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Using multi-cloud management software to juggle cloud providers

Some enterprises won't settle for just one cloud -- instead, they're using multi-cloud management software to wrangle a mix of cloud providers.

Enterprises that want a choice between cloud service providers have several multi-cloud management software offerings to choose from, though workload migrations after initial deployments remain rare.

Vendors such as RightScale Inc. and CliQr Technologies Inc. offer multi-cloud management software, which gives users the ability to deploy workloads without modification to different clouds, as well as the ability to move workloads between clouds at will.

Enterprise IT pros who have put these products into production said that, so far, they have helped them migrate workloads to their choice of cloud service providers.

Product teams within Pearson International, a division of the Pearson global education company, use RightScale's software to manage multiple public cloud deployments on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in North America and Europe, and DataPipe in China. RightScale can deploy virtual machines (VMs) quickly in the cloud, and it can also apply a multi-cloud image beneath VMs to be moved from cloud to cloud.

The multi-cloud management strategy is necessary because not every cloud service provider covers all the markets Pearson wants to reach, and many Pearson customers have their own specific policies on hosting, according to Andrew Burke, director of global infrastructure and systems for the company.

"Because we're using RightScale and the multi-cloud image technology, which we'd built once, we could take the exact same product, deploy it on DataPipe's infrastructure, and launch it within four weeks without changing any code or architecture for the solution whatsoever," Burke said.

Meanwhile, PZFlex, a virtual prototyping company based in Mountain View, Calif., has deployed its application on Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HP) Cloud Compute service via software from CliQr Technologies, which also allows for the deployment of applications to multiple cloud service providers without changes.

We don't have to tie up to any particular cloud. We can basically profile to see which one is providing the best performance for the best cost and then we can direct our customers to that.
Robert BanksDirector, PZFlex

PZFlex chose HP because it offered the most affordable Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) pricing, according to Robert Banks, director of the company. HP also customized its cloud data for PZFlex by moving servers into the same physical rack. This cut down latency among multiple nodes used by PZFlex's application.

But PZFlex's relationship with HP is far from exclusive; the company also plans deployments on AWS and Google Compute Engine, depending on which vendor offers the best prices and performance.

"We don't have to tie up to any particular cloud. We can basically profile to see which one is providing the best performance for the best cost and then we can direct our customers to that," Banks said.

While in theory the ability to move among cloud service providers can save money, these products have their own costs. RightScale, for example, charges $1,000 a month for its Premium Edition. CliQr starts at $990 per month for 3,000 compute hours.

Other vendors that offer multi-cloud management range from cloud migration-focused companies, such as Racemi Inc. and RiverMeadow Software Inc., to cloud management software companies, such as ServiceMesh Inc. and HotLink Corp.

Multi-cloud management and cloud migration

Though cloud migration between service providers is in the game plan for both Pearson and PZFlex, it hasn't yet become a reality.

Analysts say this is the norm for multi-cloud management right now.

"Nobody really moves their stuff around in between various IaaS services -- not more than once, anyway," said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research based in Boston, Mass. "To me, it says more about the increasing maturity of IaaS -- users have a lot of options and technologies right now."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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