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Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The 'inevitability' of multicloud

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: three cloud experts discuss the multicloud question, Microsoft completes the second-biggest acquisition in its history (for now), and the week ahead in enterprise tech.

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While it would seem like there’s never been a better time to launch an AI startup, investors aren’t quite as sure. According to new data from PitchBook, investors plunged $115 billion into AI startups last year, an 87.2% increase compared to last year, which sounds good until you learn that investment in software startups overall rose 131.1% in 2021.

You don’t choose multicloud; multicloud chooses you

A significant portion of a generation of tech leaders worn out by the limited enterprise infrastructure choices of the past sees the rise of three stable cloud-computing providers as a chance to hedge bets across multiple operating environments. In practice, it’s a lot more complicated.

Protocol hosted a discussion earlier this week with three enterprise tech experts — Paul Cormier, CEO of Red Hat; David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte; and Priyanka Sharma, executive director of the CNCF — to consider the multicloud question. From a technical standpoint, it’s never been easier to operate across multiple clouds, and Microsoft and Google are keen to encourage the strategy as a way to wean business away from AWS.

  • “I see multicloud … as an inevitability,” Sharma said. “Do people wake up one day and realize that they have multiple cloud providers versus a strategic approach? I think it’s a mix of both.”
  • Linthicum added that companies have begun moving to several cloud providers “whether the CIO knows it or not. This is often happening in the background.”
  • Now that the basic idea of cloud computing is table stakes inside enterprise IT departments, companies are starting to choose services that make the most sense for their applications no matter where they run, Linthicum said.
  • “They had the idea that they’ll leverage a single cloud provider three or four years ago, and now we’re at the notion of leveraging the best AI technology, the best analytics technology, the best databases, things like that,” he said.

But as companies move to multicloud, they’re beginning to realize just how complex the move has become.

  • “Everyone has similarly named services,” Cormier said. “They’re very powerful, but they’re silos unto themselves.”
  • Cloud customers can offload some of the management overhead to the cloud providers by using the managed services they all provide, but that has its own drawbacks, he said.
  • Once you build an application around a higher-level managed service, compared to the basic DIY tools cloud providers offer, you’ve effectively locked yourself into that service: in some ways, defeating the whole reason you wanted to go multicloud in the first place.

And as companies shift to multicloud, budgeting becomes a larger issue.

  • Companies — especially big ones — already find it hard to monitor cloud spending on just a single provider. Guess what happens with two providers.
  • “You have to have metrics, to an essence, to monitor that and move it forward,” Linthicum said. “And I think that’s the big discipline that’s occurring these days.”

Whether or not companies set out to build applications across multiple cloud providers or find themselves in that situation thanks to mergers and shadow IT, it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to be done making the experience easier to manage.

  • “I think this is just a pain we all have to go through as we are in this journey of modernization and utilizing cloud capabilities and different services to their best limits,” Sharma said.

Now that AWS has truly acknowledged (albeit begrudgingly) that multicloud is here to stay, customers interested in playing the field could be in a position to demand better tools and easier-to-manage services.

— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM HASHICORP

At HashiCorp, we believe infrastructure enables innovation. We help teams operate that infrastructure in the cloud. Organizations rely on our solutions to provision, secure, connect, and run their business-critical applications. Our products provide multi-cloud infrastructure automation, and underpin some of the most important applications for the world’s largest enterprises.

Learn more

Microsoft embraces Nuance

Microsoft’s $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance Communications officially closed on Friday, paving the way for the company to expand into the health care space and improve its communications software with AI tech.

As the backbone of Siri, Nuance already works with health care giants like Epic, Humana and Cleveland Clinic. Longtime rival Oracle made a similar play just a few weeks ago with its agreement to buy Cerner for $28 billion. Cerner, which provides health care records, is also a Nuance customer.

Microsoft also plans to use Nuance's technology to update its contact center by automating work for call-center agents. The broader vision is to use its capabilities in conversational AI "across healthcare, financial services, retail, telecommunications and other industries with Microsoft’s global cloud ecosystems," wrote Nuance CEO Mark Benjamin in the announcement. Benjamin will retain his role as CEO of Nuance post-acquisition, and will report to Microsoft Cloud and AI group leader Scott Guthrie.

The acquisition, which was originally announced in April of last year, is one of the largest ever for Microsoft, eclipsed only by its $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Coming next week

Next week will bring a fresh round of earnings from enterprise tech companies like MongoDB, Asana and CrowdStrike. Pay particular attention to Oracle, reporting for the first time after its acquisition of Cerner, and HashiCorp’s first earnings release since its December IPO.

MongoDB is presenting financial results on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT.

Asana is sharing fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. PT.

CrowdStrike is announcing earnings on Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

Couchbase is presenting financial results on Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.

DocuSign is sharing results on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. PT.

Oracle is announcing earnings on Thursday at 2 p.m. PT.

HashiCorp is announcing earnings on Thursday at 2 p.m. PT.

— Aisha Counts

Around the enterprise

Hellman & Friedman disclosed Friday that it has taken a 7.5% stake in Splunk, the latest plunge into enterprise SaaS from the world of private equity.

The mercenary hacking groups that have pledged to defend Ukraine and attack Russia are operating as chaotically as you might think, according to The New York Times.

Microsoft added a new cloud region in China, its fifth separate installation within the country.

A MESSAGE FROM HASHICORP

At HashiCorp, we believe infrastructure enables innovation. We help teams operate that infrastructure in the cloud. Organizations rely on our solutions to provision, secure, connect, and run their business-critical applications. Our products provide multi-cloud infrastructure automation, and underpin some of the most important applications for the world’s largest enterprises.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Monday!

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