A $500 million enterprise in India began adopting cloud a couple of years ago with the typical cloud journey: from virtualizing the hardware using VMware Hypervisors to setting up a private cloud with vCloud Director and, finally, signing up with AWS for a public cloud service. In addition to handling the typical workloads of development, testing, and production, there are software products that need to run on a SaaS model. This means that distribution of these enterprises’ products has to be moved from a dedicated installation process to a fully automated, on-demand creation of customer instances.
The IT managers in this enterprise then found themselves bogged down by the management and control requirements of these two clouds. After all, they had to manage about 500 VMs in their private cloud and little less in their AWS account! They have no means of knowing how many are really being used and effectively. VM sprawl and under-utilization remains the central challenge, but the customer installations of their SaaS enabled products also had to be continuously monitored, metered and billed! Realizing that they needed a management solution for their cloud services, they started evaluating different cloud management solutions. But how does one make the right choice?
The market today is filled with many multi-cloud solutions spanning from a “pure play management layer” to an “end-to-end cloud platform.” Adding to the complexity are solutions among them, offering variants that lean towards IaaS, SaaS or PaaS. Cloud brokerage solutions, and market place offerings do not make the choice any easier. The following infographic depicts the complexity of offerings available:
Every player in the infographic offers the basic tenets of a cloud management solution, like provisioning, self-service, governance, reports and automation, so there is no decision choice that would disqualify any of these players.
Not only is it important, it is necessary to understand the strength and the focus of each player in the cloud landscape. For ease, they could be classified as cloud management solutions, end to end solutions and brokerage solutions. This classification helps ease the choices in answering “Does the enterprise need all those features or only a few?”
- Mature cloud management solutions like Rightscale, Kaavo & Scalr manage clouds well, but lean towards automation, migration and improving the efficiency & execution of IT development in enterprises.These solutions are application-centric.
- New entrants in the same space, like Cognizant (Cloud 360) and Infosys (Cloud Hub), take an enterprise’s view into multi cloud management, governance being an important factor here.
- VMware’s vCloud suite, Citrix cloud portal, Abiquo and vmUnify are typical end-to-end cloud platforms.These have a lot of inbuilt components like orchestrators & hypervisors. However, VMware & Citrix are centered on their own cloud components and vendor-neutral support is limited.
- Cloud brokerage tools such as Jamcracker & Zimory are more suitable for a service provider with needs like reseller agreements & consolidated billing. These solutions have many “provider” features along with cloud management features which are needed by end-consumers.
- Marketplaces are full of nothing but “cloud platform as a service,” where ISVs (re)package and price their products. Consumers “meet up” with them at the marketplaces and buy these products. The marketplace provider makes sure that provisioning, billing and availability of these products are satisfactory.
- Pure play vendor neutral Cloud portals like MyCloudPortal and Enstratius are the ones which focus on enterprises’ need to control, monitor and manage their multiple clouds from a single dashboard. These lightweight portals combine product cataloguing, metering and billing features through which the same portal can be used as a sales portal for SaaS enablement.
Enterprise can customize and enhance the functionality of these pure play portals to include the organizations’ user realm, BPM engines, and communication systems so that the enterprises’ users will have the same governance, management and budget controls for their infrastructure needs regardless of whether or not they are on-premise hardware, private cloud or any public cloud.
This option seems to be even more attractive given the fact that all cloud platforms offer extensive APIs to communicate with them, aiding in rip-and-replace or plug-and-play functionality. Moreover, these portals are vendor neutral, which is an advantage to any enterprise trying to avoid lock-in.
CXOs have to think hard on what kind of self service solution is required for their specific cloud management needs. Here are few pointers for the decision makers:
- If an enterprise is just beginning with the cloud journey, it is better to go with an end-to-end cloud solution.
- If it is a big development house keen on developer productivity, a cloud management solution with lot of automation and migration features built-in would be a good choice.
- Finally, if you know your way around cloud technologies, and need a lot of flexibility in the way you consume cloud services, you are better off sticking to a simple light weight cloud portal solution!