3 perspectives on cloud management

While opportunities lie in specifically in the management layer, what Canada really needs is its own cloud host, according to Reuven Cohen, founder and chief technologist at Enomaly Inc. and author of the Open Cloud Manifesto.

“The problem we face in Canada is this – if you want to use a cloud service right now, you have to use a U.S.-based provider for capacity … If you want to actually keep the information within the bounds of Canadian borders, you can’t do it,“ he said.

Hosting certain information in the United States can be problematic due to the U.S. Patriot Act, Cohen pointed out.

Toronto-based Enomaly provides an Elastic Computing Platform that leverages existing data centres to create what Cohen refers to as cloud-like environment and bridges this environment to external cloud providers when necessary.

“In a sense, you can think of us as a cloud enabler for everybody that wants to be an EC2,” he said.

The platform works with existing monitoring services, rather than replace them.

“We’re not trying to set up into your data centre and reinvent it to be the cloud,” said Cohen. “We want to make your data centre more cloud-like and cloud-friendly. So if you already have an investment in monitoring software and you don’t want to replace it, we can fit alongside that.”

Benefits to this hybrid model include utilizing existing capability and receiving additional capacity outside the data centre.

“On one side of the spectrum, we take those servers and make them look like an Amazon EC2. On the other side, we provide the capability to actually migrate to remote providers such as Amazon EC2,” said Cohen.

Enomaly’s clients include hosting providers and data centres that are looking to provide cloud services to their existing customer base and avoid missed opportunities for revenue, he explained.

Over 15,000 users have installed Enomaly’s software, but as an open source company, only a small percentage of those users have actually purchased it, he noted.

Santa Barbara-based RightScale Inc. includes monitoring as part of its cloud management platform, but the company’s strength is auto-scaling.

RightScale understands the whole life cycle of deployments and servers, said Thorsten von Eicken, founder and CTO of RightScale.

“Within RightScale, you describe how the entire deployment of many servers looks like, how each server is configured, how they related to one another and managing that is really what we focus on,” he explained.

RightScale recently partnered with San Francisco-based Splunk Inc., which specializes in monitoring log files. “We would partner with another monitoring company in order to offer our customers a choice in terms of what monitoring system they want to use,” said Eicken.

Coming from the cloud perspective is one of the company’s strengths, according to Eicken. RightScale grew up in the cloud environment and understands the model well, he said.

“The fact that we have hundreds of customers that are deployed with business-critical applications in the Amazon cloud today makes un unique … Nobody else has this kind of track record and this type of experience,” he said.

The self-service model is well received in the enterprise, according to Eicken. “I often hear of ‘shadow-level IT,’ referring to business-line owners putting their credit card into Amazon in order to get the servers that otherwise would take six months to be provisioned when they really need to get something out in two months,” he said.

One of the allures of cloud computing is getting the IT services you need almost in real time, but self-provisioning has a trade-off, according to Cameron Haight, research vice president of IT Operations Management at Gartner Inc.

A line of business might not have the skills or manpower to validate the management, to ensure compliance and make sure the security is at the right level and the SLAs are being delivered, he said.

“On the one hand, you have this tremendously flexible computing resource. On the other hand, who’s making sure that what’s occurring is within corporate dictates?” said Haight.

From the enterprise perspective, you want a couple things, he said. “You certainly want tools that have a cloud affinity, but you also want to have those tools tie into your existing management control systems.”

Haight likened cloud computing to the “early days” of moving from mainframes to PCs. “They were tremendously flexible and gave us great personal power in terms of doing what we needed, but in many cases we weren’t adequately prepared with dealing with the management issues that arose as a consequence of that,” he said.

Enterprises need to be careful not to go from “virtual machine sprawl to cloud sprawl.” where pieces of the company are dispersed across different public clouds, he added.

IT enterprise departments are potentially in the position to be the honest broker, according to Haight. “It is their job to manage these services and maybe they can help assess what makes more sense from a cost perspective as well as service levels to run this external to the company,” he said.

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