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5 cool tools for cloud management

Testing reveals powerful new ways to spin up, protect, manage and backup cloud services

By Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen, Network World
August 08, 2011 12:06 AM ET

Network World - Cloud management tools are as varied as cloud uses. For this test, we chose five tools that each attack cloud management from a different perspective.

We looked at Symplified for identity management exclusively targeted to SaaS-based apps, Puppet Labs for virtual machine deployment, HP for building and managing private clouds, Abiquo for IaaS platform management and TurnKey Linux for low-cost cloud backup.

Cloud complexity

Symplified Identity Management and SinglePoint

Symplified Identity Manager (SIM) provides administrators with a way to deal with Web-based application identity and passwords. This is done through an "identity router" called SinglePoint. The SIM product, in turn, manages identity for users with SaaS applications.

The SaaS applications covered include LinkedIn, Google Apps (the business version), Salesforce and many more. Almost any Web app that has a login screen can be included, using HTTP federation.

With SIM and SinglePoint, all of the construction of authentication is "behind the scenes" to users. Administratively, we found SIM and SinglePoint to be a little tough, but very usable once constructed.

SIM develops an identity vault that stores passwords and identities for selected websites. These identities can be linked to local in-house user stores such as LDAP or Active Directory via the included SimpleLink connector.

The identities and passwords are stored in a centralized vault that is encrypted with AES128, using a rotating encryption key. The vault is stored on the Identity Router, which can be installed locally or hosted by Symplified (ours was hosted).

The identity router becomes a middleman to connect the user to the apps. Single sign-on (SSO), access control and centralized auditing are some of the benefits of SinglePoint.

Net results

Setup and configuration

SIM needs a virtual machine (VM) to connect your credentials (like Active Directory or LDAP) to the Symplified cloud-hosted proxy authentication system. The VM instance uses CentOS 5+ or Red Hat Linux. We used CentOS and only installed an SSH server on it.

After that we installed SimpleLink RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) kit. Symplified usually helps customers with this portion of the install; we tried doing it ourselves. After we had a setup call, we got help linking our Active Directory to Symplified's cloud platform. There is a local Web interface for uploading the credentials. The SimpleLink server then connects our infrastructure with its Identity Router(s), and behind the scenes SimpleLink uses openVPN to secure the channels.

SinglePoint Studio is the cloud-based admin Web portal where everything is set up and configured. SinglePoint Studio is a Flash-based app and is responsive, although the fact that it uses Flash will give some organizations security concerns. The portal allowed us to add user stores or entries of logon IDs and passwords. We could create application groups and links to the applications themselves. HTTP Federation or SAML type apps can be discovered, but it's also possible to manually configure HTTP-based apps that log users on.

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