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Bringing Coherence to Cloud Management

What is the most important tool for the modern datacenter? Coherent cloud management: a single unified management console with visibility into all operations. Chances are your shop doesn't need the next new killer app, or the newest pretty hardware, or whatever new magic "solution" vendors are trying to sell you. Rather, your IT department already has everything it needs for all business operations, and all that is missing is the right management toolkit to knit it all together.

This isn't as easy as it sounds. It is a rare shop that builds its IT department according to a rational master plan. It is more typical for decisions to be made without thought for how a shiny new product fits into the overall IT structure, or enhances data management, or advances business goals. And that is how IT departments evolve into collections of random cloud implementations, and random isolated silos containing trapped and redundant data residing on fragmented collections of physical and virtual servers.

Everything Costs Something
This is an expensive way to run a business, because the real cost of this disorganized approach is more than paying for too many software licenses or too much hardware. Other significant costs include those associated with the inefficiencies that slow down staff, including IT operators who are managing a cat herd of servers and networks, stressed out system analysts, and front-office marketing, sales and administration groups. Perhaps the most expensive costs redound from business decisions that are based on incomplete data, because essential information is trapped on a department server somewhere that nobody outside that department even knows exists.

In addition to minimizing disruptions, implementing coherent cloud management should:

  • Support an orderly, gradual implementation
  • Leverage existing virtual machines, clouds, server pools, networks, storage, and templates
  • Support what works best, rather than self-serving vendor solutions
  • Rely on open standards that insulate against vendor lock-in

Legacy systems never seem to die, so each new addition to your datacenter adds to the collection instead of replacing outmoded technology. This is the reality that a good coherent cloud management toolkit must deal with. It should have the flexibility to manage public, private and hybrid clouds. Cloud technologies are evolving rapidly, and standards are not yet set, so cloud managers need to adapt and keep up.

Of course getting there is not effortless, but it shouldn't be painful. Virtualization and clouds go together like macadamia nuts and chocolate, and cloud technologies are supposed to be flexible. Ideally, you will be able to transition virtualized workloads in and out of your cloud, and repurpose resources quickly with a few mouse clicks. You shouldn't have to craft a rigid predictive model of how much cloud capacity you're going to need, or which workloads should be converted to the cloud first--it is more important to have the flexibility and agility to test deployments, and to quickly make changes on the run.

Essential Cloud Management Requirements
Consider the following items along your path to the cloud:

  • Ensure that physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures do not become siloed; management tools must work across all platforms
  • Develop the ability to quickly add or remove external capacity such as Amazon EC2, or other hosted storage
  • Provide functionality that allows for the allocation or change of resource quotas for cloud clients in the areas of computing, storage, and network
  • Include secure multi-tenant managers
  • Employ a comprehensive tenant console that allows users to manage their own virtual machines, templates, networks, and quotas
  • Provide different levels of service for different workloads.
  • Offer integration and management support for third-party private clouds such as Eucalyptus and OpenStack
  • Develop a comprehensive visual control console

Open Source is the Answer
Open source makes powerful business sense as part of an overall cloud strategy. Open source is robust, proven, and offers the most customer freedom. Closed-source, proprietary hypervisors are disruptors in enterprise virtualization, putting strong downward pressure on prices, and upward pressure on features and performance. Your data cannot be trapped in closed, proprietary formats, or orphaned by upgrades. Standards are open. Commercial open source vendors have to be better because they're competing on equal footing rather than closed secret sauce.

Thanks to cloud technologies and open source, we finally have the tools to manage both immediate and long-term business needs rationally, and for IT to be a real driver for meeting our business goals.

About the Author

Jaydeep Marfatia is EVP Engineering & Founder of Convirture, which provides open source virtualization and cloud-based datacenter solutions.

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