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Dustin Amrhein

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Management Solutions for the Cloud

Effective cloud management solutions are a must

The role of cloud management solutions in the enterprise world is becoming increasingly important. With the interest and adoption of cloud in the enterprise steadily rising, solutions that help an organization to effectively harness, orchestrate, and govern their use of the cloud are floating to the top of the needs list. Developing and delivering solutions in this arena is no small task, and one made even tougher by enterprise user expectations and requirements. Just what are some of the enterprise requirements and expectations for cloud management solutions?

First things first, users expect cloud management solutions to be broadly applicable. What do I mean by that? Take for instance a recent discussion I had with an enterprise user about a management solution for cloud-based middleware platforms. The solution that was the topic of our discussion enables users to create middleware environments, virtualize them, deploy them into a cloud environment, and manage them once they are up and running.

During the course of that discussion, the user told me: "I want one tool to do it all." In this case, all referred to the ability to support multiple virtualization formats, varying hardware platforms, different operating system environments, all cloud domains, and a plethora of middleware software. Of course, the user acknowledged it was a bit of an overreach because when a tool "does it all" it often means that it does nothing, and when I pressed a bit more the real desire was for a single, unified management interface. This of course points back to the notion of open cloud solutions that I wrote about a while back. You will never get a tool that does it all, but if you get open tools, chances are you can build a centralized interface that exposes the capability of many tools, and thus logically presents a "single tool that does it all" to your end users.

In many cases, enterprises adopt cloud computing as a more efficient and agile approach to something they already do today. For example, if I put it into the context of the part of the cloud I deal with, users may leverage the cloud as a means to standup and tear down application environments in a much faster and simpler manner than their traditional approach. No one will argue that faster and simpler is good, but that does not mean you can or should sacrifice the insight and control into these processes that the organization requires. If the enterprise requires a request/approval workflow process for commissioning and decommissioning application environments, the cloud management solution must provide the necessary hooks. In a more generalized sense, cloud management solutions must enable integration into an enterprise's governance framework. Without this integration, the truth is it is likely inapplicable for enterprise use.

If I have learned one thing from users over the past year with respect to enterprise-ready cloud management solutions it is this: Auditability is huge! Organizations want to know who is doing what, when they are doing it, how long they are doing it for, and much more. Users pretty well assume that a cloud management solution provides insight into these kinds of metrics. The obvious use case here is the ability to track cloud usage statistics among various users and groups to facilitate cost allocation and/or chargeback throughout the enterprise. Another, perhaps less obvious, use case concerns configuration change management. The ability to very quickly determine what was changed, when it was changed, and who changed it is crucial when a cloud management solution and the underlying cloud is distributed among a wide set of enterprise users.

The fact is that we are in the beginning phase of the emergence of need for cloud management solutions, and basic requirements and expectations are still in the formative stage. The few listed here are just a start, and some of what I hear most commonly. It will be interesting to watch the shift and increase in these expectations, especially as enterprises adopt federated, highly heterogeneous cloud environments. I certainly welcome any feedback or insight you may have into the need for cloud management solutions.

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Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/damrhein.