Like virtualization, cloud computing offers a radically new way of looking at the data center and data center resources. No longer are you limited by the physical constraints of your own hardware -- computing power, storage, even middleware and applications are limited only by your ability to pay for them.
But with that level of flexibility comes an equally significant challenge: the need to manage it all. Just as the rise of virtualization led to the phenomenon of virtual sprawl, cloud computing offers the potential, at least, to tie your enterprise to a wide range of network and application environments, leading to a host of interoperability, policy and governance issues.
While a number of mainline enterprise vendors, such as CA, are starting to tailor their management stacks to cloud services, the field is opening up to a number of start-ups, many of which are linking their systems directly to the major cloud providers while at the same time offering them up for licensed downloads for the management of private clouds.
A company called Tap In Systems, for example, recently offered an extension of its Cloud Management Service (CMS) system through the open source GroundWork Exchange platform. Linked to the GroundWork Monitor system, Tap In provides many of the management features found in the Amazon EC2 service, such as infrastructure status monitoring, cloud-specific instance metrics, and mapping/tracking of dynamic host names and IP addresses. Most importantly, it allows you to monitor and manage cloud-based systems alongside traditional ones.
Another firm, called RightScale, is specializing in managing hybrid clouds -- environments in which applications are seamlessly transferred between public and private clouds. The company already supports EC2, GoGrid and FlexiScale, and just recently added RackSpace and Eucalyptus to its stable. The system provides for monitoring, alerts, auto-scaling and front-end load-balancing across multiple environments, allowing users to avoid locking in to any particular provider.
Creating and managing server software stacks is also a challenge in the cloud. FastScale Technology aims to simplify that with its FastScale Stack Manager Workstation Edition that lets you build and maintain resource-saving stacks in EC2 or in-house VMware environments. The system creates the stacks in AMI or VMDK formats with JeOS (Just enough Operating System) footprints that consume up to 95 percent less storage and processing resources than a standard environment. The system also has an Application Blueprint feature that ensures file dependency integrity.
The broad diversity of cloud environments ensures that there will be equal diversity when it comes to management and related optimization tools. It's going to be a challenge wading through all of the options at first, but as with virtualization management, the time to do it is before you venture too far onto the cloud.