Rising Tide of Cloud Management Platforms


It's been barely a month since word came out about a new effort to foster open standards for cloud management systems, and the past few weeks have shown why such a move might be in the best interests of both users and vendors.


The Distributed Management Task Force is most concerned about incompatibility between internal and external cloud-management stacks, an issue the group says could hamper cloud utility if conflicts arise when homegrown applications seek support or data from those on public services like EC2 and S3. For users, that could force them to lock into their service provider's management platform even if it doesn't provide the most robust platform for their internal use, while vendors, particularly smaller ones, could find themselves locked out of markets unless they get support from the public services.


The need for cross-compatibility among management platforms is being made clear by the growing number of systems hitting the channel. With cloud computing poised to become the hottest IT commodity once the recession lifts, the maneuvering among vendors to shore up market positions is gathering steam.

Just in the past week, we've seen one acquisition and several new product and service launches all aimed at establishing a beachhead in cloud management.


Computer Sciences Corp., for one, just launched its Cloud Orchestration services portfolio that focuses on functions such as services integration, service-level management, as well as remote monitoring, reporting and auditing, across public, private and what's known as hybrid clouds -- those that stretch across both infrastructures. The platform will work in conjunction with CSC's Trusted Cloud security and reliability service, but as a proprietary system there's no guarantee that it will function with other management systems it may encounter.


Other systems are springing up focusing directly on cloud application delivery. Startup Asankya is turning to parallel networking algorithms to boost delivery speeds to the point where we could start to see real-time collaboration and interactivity through Web-based applications. The company claims a 40-fold improvement in bi-directional IP performance and IPsec and SSL encryption acceleration across both TCP and UDP applications. Those kinds of gains could come to naught if the rest of the cloud universe is using serial networking.


Integration between cloud management and legacy data center management platforms is also a concern. That looks to be the main driver behind CA's recent acquisition of Cassatt, which has long-used a cloud-like architecture in its data center automation and management systems, enabling enterprises to oversee IT resources more as a utility governed by policies rather than a set of discrete services portioned out ad-hoc. While it will be interesting to see how CA integrates Cassatt technology into its evolving cloud portfolio, it, too, could suffer from compatibility issues with other management systems in the cloud.


The call for open systems across all manner of computer technology has been around from the earliest days of networked computing. The fact that most systems today are proprietary speaks a lot about the need to maintain some semblance of order in largely closed IT environments.


But the cloud is a much different environment. By extending application development and dissemination onto the Web, the need for a consistent management environment becomes critical, unless you're willing to live with applications and data on your network that may not conform to the policies and conditions you've established.


The alternative is to simply block anything that violates policy, but that would severely limit the benefits and utility of cloud computing itself.

It's much better, and probably cheaper, to insist on compatibility among platforms.