Gartner: Cloud management tools are lagging

Using the cloud is one thing, managing it is another

The tools available for businesses to manage their use of Infrastructure as a Service  cloud computing services are not as mature as the public cloud services themselves, Gartner research director Mindy Cancila says.

The IaaS public cloud is ready for enterprise use; in Gartner’s IaaS Magic Quadrant study research Vice President Lydia Leong said the cloud is a viable option for hosting any application that runs on an x86 server. But the management tools in the cloud market lag significantly behind the broader cloud market, Cancila says. And that could have drastic consequences for users. “Cloud deployments are set up for failure if you do not develop a management strategy up front,” Cancila said during a webinar titled “Best Practices for Managing Public Cloud Services” today.

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Cloud management is a complicated area. Each cloud user will have different management needs depending on what they’re using the public cloud for. While many people ask ‘What is the best cloud management tool?’ instead Cancila says it’s important for users to determine what cloud management features they need, and then find the best tool for the job.

Furthermore, the cloud management market is fragmented so no one tool will be a panacea. Instead, users need to determine what management tools they need and find the best provider for that.

Gartner has created a list of 150 cloud management features (it is available to Gartner clients) that can help users determine what functionality they need. They fall into four categories: Consumption & operations; administration & delivery; budget & optimization; and comparison & selection.

Users have many options of where to get cloud management tools. Leading cloud providers Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and others offer tools that are really good at managing their own platforms, for example but they’re not good at managing competitors’ clouds. There’s a nascent market of cloud service brokers or CSBs (companies like RightScale, Cloudability, and Gravitant), which are mostly young companies looking to solve this problem; many of these have limited functionality though. Meanwhile the traditional management vendors (CA, CSC, BMC and others) are extending their tools from managing on-premises environments to incorporate cloud environments as well.

The need for these tools is paramount. Cancila referenced a customer who recently decided to commit fully to the public cloud and migrate most of the company’s resources into AWS. The company budgeted $20,000 a month of spending on AWS’s cloud and was on budget for months. Then, one month the company got a bill with 1,300 line items on it for $170,000, ranging from $0.01 to $20,000. The organization had no way of filtering which employees where using which resources and for what project within the business.

For a customer like this there are options. AWS has a variety of tools including CloudTrail, which creates a free log of each and every API call into an AWS account – but that can be a massive and complex document. AWS CloudWatch is a paid service that has a more streamlined view of which services are used and allows alerts to be triggered with certain usage of spending thresholds are met or exceeded. AWS also has a feature named tagging which allows any resource used in the public cloud to have an identifier marked with it indicating which user requested the service and for what purpose, allowing for easier categorization of cloud usage. AWS’s Trusted Advisor is another paid service that helps organizations optimize their AWS spend.

CSBs like Cloudability, Cloud Cruiser or Cloud Checkr offer services that would help that customer track its AWS usage and optimize it.

Other Gartner clients have had trouble managing the resources used in the public cloud. These examples highlight the fact that there is a fundamental gap between the maturity of the cloud services and the management tools that exist to help users deploy them. Cloud vendors do not necessarily have an incentive to allow customers to manage competitors’ clouds. And the lack of standards across the cloud management industry makes the job of cloud service brokers difficult for managing resources across multiple clouds. Cancila says it’s imperative that users have a targeted vision of what functionality they need most and find the best tools on the market to satisfy that use case.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.