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Cloud management platforms come with a catch for some admins

A multicloud model creates new management challenges, and while third-party tools help, they can also introduce some new operational headaches of their own.

Cloud management platforms and brokerage tools are now commonplace in enterprises that use multiple infrastructure-as-a-service...

providers. However, organizations often rush to deploy these technologies with little consideration for the additional complexities they might introduce.

Before adoption, understand the realities of cloud management platforms designed to support multiple IaaS providers, including their potential drawbacks and challenges.

The rise of multicloud

It is increasingly common for enterprises to use IaaS platforms from multiple providers -- a model known as multicloud. Since each cloud provider and platform -- such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform -- offers different services for storage, compute, security and governance, multicloud enables enterprises to take advantage of the best offerings to meet their needs and budget. Unfortunately, managing those different services across multiple cloud platforms can become overwhelming.

Look out for the tipping point -- when it no longer becomes practical to directly manage the cloud services you use from multiple providers. At this point, many organizations adopt some type of cloud management or brokerage tool that reduces the complexities of service management for two or more public clouds.

The shortcomings of cloud management platforms

It's crucial, however, to understand the upsides and downsides of multicloud management tools. Enter into the use of this technology with both eyes open and a good understanding of your own requirements.

There are a few challenges to note before you adopt cloud management platforms designed to support multiple IaaS providers, such as the least common denominator effect. Some enterprises place an abstraction layer between the consumers of cloud services -- such as application workloads or end users -- and the services themselves, using a generic API for cloud storage and compute. That API can only support a subset of common features from each cloud provider.

Enter into the use of this technology with both eyes open and a good understanding of your own requirements.

For example, let's say you have to use APIs for native storage systems in order to provision, remove or change storage blocks in three different public clouds. If you use an abstraction layer, you have to use APIs that are common to all three public clouds, which might limit you to about 60 percent of the capabilities of each platform. This happens because each cloud has some APIs and services that are not common or shared with other public cloud providers.

Another limitation is the ability of these cloud management and brokerage tools to keep up with the changing nature of public cloud services. For example, some tools might have limited support for new IaaS services, such as those related to serverless computing and containers. If you can't find certain services in the platform's directory, you can't use them.

Finally, most of these cloud management platforms provide a layer of abstraction intended to help admins manage multiple clouds through a single interface. This abstraction, however, comes at a price and can make things more complicated from an architectural point of view. For example, this abstraction layer means another potential point of failure and another potential attack point for hackers.

While cloud management platforms definitely have their perks, remember these challenges before you bring the technology into your enterprise.

Next Steps

Four capabilities to look for in a cloud management tool

Evaluate these software options for hybrid cloud management

Questions to ask before you deploy multicloud management software

This was last published in September 2017

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