Cloud Management, Still a Work in Progress

Arthur Cole

It happened with distributed architectures. It happened with storage networking. It happened with virtualization. And now it's happening with the cloud.

It seems like every time there is a shift in data center operations or infrastructure, the drive to deploy new technology always crowds out thoughts of managing it.

But because the cloud entails such broad interaction with a wide variety of platforms, establishing a truly effective management regime is proving to be elusive at best. A number of organizations have taken up the mantle of establishing some sort of cloud standardization, but it's difficult to imagine that there could be the kind of universal interactivity that we see on the Internet.

But that hasn't stopped people from trying. The latest move comes from the Object Management Group (OMG), which has gathered a number of organizations at its Cloud Standards Summit in Arlington, Va., this week with an eye toward coordinating their various cloud-related activities. The effort includes the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the Open Grid Forum (OGF), the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), the Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) and a host of others. The group is hoping to build on work by the Standards Development Organization Collaboration on Networked Resources Management (SCRM), which is focused on a wide range of coordinated management standards.

In the meantime, enterprises will have to contend with the numerous management solutions already in the channel, most of which are geared to specific vendor platforms. CA, for example, is targeting Cisco/VMware users by coming out with an upgraded management platform geared toward the vSphere 4 systems running on Nexus 1000V virtual switches. The package includes the Spectrum Infrastructure Manager, Automation Manager and eHealth Performance Manager modules, all of which are designed to extend management capabilities across physical, virtual and internal cloud infrastructures.

That sort of cross-environment capability has caught the imagination of other management firms as well. FastScale Technology, for one, just came out with a new version of its FastScale Composer Suite outfitted with what the company calls Application Blueprinting. The technology uses lightweight logical servers with "just enough operating system" (JeOS) to house customized Windows and Red Hat configurations complete with analytical and visualization tools, as well as web-based management tools, that can span physical, virtual and cloud environments. The company says it also can establish a software repository to oversee all your assets, servers and usage patterns across virtual environments like Vmware Infrastructure and cloud services like Amazon's EC2.

Yet another approach comes from RightScale, which recently added SpringSource's Hyperic HQ web application monitoring module to its RightScale Cloud Management Platform. The company's aim is to provide broad-based monitoring of numerous cloud-based software products, such as application servers, databases, messaging and authorization servers and even HTTP servers with an eye toward maintaining steady performance on public cloud platforms like EC2 or Google's App Engine. The system relies on monitoring agents embedded into workload images to extend management capabilities like application deployment, scaling and monitoring, into the cloud.

The problem in managing complex environments, particularly in the early stages, is that the technology is so fluid and the architectures so interdependent that simply mapping the relationships between all the various elements is an exercise in frustration. As cloud technology matures, however, there is every reason to believe that management capabilities will as well.

The unfortunate thing is that the time to lay down an overarching management scheme is before, or at least while, the infrastructures are being built, not after. For the early adopters, then, there could be some difficult times ahead. The rest, of course, will only gain from their troubles.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 14, 2009 3:28 AM William Louth William Louth  says:

Why have separate management models (or information sources) for performance management, cost management, capacity management, and billing when you can combine these all within an unified approach that is specifically designed for the cloud rather than legacy IT management environments.

Best of all you can use this to meter at various levels of abstraction in the cloud.

Jul 14, 2009 7:37 AM Sam Johnston Sam Johnston  says:

Cloud standards collaboration is about community while cloud standards coordination is about control. This looks a lot like a[nother] land grab...


Jul 15, 2009 10:43 AM Arthur Cole Arthur Cole  says: in response to Bob Natale

It's good to see all these initiatives surrounding greater cloud collaboration or consolidation or whatever. The question remains, though, will any of this help to foster greater compatibility among cloud services?

Is that even desirable?

Jul 15, 2009 12:29 PM Bob Natale Bob Natale  says:

The TM Forum ( is now participating in the Cloud Standards Org and is a well-established SDO for the broader network management industry (ICT service providers, product vendors, and solution integrators comprise the bulk of the membership).  The TM Forum has a set of widely employed management frameworks:  The eTOM business process framework, the SID informatino framework, the TAM application framework, and several others, as well as a certification process for specs, projects, and commercial offerings which claim adherence to those specs.  The TM Forum has recently launced a Cloud Computing Initiative to update its frameworks with necessary additional or revised content, as well as a Security Management Initiative that is broader than but will also impact the Cloud Computing Initiative.


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