Whatever type of IT infrastructure you operate, it is important it is managed effectively. Without effective management, bad habits develop, leading to an uncontrolled “sprawl” of assets that will eventually result in spiraling costs, under-performance, and the likelihood of security flaws.
The need for effective management applies whether you operate an on-premises IT infrastructure, a cloud-based IT infrastructure, or a mixture of both; but it is particularly important in the cloud due to the nature of self-service provisioning—one of the biggest advantages of cloud computing, but potentially one of the biggest disadvantages as well.
So, what is cloud management?
In its simplest form, cloud management is exercising administrative control over the resources your business has deployed in the cloud in order to optimize cost, performance, and security. In this respect, the cloud management process consists of quantifying what you have, understanding how it works, and controlling who has access to it.
The objective of cloud management is to ensure cloud-based IT resources are working optimally and properly interacting with users and other services. However, there is more than one way to manage resources. Let’s take a look into the different areas of cloud management.
Many businesses are attracted to the cloud because of the cost advantages. However, in order to take advantage of the potential savings, costs need to be kept under control. It is important to note that self-service cloud costs are a different animal from the sunk costs of an on-premises IT infrastructure, and the more you use (or, more accurately, the more you provision), the more you pay for.
Identifying and right-sizing incorrectly provisioned assets is one of the best ways to keep cloud costs under control. Other methods include scheduling on/off time for non-production assets, terminating “zombie assets” such as unattached storage volumes, and optimizing the use of Reserved Instances or other “committed-use” resources.
Cloud management is often confused with cloud governance because they are cross-functional—i.e. you can’t have one without the other—but they are different in many ways. Whereas cloud management basically consists of optimizing cost, performance, and security, cloud governance is the creation of the policies under which your cloud operates, and monitoring activities to ensure they are adhered to.
Despite having different functions, the two activities are complementary. Cloud governance defines the policies and (effective) cloud management organizes and coordinates resources in compliance with the policies in order to ensure strategic and operational objectives. Just in case there is a breakdown in cloud management, cloud governance monitors adherence to the policies.
Security & Compliance
The likelihood of security flaws diminishes with proper access controls, so it is important to know who is doing what, what is their role, and what are they trying to access. Best practices you can employ to improve identity management include tying user identities to back-end directories, implementing password management policies, and de-provisioning access when it is no longer required.
With regard to the security of your cloud environment, you need to identify any data or applications that might be exposed to technical, operational or financial risk. You may be able to patch the security gaps, or it may be a better option to move some data and applications from a public cloud to a private cloud or on-premises IT environment. The context of each risk will be the determining factor.
Multicloud/hybrid cloud management platforms
Multicloud and hybrid cloud management platforms are available through third-party vendors (i.e. different companies than the Cloud Service Providers). These typically work across multiple platforms—AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.—to give you total “single-pane” visibility over all your cloud accounts. The best multicloud and hybrid cloud management platforms also integrate with on-premises IT infrastructures as well.
These have the benefit of combining all the tools offered by cloud service providers into one simple platform; and, although they could be considered by some single-cloud, smaller businesses to be the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, are able to cope with any volume of assets. Effectively, these are a one-stop-shop for cloud management, offering all the capabilities you could require to optimize, govern, and automate.
Flexibility and scalability counts for a lot
Cloud management involves numerous tasks including performance monitoring (response times, latency, up-time, etc.), security and compliance, auditing and management, and initiating and overseeing disaster recovery and contingency plans. With cloud computing rapidly evolving—and growing more complex as it evolves—your method of management and choice of management tools needs to be as flexible and scalable as your cloud computing strategy.
Want to learn more about your cloud management strategy? Take our five-minute Cloud Management Maturity Model Assessment.