Cloud management is the process of monitoring and maximizing efficiency in the use of one or more private or public clouds. Organizations typically use a cloud management platform to manage cloud usage. Cloud management allows IT managers to move workloads through different clouds and manage the cost of cloud resources.
Today, organizations are likely to have all or part of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. They may use a private cloud, a public cloud, or a hybrid cloud combination of both private and public cloud platforms, working together in a multi-cloud strategy. With so many options in the cloud, it is important to have a cloud management strategy in place that allows organizations to make informed decisions about how and when to use cloud-based services, and to make sure that their use of the cloud is cost-effective.
The first step in cloud management is monitoring usage to get a baseline. Once an organization has a clear picture of its cloud usage and associated costs, it can make an informed decision about where to run workloads in a multi-cloud environment. Cloud management software enables and even automates the movement of workloads among private and public clouds, monitoring performance and cost as part of the process. These tools can make multi-cloud management much more efficient.
Cloud management platforms might manage data, content, applications, or all three in the cloud:
- Cloud data management: Backing up data in the cloud is often part of a disaster recovery strategy. Cloud management tools allow this process to be automated.
- Cloud content management: Using different clouds to host content that has different requirements for accessibility can save costs when rarely needed archived content is stored in a low-cost cloud with higher latency.
- Cloud application management: Cloud management allows organizations to monitor the use of cloud-native applications and easily scale up processing or storage resources when necessary.
Cloud management software can gather the information necessary for an informed decision about what to keep in a private cloud and what to move to a public cloud, and it can monitor the results of that decision to optimize hybrid cloud and multi-cloud management. Many businesses develop their own in-house tools for private or hybrid cloud management.
Public cloud providers typically offer their own software tools for monitoring, securing, and managing the cost of their cloud offerings. However, these tools rarely offer insight into performance, instead sticking to basic reporting. Third-party tools designed to help manage public cloud services become necessary if organizations are using multiple public clouds that all have their own proprietary cloud management tools.
IT administrators can use private cloud management software tools to allocate resources more efficiently. For instance, an IT manager might use a cloud management tool to instate a user-based resource quota to ensure that one user does not overwhelm the server with a large workload request. Administrators can also use data gained from resource monitoring to predict and plan for spikes in resource demands.
A solid cloud management strategy is a critical component of cost management, and it can also improve IT performance and efficiency. Cloud management provides the following additional benefits:
- Informs the optimal cloud strategy: Cloud management can provide insights into the user experience as well as analyze the workloads that are being processed in the cloud. Using cloud analysis tools as part of the management strategy allows an organization to balance workloads more efficiently and better plan for the correct capacity. This type of analysis also can help an organization make an informed decision about whether to use a public, private, or hybrid cloud for different needs, and what the optimal balance among those clouds might look like.
- Workflow automation for instances of public cloud usage: Public cloud usage is usually more expensive than hosting a private cloud, but organizations don’t want to provision a private cloud that is larger than necessary. Many businesses solve this problem by bursting from the private cloud into the public cloud during peak traffic times, using the public cloud only when required. Workflow automation as part of cloud management determines when this leap to the public cloud should happen and makes it happen automatically, saving time and money.
- Better cloud cost management: Taking responsibility for cloud management allows an organization to see exactly how and when all of the cloud computing infrastructure components are being used. This allows IT directors to make informed decisions about how and when to use a public or private cloud, and to allocate resources more efficiently. Organizations can also see when they are paying for unused cloud resources, which allows them to eliminate unnecessary costs.
- Ensuring compliance: A good cloud management tool will allow administrators to see where users and cloud configurations are out of compliance with corporate cloud use policies and guidelines, and ensure that any issues are quickly addressed.
As compliance and legal requirements become more stringent and complex for cloud computing, a cloud management strategy with the tools to support it will be critical for every business with a cloud computing infrastructure. Proprietary public cloud management tools do not work together easily, and as multi-cloud environments grow, cross-platform cloud management tools (where users can see the status of all of their cloud services through a single dashboard) will become more important, especially from a security perspective.
A good cloud management platform should allow the user to see how and when each part of the cloud infrastructure is being used and help the user make decisions about where to run workloads. Users should be able to see how cloud-based applications are performing, where there are slow-downs, and where parts of the cloud are being underutilized. Ideally, a cloud management platform will also offer insights into security vulnerabilities and public cloud use that does not align with organizational policy. A cloud management platform pays for itself when it can show where cloud management costs can be reduced and how performance can be optimized.
However, monitoring cloud computing metrics to make smart business decisions requires a specialized skill set. Cloud management tools are useless without someone who knows how to use them effectively. If an organization’s IT staff is not well-versed in public cloud integration and management, cloud service brokerages can help.