Cloud Operations (CloudOps) is the practice of managing delivery, tuning, optimization, and performance of workloads and IT services that run in a cloud environment including multi, hybrid, in the data center and at the edge. CloudOps codifies procedures and best practices for cloud-based operational processes, much as DevOps codifies the same for application development and delivery processes.
Cloud Operations relies heavily on analytics to enhance visibility of elements of the cloud environment, providing the insight needed to control resources and run services efficiently.
For some organizations, CloudOps has replaced the network operations center (NOC) as IT operations have shifted from on-premises to cloud-based infrastructure. Just as the NOC monitored and managed the data center, CloudOps monitors, instruments, and manages VMs, containers and workloads that run in a cloud. Developers, IT operations and security all collaborate using CloudOps principles to meet business and technology goals.
CloudOps offers a long list of benefits to organizations including:
- Accelerated automation. CloudOps tools can simplify automation of a broad range of everyday tasks including provisioning servers and storage, application testing, monitoring and reporting, application builds, and security event remediation.
- Enhanced security. Major hyperscale cloud providers utilize the industry’s best physical security and constantly monitor their infrastructure to help prevent against cybercrime or data exfiltration. Nearly every organization realizes security improvements when migrating to the cloud, keeping in mind that cloud security falls as much on the organization as it does on the cloud provider.
- Improved RPO/RTO. Backup and data recovery was the initial use case for the public cloud and continues to be a strong driver for cloud migration. Backup and replication strategies can lower the recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) to near-zero, helping to ensure availability around the clock for an increasingly global user and customer base.
- Overall IT savings. Since cloud services are pay-as-you-go, there large capital expenditures are eliminated, along with the need to purchase service contracts and constantly upgrade data center hardware to meet changing user demands. Additionally, eliminating data center infrastructure saves facility costs such as power, cooling, even real estate.
- On-demand scalability. Seasonal or growth demands can be met with instant capacity increases, usually via self-service portal. Provisioning new virtual machines, physical servers, storage, even network bandwidth can all be done by the push of a button, enabling organizations to be more agile and meet demands head-on as they occur.
- Anywhere access. Organizations can access cloud applications and resources any time, using nearly any device, from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Non-disruptive upgrades. Infrastructure and software can both be upgraded or updated seamlessly, without service disruption enabling fixes to be applied or new functionality added while normal business operations continue.
Both DevOps and CloudOps are based on collaborative relationships between different groups in the organization.
DevOps practices deliver continues improvements in processes that enhance collaboration which leads to enhanced visibility throughout the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC) and helps reduce incidents that can disrupt IT operations or impact development schedules.
DevOps improvements can bubble throughout the organization, helping to bring more reliable software applications to fruition faster, which leads to improved performance for the organization as a whole. Ultimately, DevOps helps improve the user experience for employee and customers alike.
CloudOps encompasses cloud platform engineering principles, combining elements of cloud architecture, IT operations, application development, security, and regulatory compliance to enable organizations to manage cloud-based applications and services.
This enables organizations to:
- Ensure the cloud platform – including hybrid and edge components – operates as a single platform
- Optimize application performance for a dispersed workforce regardless of access device
- Ensure reliability and that SLAs are met
- Maintain backups for disaster recovery and business continuity
- Automate repetitive services and configuration management
- Ensure data and applications are secure end-to-end
Organizations looking to establish a CloudOps function should consider these practices:
Establish a migration strategy. Each workload will have its own requirements, and the adoption of containerized applications and micro-services can put additional constraints on the way particular solutions are architected. For example, a micro-services based application my require access to services on multiple clouds, leading to a multi-cloud approach whether desired or not. Other workloads may access sensitive data which must remain on-premises in a private cloud for regulatory or governance mandate, and yet other applications may require the use of specific cloud providers to maintain data in a specific geography or to take advantage of a specific provider’s features.
Include all stakeholders. Cloud migration is change, and many organizations and departments are change-averse. Every stakeholder from users to top executives should be involved in migration planning to help ensure that business-critical processes do not fall through the cracks during migration. Instill the importance of taking a CloudOps approach and emphasize how it aligns with existing DevOps strategies.
Emphasize security. While the cloud offers many benefits, it also presents a new attack surface – or multiple attack surfaces – for cybercriminals and other bad actors to use in an attempt to penetrate the organization’s defenses. Start by adopting a zero-trust approach to security, end-to-end encryption, and automating security monitoring and remediation to help ensure that little problems never have the opportunity to become expensive data breaches.
Automate to accelerate. Adopt agile cloud workflows and non-disruptive automation tools including as many self-service capabilities including provisioning and password resets. Remember that cloud migration is not a one-off deal; as weeks and months pass CloudOps will uncover areas for improvement in processes, infrastructure, and connectivity that can have substantial impact on both operations and monthly cloud expenditures.
Include training in the plan. Cloud management can require a vastly different skill set from on-premises data centers. The need for physical equipment maintenance vanishes to be replaced with new troubleshooting, provisioning, and deployment skills. In a tight labor market it may be beneficial to provide training for existing team members before the migration occurs to help ensure that all the proper skills are available when needed.
Start small. Find an application to migrate that can provide proof-of-concept for operations and user teams alike and can demonstrate to all stakeholders the viability of a wide-scale cloud migration.
Develop the practice of storing configuration data such as server definitions in an infrastructure as code model to help rapidly expand and deploy new instances, scaling on demand as needs require doing so.
Ensure that the first and every application migrated has a clear definition of what tools, services, and data are required for successful operation, as this will scale out to become an operating map of dependencies for all operations.
Organizations are steadily increasing their consumption of the public cloud for an ever-growing list of applications and services. As workloads migrate from data center to cloud provider, the need for CloudOps will grow in concert. DevOps and CloudOps teams can coexist and share best practices, since they both promote:
- Improved efficiency and utilization of cloud resources
- Growth of agile work environment for cloud workloads
- Automation of security and availability processes to support 24/7 operations
- Improved customers user experience
- Lowered overall costs of delivery cloud services
- Enhanced productivity of teams working with migrated applications