Australian companies are adopting multiple cloud platforms more enthusiastically than those in any other country, according to new research that has also flagged major deficiencies in the skills to manage them – and questioned the wisdom of companies putting all their eggs in the one proverbial basket.

Fully 39 per cent of Australian companies, surveyed by Vanson Bourne for Nutanix’s latest Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) survey, said they had adopted multi-cloud solutions – which combine several public and private cloud platforms.

That figure is expected to increase to 66 per cent this year, as companies double down on digital-transformation initiatives that were accelerated during the pandemic.

Users of multi-cloud environments are steadily migrating towards public-cloud environments, with in-house data centres and private clouds supporting 64 per cent of workloads now but this proportion dropping to 47 per cent as public clouds take over.

Although strong adoption of multi-cloud strategies suggested that Australia is “a true multi-cloud leader, ahead of the pack on building tomorrow’s preferred IT environment,” said Nutanix ANZ managing director Jim Steed, he qualified this plaudit by noting that Australian organisations are also more likely to choose just one public cloud provider and stick with it.

Fully 27 per cent of Australian organisations had done so, compared with 16 per cent globally, in a result that Steed said raises questions about data sovereignty – since major cloud providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud are predominantly based overseas – and companies’ ability to ride out outages such as Google Cloud’s November hiccup and a major AWS outage in December.

“We see too many businesses wedded to one public cloud provider to manage their infrastructure,” Steed said. “But what happens when that provider has an outage?”

The focus on a single cloud platform also had implications for companies’ internal skill sets, with Steed warning that “IT engineers need variety, not myopia, in the cloud skillsets they develop”.

Fully 82 per cent of the 1,700 surveyed respondents said they were lacking some of the IT skills required to meet the demands of the business – with particular demand for automation, AI/ML, and containerisation.

This is no surprise, given that recruiters have long been flagging the surging demand – and salaries – for cloud skills that have become even hotter as local operations are expanded and new operations established.

Spreading out the eggs

Multi-cloud strategies came into their own as companies were forced to quickly support remote workforces, requiring them to scale up IT environments for remote access.

Yet as companies continue their digital transformation, migrating other business functions forced IT strategists to consider which cloud platform is most appropriate for which business applications, with every Australian company reporting that they had moved applications between IT environments during the previous year.

Those workloads are being strategically matched with the most appropriate infrastructure based on issues such as security, performance, and cost – driving what Nutanix calls a ‘cloud-smart’ approach that has strengthened the case for a multi-cloud strategy.

The proportion of companies using two or more public clouds is expected to double over the next 12 months, suggesting that ‘cloud-smart’ strategies are set to become more widely used – yet with 83 per cent reporting that the process is costly and time-consuming, the transition still needs to be managed carefully.

Although governments have been pushing for diversity in their use of public cloud – NSW, for one, recently added domestic player Macquarie Telecom Group to its whole-of-government cloud panel alongside global giants – concentration of key services has been flagged for efficiency and security purposes.

The government’s expanded cloud commitment has been credited with helping Census 2021 come off without a hitch, while last year an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) review supported the consolidation of services into ‘cyber hubs’ that would, it said, “improve the ability of Government entities to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover from malicious intrusions”.