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From small to big: 5 tips for managing clouds at scale

Cloud users say scaling up a cloud is hard

By , Network World
October 21, 2013 04:10 PM ET

Network World - The enterprise adoption of cloud computing resources has taken a precarious path. Many organizations have started by running small workloads in the public cloud, reticent to use the platform for bigger mission-critical workloads.

But once they get comfortable with say a test and development use case in the cloud, or an outsourced e-mail platform, perhaps CIOs and CTOs warm up to the idea of using outsourced cloud resources for more jobs.

At a recent panel of cloud users, one thing became clear though: Managing a public cloud deployment at small scale is relatively straightforward. The problem comes when that deployment has to scale up. “It gets very complex,” says IDC analyst Mary Turner, who advises companies on cloud management strategies. “In the early stages of cloud we had a lot of test and development, single-purpose, ad-hoc use case. We’re getting to the point where people realize the agility cloud can bring, and now they have to scale it.”

And doing so can be tough. The panelists at the recent Massachusetts Technology Leadership Cloud Summit had some tips and tricks for users though. Here are five.

[LIVING IN THE CLOUD: 3 Lessons from Netflix about how to live in the cloud]

-Consolidate account management

Unfortunately, a common way that cloud usage starts in an enterprise is when various departments within an organization spin up public cloud resources behind the back of their IT departments. Known as “shadow IT,” it can create a scenario where multiple different departments each have their own accounts with a public cloud provider, like Amazon Web Services. When the IT department attempts to take control of these services, the IT manager all of a sudden is juggling multiple accounts.

Instead of managing each of these separately, Amazon Web Services allows users to consolidate those into a single administrative account. By doing this, usage statistics are aggregated into a single billing stream, and users can re-allocate resources among various accounts, with some limitations. Jason Fuller, head of cloud service delivery of Pegasystem’s software, says that’s an immensely helpful feature when managing multiple accounts within the same organization. It helps not only from a technical standpoint to have oversight across all the accounts, but from a financial one too because of the aggregated and streamlined billing.

-Turn the lights off

“Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I go downstairs and my kids have left the lights on all night,” says John O’Keefe, senior director of operations at Acquia, a company that supports open source Drupl, and one of the panelists at the Mass TLC event. He worries about the same thing with his developers using Amazon’s cloud. The beauty of self-service public cloud resources is that they’re incredibly easy to spin up – customers just swipe a credit card and click a few buttons. The problem is those resources don’t get shut off when users are done with them. To prevent this situation, O’Keefe tries to do a daily inventory – if not even more frequently – to ensure that only the resources that are actively used are “on.” De-provisioning resources is just as easy as spinning them up – someone just needs to remember to do it. AWS has a variety of tools to help customers monitor this, including CloudWatch.

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