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With the rise of hybrid and multi-cloud, enterprises increasingly seek a way to centrally manage and deploy resources across multiple IT environments. A third-party cloud management platform helps achieve that goal, but selecting one is not a process you should rush.
Define your goals
In short, before you choose a cloud management platform, you should be able to answer these three questions:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- How are you going to doing it?
- Why are you doing it?
First, define on paper exactly what you want to achieve with the platform. And it's OK to start small. For example, your enterprise might want to focus first on the implementation of self-service capabilities. A cloud management tool could help you achieve this through the use of premade templates, which users could access to launch resources.
If your goal is reduced deployment overhead and consistency across your cloud infrastructure, you could start with self-service options for VMs. Then, as users become more familiar with the self-service model, build from there.
Before you roll out a cloud management platform, it's also important to define who in your organization will have access to the tool and to the resources it supports. Unfortunately, this isn't always simple. Within a business, there can be many groups that require access to cloud resources for different reasons. Deconstruct your requirements into the following areas for each business group that needs access:
- Consumers: the end users, project managers and developers within each group who need access to cloud resources;
- Managers: the individuals who manage and approve the consumers' requests; and
- Business administrators: the individuals who provide access to cloud resources, as well as manage access to resource templates to ensure the consumers use the desired configurations.
Depending on company size, an IT administrator or another technical professional can assume the business administrator role.
To simplify management, it is vital to carefully create groups -- usually with Active Directory or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol -- for each of the business units. Direct assignment of roles to users is bad news, as it makes management more complex as a cloud deployment grows. It's easier for admins to manage access by placing users into groups and removing them from groups as needed. In other words, try to make the authorization workflow mimic the business, not the other way around.
You can repeat the same resource templates for as few, or as many, business lines as you desire. Templates are not usually shareable between cloud tenants.
Resource consumption and workflows
Just as they would in an on-premises environment, enterprises need to monitor and manage resource consumption in the cloud. Each cloud management platform you evaluate might handle this task differently. Primarily, enterprises need to determine the amount of CPU, memory and disk that users and their workloads can consume, on a group-by-group basis. Then, admins need a way to monitor and track that consumption to ensure business units and their applications can't use more resources than they have been allocated.
Take the time to experiment
Before you commit to a cloud management platform -- ranging from a tool like VMware vRealize to Embotics vCommander -- be sure to experiment fully with the product and all its associated features. Familiarity is critical before you use any platform in production. Always start with a limited proof of concept before you look to automate infrastructure provisioning across the board.
Most cloud management platforms enable an administrator to quickly build a workflow for resource deployment within a drag-and-drop environment or wizard. Typically, a workflow consists of several actions, including:
- The user checks in and selects a blueprint, which includes VM details and required configuration data.
- The manager receives an approval request via email. Some cloud management platforms are customizable here, so admins can choose to skip this step or apply it only to certain groups or resources.
- Regardless of how exactly the approval process works, the outcome should be a VM that the user/requester can access.
Cost monitoring and optimization
The ability to deploy and approve VMs is all well and good, but someone has to foot the bill. Enterprises need to closely track and manage cloud costs to stay within budget, which is another feature to look for in a cloud management platform. Admins should be able to attribute ownership, in terms of cost, back to every VM that runs in the cloud.
A VM build failure -- which creates phantom or zombie VMs – can increase costs. It is important that a cloud management platform has functionality that helps you spot and remediate these problems quickly.