priorities you should consider:

  1. Define your business outcomes. What is it you are trying to achieve with this multi-cloud strategy? For us – we are trying to bring products to market faster and better through an enhanced developer experience.
  2. Get your stakeholders (IT and business leaders) engaged early to understand your multi-cloud strategy goals and benefits.
  3. Skills and training. From senior leaders to operations and support staff, prepare your people on digital transformation and multi-cloud strategy because they are the ones that are going to get you there. Technology alone isn’t enough.
  4. Leverage existing investment in on-prem data center infrastructure but optimize and automate to add significantly greater business value.
  5. Develop a hybrid multi-cloud strategy.


Stephen Stack

About Stephen Stack

Director of Enterprise Architecture, Dell Digital

Stephen Stack is the Director of Enterprise Architecture for Dell Digital. This strategic role contributes to the overall vision and strategy of the Infrastructure and Operations organization. Leading highly skilled and experienced EAs in the focus areas of strategy, innovation, roadmap and architecture for infrastructure technology portfolios across Data Centre, Modern Networking and Cloud (Public, Private, hybrid and multi).

Stephen also holds the Dell EMC Master Enterprise Architect certification, and is a founding member. His role in the development and delivery of the Master Enterprise Architect Certificate is timely and appropriate as it represents the perfect hybrid of his IT/business passions and presents the opportunity for him and his team to contribute to the development of the next generation of enterprise architects and IT strategy at Dell Technologies.

Stephen has 20 years industry experience in IT and product development, architecture, business and leadership roles. He is highly driven and creative with an acute awareness of the necessary interactivity between the details of implementation and the relevance of strategy. Over the years Stephen has amassed a substantial portfolio of technical certifications, is CTO of a leading open source software project, and is currently undertaking a postgraduate degree (MSc) in Business and Leadership.

Stephen is based in Cork, Ireland with his Wife and two boys. In his free time, he enjoys Martial Arts, Aviation and spending time with his family.

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