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Cloud Computing Management Tools: Buying Guide

Tips on selecting a cloud computing management system to maximize ROI and avoid the common problem of a poorly supervised cloud solution.
Posted August 22, 2011
By

Jeff Vance


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In the rush to save money and boost organizational flexibility through cloud computing, many organizations abandon some of the basic IT fundamentals that have served them so well for so long. Security, of course, is a major one, warranting a separate article (check back here next week), but equally important is cloud visibility and management.

Once businesses outsource the management of various infrastructure, applications and services, many adopt a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. Just because an environment is outsourced doesn’t mean an organization should forgo visibility into that environment, or control over their assets within it.

Thus, many enterprises find that one of the drawbacks of status quo infrastructures – overprovisioning – is replicated in the cloud. Well, they don’t discover exactly that because few know what exactly is going on. All they know is that performance and reliability aren’t up to snuff and savings are underwhelming.

Enter cloud monitoring and management tools, which promise to deliver visibility and put control back into your hands. Here are five questions to ask when evaluating cloud monitoring and management tools:

1. Can it unify monitoring and management for all of my cloud engagements, in-house or outsourced?

Service provider Logicworks hosts and manages cloud solutions for mission-critical applications and content for such enterprise clients as Dow Jones, Starwood Hotels and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. According to Steve Zeller, VP of Sales for Logicworks, the lack of visibility into – and control over – their cloud services was quickly becoming a problem, preventing them from attracting clients in heavily regulated sectors, such as health care and financial services.

“A few years ago when cloud computing started taking off, people were just happy that it worked,” Zeller said. “They were thrilled to spin up a server in minutes instead of taking weeks to provision one through IT.” As the cloud began to mature, though, the limitations of this approach were quickly evident.

“Now, clients ask, ‘is it safe to store medical records in your cloud?’ Or ‘can I safely connect to several different banks for trading purposes?’”

Logicworks had been using a hodge-podge of point solutions to manage their cloud offerings, and the labor involved with getting a view of what was happening when incidents occurred was unsustainable. Worse, the view was limited and always lagged behind the real-time status of the infrastructure, apps and network.

To solve this problem, Logicworks deployed ScienceLogic’s cloud monitoring and management solution, EM7. Now, Logicworks has a holistic view of performance across their entire hosting infrastructure, and they are alerted to the most critical performance issues facing their clients.

“If a SaaS client of ours serves 20 banks and manages 300 Virtual Machines (VMs), we can easily show them how processes are performing across all servers, without having an engineer reconfigure an agent and then wait for days to get information back,” Zeller said.

“We see what exactly is happening when it is happening.”

2. Can it integrate with other important tools?

IPR International, a private data protection and cloud service provider, adopted Nimsoft’s Unified Manager for many of the same reasons that Logicworks turned to ScienceLogic’s EM7. Gaining the ability to manage client infrastructure and services in a unified way was paramount.

Almost equally important, though, was the ability to integrate cloud management with other important tools. For instance, an effective cloud management solution will allow you to pull in alarms triggered by a Web application firewall, or integrate with access control systems so that user rights can be enforced.

“The ability to integrate with other tools is essential,” said Marcia Wasserman, Director of Solutions Marketing for IPR International. “For IT, simply integrating with our trouble ticketing system saves enormous amounts of time. It also delivers ease of use for clients, who are often able to resolve problems on their own through our self-service portal, which simply wouldn’t have been possible before.”

Wasserman added that clients are able to integrate Nimsoft with their own environments and tools. Thus, clients are able to apply advantages gained through the cloud to their legacy environments (or even ones hosted with other providers) in a cost-effective, manageable way.

3. Will you be able to use it to help you shift to service-based infrastructures?

Birmingham, UK-based Aston University began moving various university departments and other internal clients onto their private cloud in 2009. They managed billing through a SharePoint manual chargeback system. The service chargeback allowed them to fund the gradual expansion of the infrastructure.


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Tags: cloud computing, cloud management


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