10 cloud management companies to watch

Managing the cloud is a tricky endeavor. Here are 10 tools and services that can help

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How it works: A Ruby on Rails-based server provisioning tool, Opscode Chef allows infrastructure management via code. It relies on reusable, shareable Recipes and Cookbooks for describing and integrating infrastructure components behind the enterprise firewall or within the hosted Opscode cloud for accelerated deployment and configuration management and ready scalability.

How much it costs: Hosted Chef monthly pricing starts at $5 per managed server for 20 servers and scales up to $10 per server for 1,000 managed servers; custom pricing kicks in when the number of servers exceeds 1,000. Private Chef pricing starts at $80,000; pricing for managed Private Chef includes a one-time deployment fee, an annually recurring service contract fee for maintenance and an annually recurring technical support fee

Why it's worth watching: With application developers gravitating toward quick-and-easy cloud resources, IT organizations are adapting by building out internal cloud resources that will let them be as nimble as Amazon with its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Opscode has a great value proposition for such IT operations, says Rachel Chalmers, an analyst with The 451 Group. "It has multitenancy and agility in its DNA, is responsive and lives and breathes DevOps so is already talking to and has the loyalty of the developers who hold the keys to the kingdom," she says. Opscode can either host a solution or provide an appliance that lets IT operations get to rapid-scale provisioning. "All it does is rapidly spin up and document what it's done so IT ends up with a set of Recipes and can participate in the community, sharing Recipes and best practices," she adds. Chalmers says she's quite bullish on Opsware, as well as a competitive approach from Puppet Labs, which has a Ruby on Rails reimplementation of cfengine. "Both have loyal followings and each is slightly better at slightly different things."

Enterprise Cloud Services series archive

Strangeloop Networks

Headquarters: Vancouver, B.C.

What it offers: Strangeloop Site Optimizer, software delivered via the cloud and providing scalable, on-demand optimization for cloud-based websites; also available as a hardware network device or virtual appliance.

How it works: Strangeloop Site Optimizer is an expert system that learns the resource usage patterns of a site and dynamically applies best practice coding techniques by rewriting pages, without requiring any source code modifications. It analyzes usage patterns and page content, and develops a dynamic repository of rules and cached resources. This technology can reduce the number of round trips required to render Web page content, execute client-side code in the most efficient order, preload resources that are likely to be needed for future requests, and tailor behavior to exploit the capabilities of the user's browser, the company says.

How much it costs: Undisclosed.

Why it's worth watching: IT organizations that want to run their Web operations from cloud infrastructure aren't necessarily going to have the resources to devote to fine-tuning performance. Yet, they know that optimizing the site can help improve customer response time. Such was the case at Artbeads.com, an Internet-based bead and jewelry supplier, says Michael Hervieux, COO at the Gig Harbor, Wash., company. "We recognized our site could use optimization and speed boosting, but felt the cost to achieve that wasn't justifiable given our sales and revenue," he says. But with the SaaS model, site optimization became worth pursuing, Hervieux says. Artbeads.com conducted a trial of Strangeloop Site Optimizer on half its visitors and found that revenue per visitor and revenue per visit each jumped 8% for visitors who enjoyed the accelerated site experience. Now Artbeads.com runs all traffic through the Site Optimizer, he says.

Uptime Software

Headquarters: Toronto

What it offers: UptimeCloud, cloud cost and capacity management SaaS.

How it works: Once an IT organization signs up for the service through the UptimeCloud portal, Uptime begins monitoring its cloud infrastructure. Initially available for cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS), UptimeCloud talks to the AWS open API, capturing pricing information in real time and feeding it into its rating and pricing engine, says Uptime CTO Alex Bewley. Uptime also applies historical data collection, trending and prediction functions.

How much it costs: Undisclosed at the time of this writing, but Uptime executives say they plan on charging a monthly fee.

Why it's worth watching: For many IT organizations, the cloud decision can be fraught with paralyzing uncertainties regarding the monthly infrastructure bill. Uptime aims to eliminate the mystery by providing visibility into how much cloud computing costs in real time, across applications, services, line of business, user location and instance. Uptime's ability to correlate the performance of a cloud workload with how much it's costing an organization is pretty innovative, says 451 Group's Callaghan. "This whole concept of ERP for IT is really going to take off."

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