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Cloud Management Tools Lag Behind, Gartner Reports

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While IaaS platforms have reached maturity, the tools that manage and monitor public cloud deployments are lagging behind, according to Gartner Research Director Mindy Cancila.

In a live webinar this week, Cancila expressed that a lack of robust cloud management tools may slow the adoption of the public cloud and could potentially expose enterprises to out-of-control costs and security risks.

“Cloud deployments are set up for failure if you don’t develop a management strategy upfront,” Cancilla says.

Public cloud platforms are now fully enterprise-ready, according to Gartner’s IaaS Magic Quadrant study, with AWS far in front of the competition. However, while the largest IaaS platforms have developed a set of separate tools to help monitor costs, create custom alarms, and manage access and security, there are very few tools that consolidate these metrics and controls. Enterprises are left with scattered data sources that slow down risk analysis and disaster recovery processes, as well as complicating cost control efforts.

The need for cloud orchestration tools is obvious. Enterprises need to increase governance and transparency while still minimizing the procurement red tape that characterized their traditional IT operations. Cancila referenced the (now ubiquitous) horror stories from AWS customers that saw astronomical bills due to their inability to track costs and configuration changes. Such tools are also particularly important in enterprises deploying hybrid clouds, where the ability to understand the cause of an issue is crucial to any appropriate disaster recovery plan — and could potentially be complicated by multiple, siloed teams and monitoring tools. Gartner estimates that 50% of enterprises will deploy hybrid clouds by 2017.

Gartner recently released a list of 150 discrete management features that enterprise IT departments must have at their fingertips to adequately control their clouds, which fall into four categories:

  1. Consumption & Operations
  2. Administration & Delivery
  3. Budget & Optimization
  4. Comparison & Selection

Today, management tools can come from one of several sources, including the IaaS provider (CloudWatch, Trusted Advisor), 3rd party SaaS providers (Cloudchekr, Alert Logic), and traditional hardware vendors that have extended monitoring interfaces into the public cloud (ScienceLogic EM7). However, these are generally targeted at just one of the above categories, or a very specialized enterprise pain point.

It may take years for such a tool to be developed, and enterprises usually do not have that much time to waste. In addition, a single interface to display all of this data is still only as good as the team that parses, interprets, and implements this data across an IT organization. And in enterprise teams new to cloud deployments, the gap between traditional and cloud skills to perform this data interpretation is perhaps more crucial than the lack of the tool itself.

Cloud orchestration is the gap that managed service providers will fill.

Cloud managed service providers are now the only “tool” in the marketplace that enterprises can turn to in order to provide complete transparency into their clouds. This may sound counterintuitive to those who think of traditional managed service providers as opaque vendors with long-term contracts, but in order to thrive in the cloud computing enterprise space, the table stakes for entering the enterprise managed service space have never been higher — which is a good thing for IT organizations.

These are the types of cloud orchestration, monitoring, and administration services a MSP should provide:

  • A consolidated report on cloud metrics: The ability to provide complete transparency into cost, access controls, performance, etc. across on-premises and public cloud deployments. The MSP should perform an exploration process prior to taking on the project to determine key metrics, and continue to report on them either regularly in reports or preferably through a single dashboard.
  • Cross-cloud agility: The MSP should have equal experience in bare metal hosting and cloud hosting in order to be able to interpret data across environments, implement common security protocols, and create backup and DR plans across both environments.
  • Project management control: Dedicated account managers and named engineering teams are a table stakes in any enterprise managed services bid. Working collaboratively with the internal IT team, the MSP should develop a custom runbook, as well as transparency into the ticketing and approvals process.
  • Automation where appropriate: Automation is often a key process in developing the templates and configuration management tools that allow the enterprise to have a single source of truth for the “average” configuration of an instance, the deployment process, etc. Such templates are powerful, living governance vehicles that actually enforce policies without human intervention.
  • Budget control: A good MSP will know it is in its best interest to track costs, including alerting IT managers when things look off. Enterprises should look for an MSP that includes a tool like CloudCheckr in its service offering.
  • Cost optimization: Internal IT teams rarely have time to research the latest tools available in order to figure out how new instance types, new 3rd party spot instance bidding programs, etc. can help drive down costs. An MSP should have the bandwidth to do so.
  • Comparison and selection: The MSPs that will thrive in the next 5 years will be cloud agnostic. They will understand that the best service they can provide to clients is to help them determine which cloud is best for them — whether it is on-premise, in a hosted private cloud, or on the public cloud — not what is best for their bottom line. The safest way to ensure this, of course, is to choose an MSP that offers both private and public hosting across multiple vendors.

Logicworks is a software and services provider with 22 years of experience in traditional IT and cloud computing. By consolidating and interpreting information from best-in-class cloud management tools, we deliver transparent, data-focused cloud solutions. Contact us to learn more.