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On Cloud Management Platforms and Interchangeable Parts

Posted by Bernard Sanders

3/11/16 7:37 AM

"A little piece of advice. You see an Agent, you do what we do. Run. You run your a** off."
Cypher, The Matrix

If you are evaluating Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs), make sure to consider whether the solution requires an agent on the VMs it manages.  This is important because your CMP should provide visibility and manageability across all servers, not just the ones it built itself.  CMPs that require an agent for full management greatly inhibit your ability to on-board previously-existing (aka “brownfield”) servers.  Consider the challenge of getting root/Administrator access to all VMs across all environments and installing software on them.  Also, test what happens when people provision VMs outside of the CMP by going straight to vCenter, AWS, etc.  Will the tool automatically discover and manage them, or will an administrator need to manually install agents first?  Also consider which OS versions the agent is supported on, how quickly new agent versions are released to support new OS versions, and what the upgrade process is for existing agents.
Agent.png

Inclusion of an agent makes a CMP more like a monitoring or configuration management system.  It blurs an important line between monitoring and operations.  Agent installation and inter-process communications also raise legitimate security concerns.  By contrast, a product designed as a manager-of-managers gets all the information it needs through the APIs of each virtualization system, public cloud, and configuration manager.   The CMP automatically discovers and manages VMs built with other tools in exactly the same way as servers it builds.  All systems are equal.

This was our design philosophy for CloudBolt.  We recognized that enterprise datacenters have a plethora of pre-existing interfaces and tools.  Rather than supplanting or requiring changes to existing operational standards, we complement and integrate with them.  Our approach enables IT architects to choose the best set of tools for each specific function.

I would go so far as to say that if a product uses agents, it is not a CMP.  A management ecosystem should be comprised of interchangeable parts and components that respect their boundaries, and integrate with each other over published, documented APIs.  Administrators should be able to swap out any particular monitoring (or backup, virtualization, or even CMP) solution for another as requirements change or better versions come along, all without affecting other functional areas.  This is central to CloudBolt's approach, and it’s one of the reasons it is consistently ranked highest amongst CMPs.

Download CloudBolt and see for yourself.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Implementation, CloudBolt

Reflections on CliQr's Acquisition by Cisco

Posted by Bernard Sanders

3/1/16 9:47 PM

Today, Cisco announced its intent to acquire CliQr, for a reported $260M.  This acquisition validates the importance that Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs) play in enterprise IT shops, forming the foundation of a hybrid cloud strategy. 

CliQr-Cisco.png

What prompted this move on CliQr’s part?  Perhaps they were feeling the heat from the likes of CloudBolt and decided it was time to retreat to safety.  In head-to-head engagements, CloudBolt consistently beats CliQr (and all other solutions) in technical evaluations of hybrid cloud managers / CMPs.  This includes evaluations from individual enterprise companies that have done their own product bake-offs (such as GE, Williams-Sonoma, Blackboard, and Waste Management), industry awards such as the Modern Infrastructure Impact Award for best CMP, and a number of analyst and third-party comparisons.

People frequently remark on CloudBolt's unparalleled simplicity, flexibility, and extensibility.  They’re also impressed with the breadth and depth of our integration with virtualization technologies, public clouds, configuration managers (such as Puppet and Chef), and various technologies & tools including Infoblox, ServiceNow, Slack, HP OO, Docker, vRealize Orchestrator, and many others.

It's unclear what effect CliQr's acquisition will have on their product roadmap and current customers.  Much of the value of CMPs comes from vendor neutrality - their non-partisan ability to integrate with the vast range of IT systems from all vendors.  It will be interesting to see if CliQr will maintain this kind of neutrality.  Will they, for instance, invest in integration with technologies that are competitive to Cisco's offerings such as VMware's NSX?

