Managing Multicloud Complexity: Customer Insights

October 2022 | us49747522
Stephen Elliot

Stephen Elliot

Group Vice President, I&O, Cloud Operations, and DevOps

Gary Chen

Gary Chen

Research Director, Software Defined Compute

Product Type:
IDC: White Paper
Sponsored by: VMware
Watch Video

IDC Opinion

For the majority of enterprises, multicloud is an unavoidable reality today. Some businesses will require multiple clouds in order to expand to new regions and reach new customers. Many workloads will need specific differentiated functionalities that are unique to particular clouds. Other businesses with decentralized IT may end up with multiple clouds not through conscious choice but because different groups made different decisions.

The flood of multiple clouds and the various services attached to those clouds greatly increases complexity for IT departments, because they still have to manage their existing legacy environments (which are not going away) on top of that. Enterprises are pursuing common management platforms and tools that can cross all of these environments, but that is a long-term, lofty goal that is far from reality today. Most enterprises have only a small handful of tools that have that capability today, and the road to rationalizing and consolidating the rest of their fragmented toolchains will be a lengthy undertaking.

To learn how organizations are managing IT complexity, IDC conducted in-depth executive interviews with five enterprises that have deployed multicloud environments.

Situation Overview

Recent years in IT have seen a steady progression toward modern infrastructure and increasing software development velocity, encompassing private cloud, public cloud, and containers. This change has been driven by digital transformation initiatives in the business; the pandemic only accelerated and reinforced the need for a strong digital-first strategy.

Digital infrastructure has been trending toward public cloud and containers in recent years, which increases the environmental complexity for enterprises, as their older environments may shrink but don’t disappear completely. This shift leaves enterprises with more types of environments to juggle. 

However, enterprises still have large footprints of on-premises servers that run bare metal and VMs, and they will have these for the foreseeable future. IDC data shows that on-premises is still important, with two-thirds of respondents to IDC’s Intelligent Cloud Operations Survey indicating that they will rely on hybrid cloud (on-premises plus public cloud) for at least the next three to five years. In addition, the cloud world is highly complex; enterprises may have several types that may include local clouds (on-premises) and software as a service (SaaS) as well as more traditional infrastructure from a hoster.

In addition  to the complexity is the fact that 92% of customers today use multiple infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) clouds, with 66% using three or more, according to the Intelligent Cloud Operations Survey.

While most enterprises have a primary cloud for better standardization across the organization, secondary footprints are becoming largely unavoidable. For some customers, multicloud adoption is intentional, but for others it is unintended.

Enterprises can end up with multiple clouds for a variety of reasons:

  • Acquiring multicloud can be a result of decentralized IT decision making. 
  • For multinational corporations, global footprints and geopolitical factors can make it impossible to dictate a global standard. 
  • It is common to end up with diverse environments that include different clouds through acquisition. 
  • Cloud innovation is happening at a very fast pace across many different providers, and limiting oneself to a single provider means possibly missing out on innovations. 

While multicloud adoption offers many benefits, it becomes a challenge to manage, especially when added to the already complex and diverse non-cloud environments that also exist. 

Cross-Cloud Control Planes

Faced with the challenges of managing a multicloud environment, customers are prioritizing cross-cloud control planes, as shown in Figure 1. According to IDC’s Future of Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey — Wave 2, 70% agree or strongly agree that implementing a consistent operating model across all infrastructure in the next three to five years will be critical to achieving digital business goals.

Figure 1: Importance of Cross-Cloud Control Planes

Q: How important is it that your organization have management tools or capabilities that span across multiple cloud environments — public, private, hosted private, or between? We refer to this as “shared cross-cloud management control plane.”

n = 796; Source: IDC’s Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey — Wave 2, March 2022

While a unified cross-cloud control plane is the ideal goal, practical implementation remains a challenge today. Customers find that products in this space are still maturing, and it can be difficult to displace existing tools. The personal preferences of stakeholders also cause challenges in unifying toolsets across the organization.

Workload Trends

On-premises datacenters are not going away; customers are still investing in improving private cloud capabilities with more automation, self-service, and other cloud capabilities. On-premises infrastructure also continues to innovate.

Customers migrating to the cloud reported that some legacy on-premises VMs were very difficult to migrate to native cloud. Several of the customers interviewed had attempted to migrate some of these VMs to native cloud as a test and it turned out to be nearly impossible, requiring huge amounts of rearchitecting that would consume impractical amounts of time and money.

IDC deployment data indicates that containers have a very different deployment profile than VMs, with the majority of the container footprint deployed in the public cloud. While the customers interviewed had varying footprint patterns, the thrust of new development was on containers on native cloud.

However, existing applications still make up a significant portion of containers today.

While containers are viewed as more portable than VMs, not all containers are easily portable in advanced scenarios. Many have hard dependencies on cloud services/application programming interfaces (APIs) that make portability difficult. Data gravity remains a perennial obstacle to migration. Of the customers interviewed, there were some isolated use cases of repatriation or bursting, but these were not common events.

Container migrations are mostly one-way events (toward cloud) that take significant planning.

About VMware Cross-Cloud Services 

VMware Cross-Cloud services is a portfolio of cloud services that deliver a unified and simplified way to build, operate, access, and help secure applications on any cloud.

The portfolio includes solutions in five areas:

  • Cloud & Edge Infrastructure to run enterprise apps with a consistent operating model
  • Cloud Management to operate apps and infrastructure with unified governance and visibility into performance and costs
  • An App Platform to build and deploy cloud-native apps consistently 
  • Security & Networking as a built-in distributed service across users, apps, devices
  • Anywhere Workspace to access any app on any device securely

Challenges and Opportunities

VMware will need to look beyond vSphere-based platforms in order to capture the new world of containers and native public cloud. This will require VMware to build a presence with new personas and develop new standalone businesses that are not necessarily connected with its existing virtualization business.

VMware has a large install base of on-premises VMs that can turn into an opportunity for the company to extend its presence into private cloud, containers, and public cloud.


Multicloud is the reality for most enterprises, however they got there. Public cloud has become as complex and diverse as on-premises, which over time has accumulated generations of virtual machines, bare metal, containers, and an endless variety of operating and application environments. With public cloud, we now also see a mix of older VMs, newer containers, and a long list of native application and data services.

Public cloud is available in many forms, with customers deploying it on-premises with local cloud and variations such as VMware Cloud. Customers have pursued various cross-cloud abstractions, such as container/Kubernetes, VMware Cloud, and PaaS layers, which can help with reducing complexity. However, the biggest pain point has been the lack of ability to centralize management into a single universal platform that can consolidate information from multiple sources. Most enterprises today have only a few select tools that can cross clouds. Certainly, enterprises will improve that ratio over time, but arriving at a unified multicloud management platform remains a significant challenge.

Managing Multicloud Complexity

For insights on how enterprises are managing their multicloud environments, I invite you to read the IDC White Paper, Managing Mutlicloud Complexity: Customer Insights, sponsored by VMware