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How should companies decide between best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite options when evaluating a multicloud strategy?

How should companies decide between best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite options when evaluating a multicloud strategy?

Finding the right mix of services in a multicloud strategy comes down to flexibility and agility, members of Protocol's Braintrust say.

Good afternoon! In today's Braintrust, we asked the experts about how they make multicloud decisions and weigh options as they consider services and providers. Want more on multicloud strategy? Check out the event our Enterprise team put on last week here.

Rob Lee

CTO at Pure Storage

Trading off lock-in options from various cloud vendors in a single environment is a false dichotomy. The promise of multiple clouds was the ability to mix and match services from multiple providers that best suited a company’s unique needs, without being locked into a single suite of solutions. Multicloud strategies are all about agility and today, that means adopting the right mix of cloud services to meet the requirements of modern data. To experience the full benefits of the cloud, it's critical for organizations to look for best-of-breed functionality, coupled with the appropriate flexibility and optionality. By embracing a multicloud strategy with a best-of-breed approach (versus best-of-suite), organizations are increasing opportunities for data synergies and cost optimization without limiting accessibility or creating silos. However, it doesn't stop there. Once a multicloud strategy is fleshed out, organizations need to ensure they’re taking the next steps to deploy the right solutions to support it from a data mobility, resilience and a consistency perspective (regardless of where data lives).

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Wendy M. Pfeiffer

CIO at Nutanix

Since the 1970s, enterprise IT leaders have used an IT portfolio management approach to inform technology investments. At the core of this approach is the principle that technology investments must not only provide the expected functionality, but they must also provide the enterprise with scalability, flexibility and resilience. IT portfolio management eschews monolithic thinking, vendor lock-in and single-threaded ecosystems. And a measured adherence to this technology investment approach has historically ensured that IT teams are able to deliver against their business remit, even in the face of changing market, human or geo-political circumstances. It is this approach to technology investment that is the driving force behind enterprise IT’s ever-increasing multicloud consumption. In this context, multicloud isn’t a strategy. Multicloud consumption is a tactic that flows from an IT portfolio management strategy. And if multicloud consumption is the result of a portfolio management strategy, then best-of-suite won’t do. Best-of-suite is limited to a single vendor — the very antithesis of the multicloud consumption tactic. Instead, best-of-breed ensures that enterprise IT is consuming capacity at terms that are most favorable to their economic and execution objectives.

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Sumit Dhawan

President at VMware

As technology vendors continue to build in more capabilities, enhance security and experience, best-of-suite has now become best-of-breed – giving companies the best of both worlds. With a best-of-suite approach, companies don’t have to compromise on modularity and have the freedom and flexibility to innovate across a consistent architecture. The power of open source also adds to this flexibility, allowing companies to deploy more secure, innovative, interoperable, and scalable solutions with confidence.

Ultimately, companies should look to select a technology partner that has capabilities aligned with their business goals and multicloud strategy. A best-of-suite approach delivers a comprehensive, all-in-one solution to complement.

Multicloud is the digital business model for the next 20 years, so it’s critical for companies to have the ‘right’ partner in place that delivers the agility to innovate. As companies evaluate their multicloud strategies, we’ve reached a tipping point of the great IT debate of best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite. The future is best-of-suite as vendors evolve to deliver pure play—with each module and component designed to work together as part of a complete system.

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Armon Dadgar

CTO and Co-founder at HashiCorp

One of the key benefits of going multicloud is access to best-of-breed services. But the challenge is knowing when to encourage the adoption of specialized services and when to lean on “pragmatic standardization” of common technologies like Postgres, MySQL, Kubernetes, etc.

One popular way to strike this balance is with the platform teams model. Here, the product manager who owns the backlog for a company’s cloud platform works with development teams to negotiate the use of differentiated cloud services alongside standard services that are part of a catalog that can be supported by the ops team.

Building this type of consensus and enforcing common patterns reduces the operational complexity of managing a high number of specialized services. These capabilities (think AWS Lambda, Google’s BigQuery or Azure’s Cosmos DB) are powerful when used correctly but can present an outsized operational burden when the organization provides no guardrails on what developers can consume.

You want the Goldilocks balance that’s “just right.”
For example, a product manager could say 80% of services will be from a standard service catalog. The other 20% of services are open for discussion based on business impact, demonstrated interest and organizational skills.

