Cloud management is the set of processes and tools that an organization uses to monitor and control all of their cloud resources and services, including user profiles and permissions, data, and applications, whether they be from their own or from public cloud service providers (CSP). To help unify and simplify cloud management, cloud management platform (CMP) software allows IT administrators to manage multiple dynamic cloud environments and services from a dashboard environment, typically with advanced features, visualizations, and analytics.
Cloud management and cloud governance share overlapping concerns but they do address two different but complementary set of activities. Cloud management is concerned with the practical monitoring and implementation of cloud resources, e.g. automating analytics and cloud orchestration to uncover business insights and optimize resource utilization. Informed by those business insights and a company's business goals, cloud governance concerns itself with the policies that dictate how company cloud resources should be used by users and other systems, e.g. bandwidth limits on unessential web traffic, or prioritization of critical services over others to guarantee their availability and therefore honor service agreements. In short, cloud governance policies guide parameters around how cloud management does its job. And like many things in the cloud, cloud management and monitoring platforms often offer automation functionality that can help alert when policy violations occur and then take action to enforce policies.
The challenge solved by cloud management is to unify a single view and control over a multitude of cloud resources. While CMPs help to standardize a visualization of these resources, by pulling together data from disparate cloud services and combining them through analytics, the use of a larger framework is needed to ensure that all management bases are covered. The following general management domains outline the major areas of management.
Adhering to a cloud management framework, and carefully understanding top-level goals and how each cloud service will contribute to achieving those goals is the first step in cloud management. This step aims to place context around all the components that must be managed, and understanding which are critical, and possibly which existing services are redundant. Only then can cloud management tools become relevant and useful, and policies can be shaped around practical aims.
In the context of how each cloud, or service, contributes to business goals, teams can begin to baseline their cloud deployments using cloud management and monitoring platforms. CMP software will gather and compile data from each service from private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud configurations, to use in visualizations and reporting. If an organization’s cloud “mix” becomes adequately complex, public cloud tools may fall short of the performance monitoring, security, and cost management functionality needed. Third-party or home-grown tools can provide more particular or advanced solutions.
Technically, a CMP is deployed into an existing cloud environment, likely into a VM of its own. Using application programming interfaces (API), the CMP connects to the various other virtual infrastructures, and relays that data to a performance analyzer. Cloud management platforms should offer the following functionality:
Cloud management informed by a quality cloud management platform ultimately benefits companies by making more visible the behavior of their cloud. Using automation and algorithms, networks can be made more secure, cost-reductions achieved through optimizations, and compliance with government data regulations can be ensured. Cloud management benefits organizations by giving them:
Networks are complex today, with increasing numbers of connected devices, nodes, segments, cloud partners, and more adding further complexity every day. Businesses and organizations whose missions rely on these complex cloud fabrics are challenged with understanding how these networks are behaving and contributing to costs as well as their mission’s bottom line.
Network traffic is not inherently visible, in fact quite the opposite, and so full visibility and control over a company’s cloud ecosystem is a primary aim of cloud management. Cloud management platforms help to achieve fully visible networks through real-time cloud monitoring using automations that optimize the network and alert admins to bottlenecks as well as cyber-attacks.
While the top names in cloud management can accommodate many cloud configurations, it is always advisable to understand a vendor’s offerings before committing to a CMP. Some platforms cater to SMEs while others are better suited for the enterprise sized workloads. An initial concern is to choose between open-source platforms or a vendor’s proprietary cloud management platform. Often this is a choice of preference, with teams choosing the platforms they are most familiar with or experienced in.
Open-source CMP options are abundant, and many are popular, like Apache CloudStack. Open-source platforms are exceptionally robust with reliable functionality.
The top pro for open-source: it’s free. Companies will be able to skip paying licenses. However, the top con for open-source, though there is much contention about this between camps, is that technical support is usually less accessible. Open-source communities provide a collaborative source for asking technical questions, but unlike proprietary software, they may not have a dedicated customer support service that can make timely and knowledgeable responses. This means that a company’s IT department will likely need to possess specific expertise to ensure that operations are not hampered due to critical issues. Though the community creates transparency, because code is open-source and many developers review it, many developers find this peer collaboration arrangement more comforting and reliable. Then again, with open-source there are infringement risks, and license restriction risks—for example, if open-source code is modified, and released to the public, any proprietary code modifications may then need to be opened-up for review, potentially exposing company IP.
The following are top open-source cloud management platforms.
Proprietary vendor cloud management platforms offer enterprise level cloud management capabilities underneath a license agreement, and are defined as “owned” software. Companies choose to go with proprietary platforms for many reasons, the main reason, several have become de facto industry standards for enterprise needs. As well, these platforms have dedicated development teams to ensure software is bug free and patches continuously address newly discovered ones. However, open-source proponents argue that the open-source community is vast enough to adequately address bug fixes and troubleshoot problems, and can point to users like Walmart, Blizzard Entertainment, and China Mobile which have incorporated open-source cloud management platforms into their tech stacks. But these organizations may also payroll large DevOps teams to ensure their technology, essentially bringing help desks inside their doors.
The following are some of the most popular proprietary cloud management platforms.