In the meantime, CloudBolt will continue to lead the way in hybrid / multi-cloud management and to drive IT transformation forward.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Hybrid Cloud

WhatMatrix Adds Cloud Management Platform Comparison

Posted by Ephraim Baron

2/16/16 12:13 AM

(reprinted from WhatMatrix blog https://www.whatmatrix.com/blog/?p=2157)

How Cloud Computing is Transforming IT

I’ve spent more than 20 years in IT operations.  In that time, computing technology has changed dramatically.  However, some things have remained relatively constant.  IT operations sits at a nexus of negativity.  From a business perspective, operations is overhead and its value is difficult to quantify/justify.  From a developer perspective, operational standards are needlessly strict and limiting.  From a user/requester perspective, IT is a maddening black box where requests go to die.

It’s no wonder that enterprises are embracing cloud computing with its promise of capacity-on-demand service and pay-as-you-go consumption.

Cloud is a compelling alternative to traditional IT.  Customers no longer have to accept ‘no’ for an answer.  If they don’t like what IT is telling them, they pull out a credit card and get what they want, when they want it.
More to the point, cloud computing is transforming the focus of IT discussions from technology to business.  As the enterprise world moves to embrace cloud computing, they follow a logical progression:

  • Does cloud have any benefits for my business?
  • How can I use cloud for strategic advantage?
  • How do I shift to a cloud-first approach?

If One is Good, More are Better

One of the key steps in most enterprises’ implementation of cloud is moving from a single cloud deployment to a multi-cloud strategy.  The primary benefit of a multi-cloud approach is the ability to choose the best cloud for each workload.  But as organizations work with multiple clouds, they are confronted with a confusing array of tools and management interfaces.

This is where cloud management platforms (CMPs) come in.  They serve as a common interface across multiple providers and technology stacks.  The CMP market has been around since around 2006 but have remained a niche market until recently.  As cloud consumption has taken off in the past 3 – 4 years, though, users have gained a clearer understanding of the benefits and challenges with each cloud service type and provider.  Recent expansion of the CMP market has mirrored this growth.  There are now many CMP providers, each with different specializations and approaches to multi-cloud management.  This is why WhatMatrix is adding a CMP category to aid in the evaluation and selection process.  You can find it at www.whatmatrix.com/comparison/Cloud-Management-Platforms.

By way of disclosure, I recently left the world of IT operations management to work for a CMP company.  In doing research on other companies the space, I had trouble finding a common basis for comparison.  Products are built differently, sold differently, and deployed differently.  I’d encountered similar challenges in the past when comparing virtualization platforms.  When I came upon WhatMatrix’s virtualization comparison, I found just what I was looking for.  It gave me the ability to directly compare multiple products and to drill down on the specific features that mattered most to me.  So I contacted the folks at WhatMatrix to ask if they had or planned to add a CMP category.  Although the category wasn’t actively being developed, they liked the idea and suggested I join them and contribute.

Since I work for one of the CMP vendors being evaluated, this might appear to be a conflict of interest.  CMP_vendorsIf my only interest was to promote my own product, I would simply create one of those ubiquitous charts showing all green checkmarks in my product’s column and all red x’s for each of my competitors.  That is decidedly NOT my goal.  Rather, I want a fair and objective comparison.  In return, I gain a deeper understanding of my own industry.  This also helps guide my company’s product direction and development priorities.  Additionally, WhatMatrix process are in place to ensure community curation and peer review.

While creating the CMP comparison, we’ve solicited input from all the vendors represented.  Nearly all have responded to one degree or another.  Still, some of the initial assessments are largely the result of my own research.  I trust that this will evolve over time and that each vendor will own and maintain their own evaluation.  This will both ensure fairness and help to advance the value of this comparison and of the CMP market.

