Six Must-Have Cloud Management Features

Nick Kephart | Wired

From technology startups to multinationals, cloud computing has arrived, and the change is evident. According to Gartner, nearly 20% of companies are using cloud computing for most of their production applications.Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is already a $6 billion market and it’s growing nearly 50% per year. The popularity of IaaS means that more applications and services are being delivered via the cloud by an ever­expanding group of business units, teams, developers, and systems administrators.

IaaS consumers are now looking to cloud management platforms to help manage their growing portfolio of cloud applications. A cloud management platform enables organizations to deploy, manage, monitor, and control applications across public and private clouds ­ ensuring that companies can achieve both agility and cost savings.

Here are six key capabilities you should look for in a cloud management platform:

1. Simplify Complexity

One of the main reasons that IaaS has been such a huge hit is flexibility. IaaS consumers can choose instance sizes, operating systems, databases, application frameworks, and a laundry list of other attributes. They can modify specific instances by altering configurations, boot sequences, and cron jobs. With all this customization comes the very complexity that many are trying to escape by moving away from traditional datacenters. Effective cloud management gives you the customization required for IaaS to be successful along with management tools versioning, source control, and configuration management ­ to keep it all under control.

2. Manage Multiple Clouds

What cloud users want is true interoperability: Applications built for one environment can be run on another without changing the underlying code or configuration. True interoperability goes beyond simple cloud API compatibility to handle different behaviors across different cloud providers. Virtual networks don’t behave the same across clouds. And neither do storage volumes. Or snapshots. A simple API translation tool doesn’t cut it. Your cloud management platform should enable this multi­cloud future, by enabling application interoperability across multiple IaaS cloud providers.

3. Build for the Future

Innovation in the IaaS market is moving fast: Witness the weekly drumroll of updates from Amazon, Rackspace, OpenStack, and CloudStack. And then there are the ever­increasing new entrants on the IaaS playing field such as Windows Azure and Google. The menu of services and the strength of vendors’ offerings will look quite different in a year. A cloud management platform should enable you to harness this innovation by supporting a wide variety of IaaS cloud providers vendors and cloud services offerings ­ both public and private.

4. Support the Application Lifecycle

Managing applications involves much more than simply getting them launched. A typical application has a lot of life events: updating code, patching security vulnerabilities, capacity management, performance optimization, backups, failover. There are many tools to help with each of these tasks. Comprehensive cloud management includes the monitoring, alerting, configuration management, auto-scaling, and disaster recovery tools necessary to take an application from source code repository through predictable updates and unpredictable service interruptions.

5. Automation: Set It and Forget It

Managing applications can involve a lot of repetitive tasks, especially for large environments. Rather than having manual processes to provision each server or push code, the cloud is built to be programmatically managed. After all, the infrastructure is managed with code via APIs. A cloud management platform delivers greatest value when it provides capacity management, support for continuous integration, and resource orchestration that reduces operational burdens and enables your team to support ever­growing computing requirements.

6. Manage and Control Costs

IaaS makes it easy to consume infrastructure — so easy that you may be concerned that your organization is consuming a lot more than you anticipated. Plus IaaS is priced by the hour, which is not something that most organizations have ever measured accurately before. And cloud pricing is often complex, a la carte, and constantly changing. This does not sit well with most IT departments and their long-­range budgets. Look for a cloud management platform that provides cost forecasting, reporting, and showback so that you can sit tight when your cloud bills come due.

Companies of all sizes are embracing cloud management platforms as a critical component of their cloud strategy. With these six capabilities at your disposal, you’ll be ready to manage cloud applications across a multi­-cloud portfolio to fully realize the cost savings and agility benefits of cloud computing.


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