The Benefits of a Cloud Management Platform
Before we can start exploring why enterprises need a Cloud Management Platform, we need to understand why enterprises turn to the cloud in the first place.
Competitive enterprises are under constant pressure to increase the pace of innovation. Engineering departments are expected to produce quality solutions rapidly and at a reasonable cost, while IT needs to maintain control and enforce policies without hindering development.
cloud computing benefits
The main benefits of the cloud are well known at this point:
- Flexibility (or: Getting Things Done): Cloud allows you to get resources such as compute and storage instantly. This is useful for upscaling or downscaling, for rapidly testing new code, dealing with heavy traffic spikes, and more. A self-service approach allows developers to spin-up virtual machines and containers as needed, and get rid of them once they’re done. According to a 2014 Gartner survey, CIOs and IT Directors ranked “Operational Agility” as one of the top driving factors for cloud.
- Cost: According to the same survey mentioned above, cost reduction remains a primary driver for cloud in the enterprise. When handled correctly, the cost of operating on a public cloud like AWS, Azure or GCE, can be considerably lower than that of maintaining a datacenter. Bundle the lower operational cost with savings on operating system licensing and software updates, and you might be one step closer to making both finance and IT happy.
- Services: The major cloud providers offer services that are aimed at making your life easier. From storage to CDNs to container management, most cloud vendors offer a plethora of services that can potentially help you avoid building a complex system yourself. The downside of these services is that sometimes using them means marrying your cloud provider.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as the benefits of cloud go, and a quick search will show you thousands of pages telling you just how great cloud is.
I feel like there’s a “but” coming…
While it’s true and proven that the cloud has enormous benefits, and that most enterprises have either adopted cloud in some capacity or plan to, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges it brings with it:
- Not all cloud services are created equal: Some clouds are better at certain things than others. Microsoft Azure has greater geographical distribution than AWS, but AWS has been around for longer and is much more featureful. Backblaze, a cloud backup solution, is much cheaper than Amazon’s S3 service with $0.005 per GB versus Amazon’s $0.022. However, Backblaze is designed with a write-once-read-rarely approach and might not be as good as S3 at hosting websites or providing a public API. OpenStack, as an on-premise private cloud, might be a good fit for harsh security and compliance demands, but might introduce operational challenges that the public clouds do not. All engineered systems are tradeoffs, and the different clouds represent different points on the tradeoff. When developing a large scale cloud strategy, more often than not you’ll find that more than one cloud provider is required to get the job done.
- Talking about “Cloud” is a bit simplistic: There’s an important distinction to make between public cloud and private cloud (even private-cloud-as-a-service is now a thing!). They often serve different purposes and carry different benefits. Public clouds may be great for rapid scaling and a variety of services, but private clouds might be a better fit for those who need total control over their data. The right solution will often include both.
- Cost & Control: Earlier we noted that cost is the main driver for adopting cloud in enterprises. A cloud strategy can definitely reduce operational costs, but it can also make them difficult to track. When your cloud stack includes multiple providers, public and private, tracking costs and providing chargeback and showback becomes challenging. Beyond just pure costs, provisioned cloud resources can be left running and unattended without having a business justification, and the “cloud waste” piles up. Monitoring, managing and enforcing policy on multiple cloud platforms becomes a full time job all by itself.
- Hindered agility: In order to gain the operational agility the cloud promises, an efficient, automated workflow needs to be implemented, and provisioning an instance is just one of the many steps in that workflow. There are many questions that need answers for cloud to be done right. How is Change Management done on the cloud? How do you track assets? With tags? If so, how to tag everything properly? How to create automated workflows while dealing with several different APIs?
Cloud Management Platforms to the rescue
A Cloud Management Platform provides a unified API and a single pane of glass for cloud resources. Using a Cloud Management Platform is the most efficient way to leverage a multi-cloud strategy. Federated access and governance for multiple clouds are quickly becoming critical components for a successful cloud infrastructure. Many companies recognized the need for a unified management layer while adopting cloud. Some even chose to build their own Cloud Management Platforms.
A successful Cloud Management Platform will allow you to:
- Track and reduce costs through analytics and waste reduction
- Use a self-service model while enforcing governance policies
- Empower developers to create push-button deployments through templates and orchestration
- Leverage your existing ecosystem of IT/Dev tools.
SCALR - The Enterprise Grade Cloud Management Platform
SCALR’s enterprise cloud management solution finds the balance between the often conflicting needs of an enterprise adopting cloud. Initially built for developers, SCALR embraces the different aspects of running large-scale multi-cloud deployment, providing IT, DevOps and Finance the tools they need to streamline the cloud experience while maintaining control and reducing costs. SCALR fits well into existing ecosystems and takes a “batteries included but removable approach”. This means that SCALR provides a flexible platform you can leverage for different cloud workflows. For example, use SCALR’s built-in orchestration engine to bootstrap and maintain your instances, or just as easily use whatever configuration management tool you’re comfortable with, be it Chef, Puppet, Ansible etc. SCALR gives you the tools to build a cloud native workflow that leverages the software you already know and love.