Evaluation Methodology

When structuring the evaluation criteria, I began with high-level value propositions.  What problems do CMPs solve?  My list was drawn from discussions with analysts, personal experience with IT challenges, and a survey of solutions from industry players.  I sorted the criteria into the following categories:

  • General: How the product is structured, procured, installed, and managed
  • Multi-Cloud Support: The ability to manage a variety of clouds and technologies, from virtualization and private cloud to public cloud providers
  • IT Automation: Features that allow IT processes to be partially or completely automated
  • User Self-Service: Enablement of end-users to provision systems, environments, and/or application stacks themselves in near real-time based on templates set up and managed by IT
  • Chargeback/Cost Transparency: Increased visibility into what systems cost and how those cost can be actively managed
  • Governance & Security: Capabilities to ensure compliance and to safeguard information and operations
  • DevOps: Features that bridge the divide between developers and IT operations

And so it begins…

This blog marks the launch of the CMP category on WhatMatrix.  While I’m very pleased we have reached this milestone, I recognize that this is only the start.  The success of our efforts will be judged by the number of products compared and by the degree to which the comparison is seen as fair, relevant, accurate, and current.  To that end, I’m reaching out to representatives of CMP companies and to the wider WhatMatrix community to join in the CMP evaluation as category specialists.

So come on in.  The water’s fine.

jump

Ephraim Baron - Category Consultant

Quick Links

Contact Ephraim at: ephraim@whatmatrix.com

Contact WhatMatrix at: info@whatmatrix.com

Suggest a new product for the comparison

Spotted a mistake? Submit a change request ...

Credits (content/reviews):

- Virtualization.info / CloudComputing.info    virtinfo

- TheVirtualist.org 

- Viktor van den Berg - Viktorious.nl  viktorious-logo1

- ManageIQ Community    manageIQ2

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Topics: CMP

CloudBolt Now Available in Azure Marketplace

Posted by Ephraim Baron

1/13/16 8:00 AM

CloudBolt’s simply powerful cloud management platform has always been available as a virtual appliance.  We enable you to manage your virtualization, private cloud, and public cloud environments all in one place.  Because our customers work in multi-cloud environments, though, we’ve received multiple requests to run CloudBolt on-demand in the public cloud.  We listened, and we’re pleased to announce CloudBolt availability in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace as a pay-as-you-go application.

Microsoft Azure Cloud

To get started, go to https://azure.microsoft.com/marketplace and search for CloudBolt.  Click on the CloudBolt logo and you’ll be presented with two options:

CloudBolt Free 25 VM Pack is a Bring Your Own License version that’s free for non-production use for up to 25 virtual machines.  You pay only for your Azure instance time.  Otherwise, it’s free to use, forever.  Whether you’re just beginning with multi-cloud management or you’re testing a variety of CMP products, this is a great way to get started with CloudBolt.  All you have to do is pick your Azure instance, request a license by return email, and follow the quick installation guide.  You’ll be up and running in minutes.

CloudBolt 125 VM Pack is an on-demand version for managing up to 125 virtual machines.  You pay only while the instance is running, and usage is billed through your Azure account.  The license is built in.  You pay a low hourly rate along with your Azure usage.  Simply pick your Azure instance and follow the quick installation guide.  Before you know it, you’ll have powerful cloud management, IT automation, user self-service, and usage/chargeback reporting at your fingertips.

CloudBolt listing in Azure Marketplace

If you have more than 125 VMs – as most of our customers do – contact us at info@cloudbolt.io.  We can easily manage thousands of VMs across a wide range of virtualization and cloud environments from a single CloudBolt instance.  And we work with legacy, brownfield environments as well as new, greenfield deployments.  All of which makes CloudBolt the central console for management, security, reporting, and control of your entire IT infrastructure.

Cloud computing is all about ease of consumption.  By offering CloudBolt in Azure, we’re making it that much simpler to manage multiple clouds from the cloud.

CloudBolt = Flexibility + Control

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Topics: Partner, CMP, azure, CloudBolt

7 Absolutely Terrible Ways You Run Your Hybrid Cloud

Posted by Chris Moore

8/5/15 7:00 AM


If you’re an IT administrator, there are good and bad ways to offer cloud services to your end users.  Get it right and your customers purr contentedly.  Get it wrong and you get a claw to the face.  Here’s what to watch for.

1.   Taking Too Long

(“Where the @%#$’s my server?”)

cloud service provisioning

Been to a restaurant lately?  How do you feel if you can’t get a server?  The same applies to the IT end-users.  Do they want to wait weeks for servers?  No!

