The cloud is shaping up to be a great way to manage resources in the data center. The question is, how will you manage resources on the cloud?
It's more than just an academic question at this point, with the IT industry poised for major expansion onto the cloud in the coming year, both as a means to control costs and increase productivity. A recent survey commissioned by traffic management firm Zeus Technology found that barely a quarter of IT executives feel they have sufficient cloud management capability in place, even though three quarters say they are ready to start using cloud services.
While at its heart the cloud can be seen as simply another resource tier like the physical and virtual layers that already exist in most data centers, in a practical sense it adds quite a bit of complexity to overall management and automation efforts. One problem is the difficulty in monitoring the cloud in conjunction with the other tiers, which means most management efforts extend no further than the data center walls.
But a company called Nimsoft says it has a fix for the problem. The Nimsoft Monitoring Solution provides real-time monitoring and reporting of physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure in a single view. The system features a probe architecture that extends across virtualization layers like VMware and Citrix and then onto Google, Rackspace, Amazon and other services. Also included is a unified monitoring and reporting system that covers most popular APIs and allows for customized reporting for workload distribution, performance benchmarks and SLA compliance.
By its nature, the cloud is intended to provide a dynamic infrastructure designed to meet application and service needs at a moment's notice. But unless you are ready for a whole lot of manual reconfiguration every time a new service goes up or an application is reassigned, you'll need some kind of automation. And until very recently, that kind of technology simply didn't exist.
Unisys is one company making progress in this area by leveraging traditional automation technology onto its Secure Cloud Solution. The company is using the Enigmatec Execution Management System as the key component in its uOrchestrate infrastructure module, designed to provide a dynamic resource allocation and monitoring system to growing cloud environments. Powered by Enigmatec's proprietary run book automation software, the EMS system ties many common provisioning and support tools to workflow automation technology to provide an automated IT process management platform.
But probably the most intriguing approach to date comes from a company called LineSider Technologies. Its OverDrive system uses virtual LAN (VLAN) technology to re-orient underlying infrastructure components as changes are made to business policies and relationships on the cloud. The company says that by layering cloud infrastructure on top of a virtual network, rather than a physical one, you can avoid the sometimes lengthy reprovisioning process that arises every time an application, computing or storage resource is changed. For service providers in particular, this could be crucial because it allows them to establish individual VLANs for each customer.
It's almost become a running joke in the industry that every advancement in data center functionality, be it virtualization or the cloud, adds new layers of management complexity even while it solves or greatly alleviates many of the headaches of the old paradigm.
So while it seems it's much easier to fix problems from the outside than the inside, here's hoping that more management and automation systems start to focus on ways to bring cloud infrastructures into the fold.