Guest author Janakiram MSV is a practicing architect, analyst, and advisor, with a focus on emerging infrastructure technologies.

The enterprise IT landscape has evolved significantly over the last decade. The emergence of cloud, mainstream adoption of open source software, the shift to modern infrastructure, and the rise of microservices have influenced every aspect of IT.

The changing enterprise IT landscape

A typical enterprise has tens of thousands of applications developed in extremely diverse languages, platforms, and tools. It has traditional line-of-business applications running in client/server mode, internal web applications running within the intranet, customer- and partner-facing applications running on the internet, and a slew of mobile applications empowering the employees.

In general, enterprise companies run applications across and in many environments. Applications are deployed in physical servers and virtual machines running within the data center. Some are hosted in co-location facilities and hosting environments. A subset of applications run on private cloud and public cloud infrastructure. Modern applications designed as microservices are deployed in containers and Kubernetes clusters running provisioned within the data center and the cloud environments.

Companies embrace hybrid cloud—an environment designed to extend on-premises applications to the public cloud—and the preferred environment to run modern workloads that talk to legacy applications in the data center.

An accelerating trend sees enterprise companies heavily investing in multi-cloud to increase the availability of applications, reduce the dependency on a single cloud provider, and for specific workloads.

The diversity of application platforms such as Java, .NET, and LAMP, deployment targets ranging from physical servers to virtual machines to Kubernetes clusters, combined with public cloud, hybrid cloud, and multi-cloud environments, has led to an unprecedented challenge for enterprise IT.

Let’s look at an example:

Imagine a large retailer with hundreds of stores running in metropolitan areas. Every store runs a client/server application that handles both point-of-sale and inventory. More recently, the retailer has moved its ERP and MRP to the public cloud, which is periodically synchronized with the database running in each store. To enable an enhanced shopping experience for customers, it has deployed AI-enabled applications in each store that are running in a Kubernetes cluster. The machine learning platform that powers the smart shopping experience runs in a different public cloud environment than the ERP application.

The above use case reflects the current scenario of businesses dealing with heterogeneous applications and infrastructure services.   

The multi-cloud ecosystem

To enable hybrid and multi-cloud environments for customers, mainstream infrastructure and platform providers are heavily investing in tools and technologies.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leading public cloud provider, has built AWS Outposts, a hybrid cloud service that brings Amazon EC2 to the data center. It is a fully managed service where the physical infrastructure is delivered and installed by AWS, operated and monitored by AWS, and automatically updated and patched as part of being connected to an AWS Region.

Microsoft has invested in Azure Stack, a family of products that extend Azure services and capabilities to the data center and edge computing. Azure Stack appliances bring compute, storage, and networking closer to the origin of data. Azure Arc, a more recent addition to the Microsoft hybrid cloud portfolio, makes it possible to register bare metal servers, virtual machines, and Kubernetes clusters with Azure to manage them from a centralized control plane.

Anthos from Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is a hybrid and multi-cloud application platform that enables GCP customers to modernize existing applications, build new ones, and deploy them in multiple environments. Anthos is built on the strong foundation of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), a managed Kubernetes service on GCP.

IBM and Red Hat are investing in Cloud Paks, a hybrid cloud offering that delivers a containerized software solution to build contemporary cloud native applications and modernize traditional applications. Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes includes capabilities that unify multi-cluster management, provide policy-based governance, and extend application lifecycle management.

VMware announced vSphere 7, a unified platform to manage virtual machines and containers. VMware vSphere 7 is a convergence of vSphere and Kubernetes that exposes both APIs. VMware Tanzu Mission Control enables teams to manage Kubernetes clusters deployed anywhere.

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud challenges

Enterprise IT teams are responsible for application availability, performance, and security. Dealing with an extremely diverse IT environment spanning physical machines, virtual machines, ephemeral containers, stateful containerized workloads, orchestration engines, and serverless platforms can be a daunting task.

To ensure business operations run smoothly, enterprise IT teams need visibility and insight into the infrastructure they manage and the platforms, applications, and client-side experiences that infrastructure supports.

The central IT team is responsible for tracking the state of the application and infrastructure services running in the data center, private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, and multi-cloud environments.

Existing tools and monitoring platforms fall short of the critical capabilities for controlling the application and infrastructure.

Driving multi-cloud success through observability

Enter observability. Observability delivers the inside-out view, which is rich, meaningful, and contextual. It delivers on the promise of continuous monitoring—a key element of DevOps—by providing contextual insights not just from the infrastructure but from the entire stack, including end users.

With observability, all the stakeholders including developers, operators, DevOps, and SREs, can gain unmatched insights into the entire stack running across different environments. From VMs to Kubernetes clusters to serverless platforms, irrespective of the deployment target, observability helps separate the signal from noise. This empowers IT to focus on the right metrics that matter most.

For a more in-depth view of today’s cloud landscape, trends, and the critical need for robust observability, read our whitepaper, "The Path to Multi-Cloud Success."