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Cloud tools abound. Is enterprise IT ready?

Service providers, start-ups, integrators and established vendors offer broad range of management tools. But enterprises might not be ready to implement complex orchestration and automation systems.

By Christine Burns, Network World
April 08, 2013 06:08 AM ET
Cloud Toolboxes Overflow
CREDIT: STEPHEN SAUER

Network World - The sky is the limit for both the number and the types of tools that will eventually help enterprise IT fully embrace the cloud, say industry analysts and cloud integration experts.

There are currently tools available that can assist IT departments with VM configuration management, help migrate in-house business applications to the cloud, enable full orchestration of cloud services and provide monitoring across multiple clouds. There are also tools that implement management policies in the cloud, set governance parameters and handle encryption management for data flowing around up there.

These tools are being delivered in equal proportions by cloud platform providers, systems integrators, third-party start-ups and established vendors.

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That said, one market condition holding back widespread proliferation of these tools, is whether or not enterprise cloud consumption has matured enough to take advantage of them.

"Across many of these classes of tools, it's really not a question of the technology being mature enough for use in the enterprise, it's more a question of whether or not the enterprises working in the cloud are ready to employ them," says Laurent Lachal, a senior analyst with Ovum, an IT consulting firm.

Mike Pearl, a principal in PriceWaterhouseCooper's Advisory practice and leader of PwC's Cloud Computing initiatives, says many of the enterprise customers he works with have spent the last couple of years getting a strong handle on virtualization within their own data centers, while watching the public cloud to see how it might fit into their operations.

Currently, most of those PwC clients are working on implementing the automation and provisioning services necessary to achieve the economy of scale benefits cloud computing promises.

"The next step for these IT shops will be identifying the tools that will make delivering automated cloud services to their users more of a point and click proposition. Things that address cross-platform management, metering, granular dashboard visibility into cloud assets, tools that help provide self-healing services are certainly going to be useful to them at some point. But for most, those are still a future proposition," Pearl says.

Keeping it simple

"Right now, we try to keep things as simple as possible when it comes layering tools on top of the services we're running in the cloud," says Craig Miller, CTO of Empire Avenue, a social media exchange network in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, that helps users meet other people and measure their social media value.

Empire Avenue runs on a mix of dedicated and multi-tenant virtual servers in the Rackspace cloud that support its website, development environment, file servers and databases. The company also employs Amazon's cloud storage service. Miller and his team have generally been very satisfied with the tools provided by Rackspace to do things like resizing virtual machines. And his teams routinely writes its own configuration scripts on the VMs when necessary.

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