Breaking Down the Barriers to Unified Cloud Management

Arthur Cole

Few would argue that the hybrid cloud is most effective when it is federated across a disparate, multi-vendor infrastructure. And even those who still support a proprietary approach have to admit that there are few enterprises with such a purified environment on which to build.

But while the need for a universal cloud platform is evident, producing one is proving something of a challenge. With so many moving parts provided by a broad range of vendors across the physical, virtual and cloud layers, vested interests often get in the way of user needs. VMware, for example, gets along fine with Amazon, Rackspace and others under the OpenCloud umbrella, but things get complicated if you add Citrix or Microsoft virtualization into the mix. And while Google may do wonders for Linux KVM users, don't expect much rhythm at all if you've deployed Hyper-V.

But while the top vendors try to utilize their existing platforms for the cloud, startup firms in cloud and data management are proving to be far more flexible. With few vested interests at stake, this new crop of systems are proving highly adept at provisioning and maintaining cloud environments across a range of installed systems.

A case in point is ManageIQ, which recently released version 5 of its EVM platform for real-time management and automation of hybrid clouds. The system utilizes what the company calls a "unified by design" approach in its Adaptive Management Platform architecture, which provides for continuous closed-loop management and tightly integrated configuration, resource and workload automation that out-performs typical point-tool approaches. The system provides a single interface for management across physical, virtual and cloud layers, covering third-party platforms ranging from Cisco, HP and Netapp to VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Amazon.

Meanwhile, some cloud providers are starting to talk up the idea of cloud ecosystems, a sort of "big tent" approach designed to offer as much support as possible for increasingly disparate data environments. Infrastructure and hosted IT firm Savvis Inc., for example, recently launched the Enterprise Cloud Ecosystem Program designed to foster orchestration, brokerage, management and governance solutions for private, public and hybrid deployments. The program has gathered names like BMC Software, Rackware, Racemi and ScaleXtreme to provide various tools to Savvis clients in exchange for direct access to the Savvis Symphony VPDC API integration and test bed cloud.

At the same time, Infosys has launched its Cloud Ecosystem Hub as a means to deliver various services across hybrid clouds. The system features tools like a unified self-service catalog and a smart brokerage system designed to provide a single-window view of the entire enterprise environment, simplifying tasks like dynamic infrastructure provisioning, technology integration and regulatory compliance. The company claims a 40 percent improvement in service deployment and a 30 percent reduction in cost.

Cloud interoperability is also crucial for application environments as enterprises seek to diversify their infrastructure across multiple cloud providers. Red Hat is targeting this need through the release of the Deltacloud API to the Apache Software Foundation. Deltacloud contains the API server and drivers needed to connect to cloud providers like Amazon EC2, Rackspace and OpenStack-compatible services. The idea is to abstract the operational differences between various clouds so they can be treated as a single environment under a hybrid configuration. Deltacloud also has an open back-end that allows individual cloud providers to install their own drivers for clients who need them.

Like in the old days of physical infrastructure management, the overriding goal in the cloud is the avoidance of data silos that force the need for increasingly complex systems and subsystems in order to cobble together a cohesive whole. Virtualization and the cloud may add abstract layers on top of the physical world to prevent this from happening in hardware, but there are still barriers between platforms that can hamper the free flow of information.

Strange as it may seem, the cloud represents both a simplified and yet more complex version of traditional data center environments. It will require a truly creative approach to manage it all.



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