cloud management

Contributor(s): Stephen J. Bigelow, Kathleen Casey

Cloud management is the exercise of administrative control over public, private and hybrid clouds. A well-implemented cloud management strategy enables users to maintain control over these dynamic and scalable cloud computing environments.

Cloud management goals

A solid cloud management strategy helps organizations achieve three main goals.

Self-service capabilities

Self-service capabilities eliminate the traditional processes associated with IT resource provisioning. Users can access a public or private cloud, review current cloud computing instances or create new ones, monitor utilization and costs, and adjust resource allocations. With reporting, users can track cloud budgets and reduce or delete unused instances to cut operating expenses.

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Workflow automation

Cloud management enables workflow automation. Through automation, organizations can turn business policies into the actionable steps needed to create and manage cloud computing instances, without the need for human intervention.

In addition to the creation, placement and adjustments of cloud computing instances, workflow automation helps businesses meet their reporting, deployment and compliance needs. For example, cloud management tools can alert a manager when an employee tries to move a private cloud workload to the public cloud, which could potentially violate company compliance or security policies.

Cloud analysis

Cloud management enables the ongoing analysis of cloud computing workloads and user experiences (UX).

In a private cloud environment, organizations can ensure their infrastructure works properly and offer a basis for tasks such as workload balancing and capacity planning. In public clouds, performance metrics for latency or downtime help ensure compliance with public cloud provider service-level agreements (SLAs).

With the use of metrics, organizations can also decide whether it's time to change cloud providers or migrate workloads from public to private clouds.

Cloud management tools

Cloud management requires tools. Public cloud providers typically develop highly specialized tools for monitoring, orchestration, cost management, security and more to suit the capabilities of their services.

For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) enables users to access and manage cloud instances through a command-line interface (CLI) that runs individual commands and scripts. Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers a monitoring and logging tool, Google Stackdriver, which provides performance data for applications and virtual machines (VMs) that run on GCP and AWS. Microsoft Azure, as another example, enables administrators to automatically replicate VMs with its Azure Site Recovery tool.

Cloud management components

However, most public cloud management tools limit users to basic workload tasks and reporting, offering little insight into the provider's underlying infrastructure or performance.

Third-party vendors offer public cloud management platforms to supplement providers' native tools. Popular third-party options include RightScale, Scalr and Cloudability. Many of these tools can work across multiple public cloud provider platforms.

Private cloud management tools

For private cloud management, organizations often use in-house tools. Such tools can include platform-specific management software, such as VMTurbo Operations Manager and Embotics vCommander. Some private cloud management tools offer sophisticated software frameworks to manage complex private and hybrid cloud deployments. These tools include Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) for Hyper-V, VMware vCloud Suite, Red Hat CloudForms and Citrix CloudPlatform.

Cloud management strategies

The success of any cloud management strategy depends on the proper use of tools and automation, but a competent IT staff is also crucial. Although administrators don't handle cloud provisioning or related tasks, a business still needs cloud expertise to codify its policies into workflows. This requires an IT staff with knowledge of cloud tools and the business's cloud management goals. To deploy a private or hybrid cloud, enterprises must invest in IT training or hire new staff.

IT teams must also monitor cloud computing metrics, make critical infrastructure decisions, address patch and security vulnerabilities and update the business rule sets that drive cloud automation.

Although IT doesn't run the cloud, it runs the tools that run the cloud. For example, tools can easily perform cloud workload balancing without any manual intervention from IT, but IT must set the performance thresholds and migration rules used to govern that process.

Companies that lack a skilled IT staff can seek help from third parties. For example, a cloud service brokerage (CSB) is an intermediary firm that helps businesses identify and integrate suitable public cloud services. In addition, CSBs can aggregate multiple providers and enable a business to access multiple providers at once. An in-house IT staff well-versed in public cloud integration and management can sometimes act as a CSB.

This was last updated in June 2017

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