By adopting multicloud, organizations are able to cherry-pick the best tools for the right jobs but in doing so create added complexity for their ops teams. Organizations will succeed in multicloud adoption when they are able to balance the interests of their operations teams with the needs of developers — and build consensus throughout the process.

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Priyanka Sharma

Executive Director at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation

It really is the best time to be an end user. While infrastructure is not fully commoditized and lots of choices need to be made on a regular basis, with the backdrop of Kubernetes as the de facto standard, there is a method to the madness.

When trying to determine whether to utilize best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite options, organizations need to understand that they are in the driver’s seat and should pick a strategy specific to their unique business reality. Something that works for the company down the street, or may be recommended by well wishers or partners may not be right for them at this moment in time.

In my experience, early stage companies find it easier to get started with a best-of-suite approach. There are the inherent benefits to having an integrated toolchain including better observability, security, and developer onboarding. However, as businesses get more complex, more features are added, new geographies are reached, the need for specific, best-of-breed solutions rises. It is important to be realistic about the inevitability of multicloud sprawl over time and manage it carefully.

Our end users, the consumers of cloud native technologies, tell us that even if they have largely chosen a best-of-suite approach, edge cases pop up regularly enough and some areas of the technology are mission-critical enough to justify best-of-breed solutions. In these cases, having a strategy to manage multicloud is much more important than spending cycles determining whether to go multicloud or not. Most of us, rightly start with a best-of-suite mindset but over time need to incorporate best-of-breed for the sake of innovation and business results.

I would also recommend investing in a highly skilled developer experience team that can help build the multicloud management strategy, bring in best-of-breed where appropriate and create the tooling and guardrails to manage the diverse tools and compute resources that will find their way into your stack inevitably.

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Brian Spanswick

CISO at Cohesity

You can have the best of both worlds if you design your multicloud strategy correctly. From a services and application perspective you want to choose best-of-breed cloud providers to meet your customers, end-users or developer requirements. This allows you to gain leverage by making all your stakeholders more productive. The downside is more complexity of operations and management, which will fall back on your cloud and IT operations team. This is where best-of-suite solutions come in.

Take data management for example. Do you want to deal with different toolsets, user interfaces and silos between different clouds and services to essentially do the same data management tasks such as backup, disaster recovery, replication, data security, files, data governance, etc? Probably not. Data is a valuable asset and if you can better manage and consolidate it across multicloud you will reduce complexity at scale, improve cyber resilience and gain intelligence and extensibility with your data. Having all your data managed by a best-in-suite next-gen data management platform gives you the opportunity to expand its value through mobility, reuse and analysis across your multicloud estate.

You can choose best-of-breed cloud services across multiple providers, while having all that data simply managed with a best-of-suite solution. Your end users will be happy, your operations team will have less burden and you’ll be able to better protect, secure and expand the value of your data.

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Matt Hicks

Executive Vice President of Products and Technologies at Red Hat

Best is something that needs to be viewed from the lens of the user. What’s best for developers is a solution that’s going to let them be the most productive and build the best skills for the future, while best for a CIO might be enterprise consistency. Every group of users within an organization is going to have their own vision of “best,” so it’s crucial to establish a balance between these often conflicting views. So when it comes to best-of-breed versus best-of-suite, it's important to look past the "best of" and find what matches up most tightly to the broadest set of user needs. That's what will ultimately be best for your business.

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David Linthicum

Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte

It goes to optimized solution value for all cloud services being considered as part of a multicloud. If we can find services that are truly best-of-breed, then they provide better business value optimization. We typically do so by casting a wider net across cloud providers.

Therefore, they are cheaper to leverage and return the most value to the business. Those are the services you go with no matter if you’re going best-of-breed or best-of-suite. We're not picking what's available, but what the best solution is, period.

This needs to be a fundamental shift in how we design and build solutions — no longer looking at only the cloud services that are within a single provider, no matter how many of their services we’re leveraging now. But, look at what’s truly the best solution for the business, understanding that the additional complexity and heterogeneity that’s occurring is easily managed with a proper multicloud operations strategy, and tooling.

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Jonathan Douglas contributed to this story. See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated March 7, 2022).
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