As an IT community we are still stuck in the past relative to the strategic nature of cloud. Many of us are looking at the adoption of cloud as just another technology, and are leaving the decisions on how to adopt, own, and manage the cloud up to engineers. But acquiring a cloud management platform is not an engineering decision — it’s a strategic one. Do engineers need to be involved? Yes, but your cloud adoption strategy has already failed if you don’t treat cloud as the operational construct that it is.
I wrote “Cloud management, what’s the big deal” a little over a year ago and the good news is many more of us now at least acknowledge the need for robust management tools. The problem is, we still think of them as “tools”. Cloud management isn’t just a pretty wrapper that you put on top of virtualization to make it easier to use, and it’s not a few scripts that automate builds or scaling functions. Cloud management is a platform that allows the cloud(s) owner to express their company’s directives and policies effectively and safely onto their myriad technology solutions and across international borders.
Why the cloud management platform you choose is so important
Like any software that solves a problem or creates an opportunity (often one and the same), a cloud management platform should be acquired only after defining a clear set of requirements. The requirements should be defined with the CIO and I’ve explained why after each requirement. A cloud management platform should:
Be capable of managing a variety of clouds – A strategic vision for where and how clouds will be adopted or dropped is important for a number of reasons: avoiding lock-in, the ability to retrieve data in a usable format, finding the appropriate cloud platform for the expected workload and location. Depending on the business you’re in you may use partnerships and or competitive concerns as a decision factor in your multi-cloud strategy.
Handle data security and location – Do your systems administrators have access to corporate strategy around locations and data privacy requirements? What about HIPAA or other regulatory concerns? If they don’t even recognize this as an area of concern, why would they look for it in a management tool?
Take care of policy management across clouds – Your architects and engineers might be terrific, but are you sure they are the best ones to determine the value of having a common and simplified set of tools for managing policy and governance across your images and across different clouds? Policy considerations can take into account everything from privacy to security, to performance and lifecycle depending on the platform you choose.
Include well-developed role-based security – While your engineers and infrastructure leaders are more than capable of handling security decisions for team access to a cloud management platform, are they the right group to determine how customers (developer or end-user) and partners might access your cloud?
Incorporate a virtual machine security suite – This is an area where the CIO likely doesn’t need much involvement, but there should be a senior security role involved in the project.
Consider the full life cycle from creation to deletion – Unfortunately, most of us in the trenches don’t think about whether the images we create today should be reviewed six months from now? Ensuring you have a solid life cycle approach will help you develop a more efficient use pattern and reduce the risk of inappropriate resource use.
Integrate with operations platforms (monitoring, billing, etc.) – The effort to define these requirements will mostly fall on the technical team, but feedback from management about expectations of monitoring and billing etc., is still critical.
Offer APIs for common tools and scripting languages – Mostly a technical/architectural decision, with the exception of integration that might enable out of the box opportunity, there might be value in having a larger team, including leadership involved.
The above isn’t a complete list of considerations in the evaluation of an appropriate cloud management platform, just serious food for thought. However, of what’s missing above, the most critical element of all includes thinking about how a cloud management platform should complement and re-orient your IT organization….