As cloud technology continues to become more ubiquitous, cloud management platform providers are growing more and more prevalent as a means to help organizations seize the benefits of cloud. But what exactly are cloud management platform providers, and how can they help organizations consume cloud resources more economically and efficiently?
Cloud management platform provider essentially manages support for multiple clouds, both public and private. They typically provide infrastructure, such as virtual machines (VMs) and storage and network resources, while also offering value-added services such as backup, patching, antivirus and database backup as–a-service. Many providers offer services on a pay-per-use basis.
Beyond infrastructure, cloud management platform providers can also offer services like blueprinting, which allows entire application stacks to be defined with the click of a button and deployed more readily. They can also provide automated, on-demand configuration management services.
Another important function that cloud management platform providers can offer is security. A provider can help answer simple yet critical questions, such as:
- Are we using an image that’s been hardened, and is it on the approved list?
- Are we implementing the firewall rules that we said we would?
- Are we patching on time?
- Can we confidently say that we don’t have the heartworm virus, or any other serious vulnerabilities?
Perhaps the most important but often overlooked service a cloud management platform provider can offer is governance and policy management—as well as financial management. These are essential elements to using public cloud effectively, particularly in a hybrid public-private model.
For example, when you buy hardware, it may sit largely idle while your datacenter depreciates over several years. But in a managed environment, you don’t need to worry about the bill. A cloud management platform provider can give you a variable dynamic bill on a monthly basis, so nothing goes to waste. The benefit of this billing system is that it helps justify spending while reining in costs. It forces companies to ask if they’re using the right sized machines, or whether they have a slew of VMs running at three percent utilization with nobody paying attention to them. It can also help create budgets for using a piece of public cloud with network design restrictions that can enable better cost control.
A cloud management platform provider can also deliver value by freeing up a highly-paid and busy workforce to do more than try to parse out a bill and figure out whether the workforce is spending at the right level—whether it’s legitimate, valid or being spent on the right things. And after a few months, employees can get frustrated and even burned out, searching for a better way.
There are compliance, auditing and tax issues to consider when leveraging cloud. For example, when a provider deploys an image to another country, it may need to report export compliance. Similarly, in certain countries, there are taxes that must be added when provisioning from the U.S. On top of that, there is security auditing data required on each resource. All of this adds up to a lot of work and systems that are needed for an enterprise to leverage cloud—it’s not simply a matter of swiping a credit card to upload an app. A cloud management platform provider can provide guidance and visibility, helping organizations navigate these challenges while freeing resources to focus on more critical business needs.
Perhaps the greatest value a cloud management platform provider can offer is peace of mind. There’s a danger of spending a large amount of money in cloud without truly understanding where it’s going. There is indeed great risk in the unknown. At some point somebody wakes up and says, “How much money are we spending in cloud? How many accounts do we have?”
That’s where the need for management tools and platforms becomes fairly obvious, with the right cloud management platform provider helping to address the risks and the unknowns. Smart companies are laying the groundwork now, doing their homework to find the provider that is the best fit for their immediate and future IT needs.
Edited by Maurice Nagle