Multiple, Multipath, Multifactor, or how about Multi-Cloud?

About this time last year, I published a report on cloud service management (Enabling IT’s Transformation to Cloud Service Provider) where I outlined the software components needed to become a cloud service provider on-premises. Primary capabilities include orchestration and automation but also things like CMDB, federation, and chargeback. Like everything in this industry, there has been a lot of change in the past year, which I will cover in detail in the update to the CSM report later this quarter. In the meantime, I thought it would be useful to write about some of the trends I’m seeing in this space:

· Hybrid Isn’t Even Table Stakes – Last year I thought it was goodness when I saw a CSM company building functionality that supported an IT department being able to manage on-premises ‘private cloud’ and off-premises ‘public cloud.’ Over the past year that has evolved to requiring the ability to manage multiple cloud types in on- and off-premises. For example, a company may have an MS Azure cloud as well as a VMware cloud on-premises and public cloud off-premises with a VMware cloud and AWS resources on Amazon’s cloud. This means that the CSM software has to be able to manage all of these resources and be able to provide a unified dashboard, rationalize pricing methods, and potentially a way to move workloads seamlessly between clouds.

· Resource Wizardry – Last year, most companies presented fixed virtual machines sizes (cores, memory), IOP capability, and multi-tenant resources. This year there are CSM products on various clouds that can auto-adjust the memory, core, or IOPs (adaptive) needed based on demands and thresholds. Another change is the choice between single tenant, multi-tenant, and bare metal all using the same dashboard for management. This gives the customer management simplicity while providing a great way to maximize efficiency and workload placement based on SLA or trust.

· Analytics – Buzzword of 2013 but also some really serious investments started popping up in 2013 and I can’t see that trend lessening in 2014. CSM companies have two ways to approach this - build/buy or partner. Some CSM companies have taken the build/buy track and are offering some strong analytics capabilities including predictive analytics. Operational analytics provide customers with the ability to troubleshoot problems (performance, capacity), adjust workload allocation based on usage, as well as provide predictive guidance before a problem or a bottleneck is going to occur.

· Fidelity and Federation – Lots of stuff has to work in the middle between the resource layers. Yes, much of this is also REST API–land (callable) but it also means there has to be a lot of functionality added or improved on which allows things like active directory (AD) structures on-premises to be able to be connected to an off-premises AD that may or may not be multi-tenant. Multi-tenancy adds one dimension of complexity for the provider and the tenants. That aside, there is also the need to provide a coalesced role-based access control experience that is fine grained and resilient across hybrid resource locations.

The following graphic gives some perspective on how this may all look with any one of the ‘Cloud Operating Systems’ (Azure, vCloud, CloudPlatform, or OpenStack) sitting on top as the multi-cloud manager or perhaps new entries from any of the other 30 or so companies vying for the space and with it the control.

Companies in this space include IBM’s SoftLayer IMS, or CSC’s ServiceMesh, or Dell’s Multi-Cloud Manager Enstratius, CenturyLink’s Tier 3, ServiceNow, or newer entrants like Flexiant, OnApp, and Ostrato. Some of these solutions are bound to specific cloud data centers while others are available for CSPs and enterprises to implement on their own. Over the next few months I’ll be talking about what makes these companies' offerings different and how a customer should go about choosing the solution that makes sense for their clouds.

Topics: Cloud Services & Orchestration