Why not let users serve themselves?  Better still, why not give them all they can eat?

 

2.   Being TOO Cloudy (Not being the broker)

cloud choice

Public clouds are very powerful tools that enable business agility.  But as a cloud consumer, you have an important choice to make.  If you choose to use a single cloud provider, you end up locked into their services and UI.  If you use multiple clouds, you must master multiple toolsets and UIs so that much of the agility is lost.

You can get the best of both worlds by deploying a Cloud Management Platform.  This makes you a services broker and allows you to leverage the power of hybrid cloud from a single UI.

3.   Making Manual Mistakes

                                IT mistakes

Fulfilling requests by hand takes time, which irritates the requestor.  Manual entry is also prone to fat fingering, resulting in VMs that are incorrectly provisioned.  The same goes for tracking costs.

Automating VM builds takes mistakes out of the picture.  Why provision systems by hand when a cloud management platform can do the job automatically, from a single UI?

4.   Leaving Money on the Table (or in the cushions)

 chargeback showback shameback

To paraphrase management wisdom, you can’t charge for what you can’t measure.  Call it what you like – chargeback, showback, shameback – but you’re making a mistake if you don’t track your cloud costs.

Cloud management platforms can track costs for you and your users automatically.

5.   Losing Your Control

                         cloud control

You are asking for trouble if you can’t quickly and easily answer these 5 questions:

  • Who owns the system?
  • Where it is deployed?
  • Why does it exist?
  • How long does it need to exist?
  • How much does it cost to run?

Just like a bank, you must have clear visibility of assets.

Be sure to choose management tools that enable you to answer these questions.

6.   Living Below the Clouds

 multi-cloud management

The one who lives above the cloud, reigns.  Don’t lock yourself into one vendor.  Build a provider-agnostic environment that allows you to standardize IT, introduce new technologies, and transition between clouds without your end-users even knowing.

Make sure you’re able to choose the right cloud for each job.  One size does not fit all.

 

7.   Being the Worker Bee, Not the Queen Bee

 self-service IT

The Queen Bee empowers her Worker Bees to do everything on their own. The same applies to IT admins and end users.  IT need to empower their end users to build and manage their own environments while still maintaining oversight of security, capacity, and performance.

By empowering end users, IT can save time and money.  And, most importantly, it makes IT an enabler rather than a barrier.

CloudBolt enables self-service IT.  To learn more, contact us to schedule a demo.
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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Self Service IT, multi-cloud

Running a Hybrid Cloud? Are you tracking usage and costs?

Posted by Chris Moore

7/27/15 3:57 PM

At Microsoft Ignite 2015, 72 percent of IT professionals polled said cloud usage and cost tracking are essential for business management. When not in conflict with other departments, many administrators struggle with efficiently tracking resource usage and costs. This issue was too clear with a major networking vendor. Their administrators spent countless hours each month manually tracking resource consumption. Since this method was prone to human error, the vendor deployed CloudBolt to automate their reporting process. Doing so allowed them to improve the accuracy of cloud usage and cost tracking across five hypervisors and public clouds.

In addition to manual cost tracking, some administrators also manually control resource distribution. Due to limited IT resources, a leading data storage provider’s administrators are afraid of end-users spinning up VMs from a self-service IT portal. The concern came from the idea that administrators would be unable to control how many VMs end-users provisioned. In response to this concern, CloudBolt allows administrators to set quotas that prevent end-users from running over their allotted resources. CloudBolt also allows administrators to set thresholds that alert them when resources are reaching max capacity.

Taking an automated approach lightens administrators’ workload, allowing them to be more productive in areas that were previously neglected. So, whether a company needs to improve the provisioning process, measuring or controlling of IT resource consumption, they should consider deploying a self-service portal. Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, government agencies and even the City of London have recognized the need for automated self-service tools, and they all chose CloudBolt as the solution.

CloudBolt has been recognized for its market leading time to value. With that in mind, simply submit a download request and test it out at any time.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, VMware, Cloud, Shadow IT, Hybrid Cloud