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Mix It Up: Key Ingredients of Successful Cloud Management Systems

The cloud cuts both ways; while the ability to spin up compute power on demand has empowered even small businesses to compete on a global scale, this same flexibility has led to a significant amount of “cloud sprawl.” According to Tech Radar, 61 percent of companies surveyed said cloud sprawl—both from employees using unauthorized services and not fully utilizing approved resources—is responsible for business-wide inefficiencies. Bottom line? You need an effective cloud management system to maximize returns. Here are some key ingredients.

A Solid Foundation

Research firm Gartner defines cloud management systems (also called cloud management platforms or CMPs) as “integrated products that provide for the management of public, private and hybrid cloud environments.” These systems must include self-service, provisioning and workload optimization along with metering and billing controls.

Owing to the wide variety of application programming interfaces (APIs) now available and combined with the rise of specific cloud needs rather than generalized wants, many companies are taking on the challenge of building CMPs in-house. Here, the key ingredient is a solid foundation: start with open source components and custom code to address specific business needs before moving to a broader solution. Starting small lets you gauge if building local makes the most sense or if third-party options are more cost-effective in the long term.

The Right Proportions

Nothing sours a cloud deployment more quickly than a resource/use imbalance; the right proportion of compute power to company needs is critical for any cloud management system. The ideal CMP should offer guidance on how best to manage resources based on existing and predicted future needs. For example, what kind of storage is best for your data? High-cost, high-speed cloud storage isn’t appropriate for all information—your cloud management system should be able to identify cloud-storage candidates and high-use data sets. This also extends to virtual machines (VMs). Some are high I/O, some are high memory and some providers allow the creation of custom VMs. If your management system can’t identify ideal cloud proportions, the recipe will never turn out.

Environmental Awareness

At high altitudes, baked goods take longer to cook because water boils at a lower temperature, moisture evaporates in less time and air bubbles travel more quickly. Awareness of these factors allows bakers to compensate and still create high-quality products.

For cloud deployments, environment is just as crucial. Consider public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) options. As NetworkWorld points out, these solutions are often cost-effective because providers are able to pack a large number of customers onto a single server. The problem? In high-density environments, cloud resources can take longer to create, longer to return results and applications may see reduced performance if another public tenant is putting undue pressure on the server.

Here, a cloud management system must act like a kind of thermometer, measuring the “heat” of internal and external processes alike and reporting to IT admins about any problems. Properly implemented, real-time monitoring can notify companies about impending cloud issues and keep them from getting burned.

Make a Batch. Be Ready to Toss.

Finally, it’s important to consider the role of security in CMPs. Two components are essential: First is the ability to replicate and distribute company data, effectively making a “batch” of cloud instances in the event of a catastrophic failure or security breach. Cloud management systems should identify candidate locations and (with permission) create mission-critical duplicates. In addition, the right CMP contains framework for a solid incident response plan—in other words, it’s ready to delete and discard compromised cloud instances on demand.

Combating sprawl and maximizing cloud investments means finding the right management recipe. Start with a solid foundation, mix in the right proportions of environmental awareness and security, and then let IT professionals season to taste.

By John Grady, Senior Manager of Product Marketing

XO Communications is a nationwide provider of managed network and IT infrastructure services. At XO, John has been responsible for launching numerous products such including XO’s 100G Service and several XO Cloud Services.

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