This content is part of the Essential Guide: How to manage cloud workloads and resources from the data center

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Hybrid cloud management tools and strategies

Determining how to manage hybrid clouds can seem daunting. The trick is to identify what you need to manage and the best types of tools for the job.

A primary concern of migrating to the cloud is how to best manage it. Planning to adopt any cloud model raises a slew of questions; introducing hybrid clouds solicits even more.

A management strategy for hybrid clouds should define what you need to manage and how best�to do that.

How many of your management processes for dedicated and virtualized server infrastructures will be relevant to cloud computing? What is involved in managing a hybrid cloud environment with multiple public cloud providers and an existing private cloud? Enterprises become particularly concerned with security when sensitive data lands on public storage services, cost issues when going over budget on unanticipated bandwidth and storage capacity and the proliferation of mismanaged images. Formulating effective strategies for managing hybrid clouds can help ease these concerns.

Identifying cloud management domains

A management strategy for hybrid clouds should define what you need to manage and how best to do that. Hybrid clouds consist of an internal private cloud and contracts with one or more public cloud providers. Hybrid cloud administrators are responsible for managing computing, networking and storage resources in multiple domains. Over time, the combination of domains will change, but your management strategy and tools should remain the same.

Cloud management policies should address a few key topics:

  • Configuration and installment management policies should specify rules governing the creation, deployment, patching and rebuilding of images.
  • Access control policies should be in place when sensitive data and restricted applications, such as programs containing high-value intellectual property, are being used in the private or a public cloud.
  • Budget management and reporting policies should specify how cloud users will receive information regarding costs and use. A budget policy should stipulate any additional controls that must be instated, such as revoking the right to launch new images when a budget is 98% consumed.

Cross-platform tools for managing hybrid clouds

In addition to understanding what aspects of a hybrid cloud you must manage, you also need to understand how to manage those aspects. And a common challenge in a hybrid cloud model is consistently executing these tasks across multiple domains.

More resources for managing clouds

Load balancing servers in a private cloud

Self-service, security and storage tools for the private cloud

Sharding relational databases in the cloud

Using cross-platform tools is prudent when implementing a hybrid cloud management strategy that includes multiple providers. Amazon Beanstalk, for example, supports deployment, capacity management, load balancing and management tasks, but the tool is limited to an Amazon cloud

It’s vital to determine what mix of cloud tools will be most valuable. IT staffs often are faced with the quandary of using specialized tools versus a suite of tools. This raises some questions: Do you want to use a “single pane of glass” approach to cloud management tools, or would you rather use a collection of specialized tools, each designed to address a specific operation in cloud management?  

Single-pane-of-glass tools for operations management. When you require multiple management applications, a consolidated product may be a better option. The OpenStack initiative, for example, is an open source project dedicated to building a range of cloud computing software, including tools for image management, billing and monitoring.

Commercial providers such as RightScale and Enstratus offer single pane of glass products that let customers manage multiple cloud providers from a single console. Integration is a key benefit of these approaches, which is especially important when you need to manage budgets across multiple providers or identities of users who access images running in multiple clouds.

Specialized tools. Choose a specialized tool if you have management systems in place for most of your environment but need to address specific weak spots. Popular specialized tools for configuration management include Chef and Puppet. Both products provide a higher level of abstraction for managing infrastructure than a custom script would use to manage servers and storage systems. 

For example, instead of coding a script that accounts for different package managers on different Linux distributions, a system administrator can specify that a particular package be loaded when an image is built. The underlying configuration management tool takes care of those implementation details. Another option, RunDeck, is a job management and automation tool that helps with workflows, logging, configuration management and other management tasks. Security controls are available from Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, including Dome9’s cloud firewall management and Novell, which offers its Cloud Security Service.

Managing hybrid clouds can be challenging, but it also can be done efficiently with the proper tools. Sometimes a combination of specialized programs and custom coding is the key. In other cases, a cloud software platform or a commercial management service is the better option. In all cases, the first step is to understand what aspects of the business process you need to manage.

Dan Sullivan, M.Sc., is an author, systems architect and consultant with over 20 years of IT experience with engagements in advanced analytics, systems architecture, database design, enterprise security and business intelligence. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, software development, government, retail and education, among others. Dan has written extensively about topics ranging from data warehousing, cloud computing and advanced analytics to security management, collaboration, and text mining.

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