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Cloud tools abound. Is enterprise IT ready?

Christine Burns | April 9, 2013
Service providers, start-ups, integrators and established vendors offer broad range of management tools. But enterprises might not be ready to implement complex orchestration and automation systems.

"But third-party tools add a layer of complexity that we're not interested in dealing with at this point," Miller says. He also pointed to the fact that tools that tap into VM cycles to operate can significantly increase the cost of running in the cloud. "When you keep your resource usage tight, you pay less, which is one of the major benefits of being in the cloud."

All of the major cloud platform providers have built or bought layered sets of cloud administration tools that are available to customers who want to take advantage of them. For example, Rackspace offers up its Cloud Control Panel, a GUI-based tool currently being revamped to include features that let users add customized labels to any of their cloud assets, set filters to help find assets that share common properties and more easily perform multiple administrative tasks from the same screen.

AWS Management Console (AWS Console) is a point and click admin interface offered to customers to manage and monitor instances running across its suite of cloud offerings. Amazon also makes available a mobile application for Android, which has support for some of the management features from the console.

"Enterprise IT wants the same types of cloud management tools that they are used to having for managing servers in their data center," says Doug Jarvis, product marketing manager for SuSE Cloud, a private cloud offering based on the open source OpenStack IaaS platform.

The linchpin of SuSE's cloud management toolset is the SUSE Cloud administration server which helps customers navigate the more than 700 configuration and provisioning options for the SUSE Cloud control, compute and storage nodes. Jarvis likens the features of this toolset to that of the company's YaST (yet another setup tool), its trusted program for deploying and managing its Linux-based server software. "Configuration is the critical piece of making a cloud deployment possible," Jarvis says.

Rackspace CTO John Engates - while careful to say his company would continue to evolve its admin tools that give cloud users hands-on control over their cloud assets and will encourage partners in the OpenStack project to do the same - argues that corporate IT should also be looking at tools that automate provisioning and administration tasks.

Last month, Rackspace included OpenCenter - a cloud automation tool - as a feature in its private cloud offering.

According to John Treadway, senior vice president with consultancy Cloud Technology Partners, there is some confusion in the marketplace between cloud automation tools and cloud orchestration ones because the two are often incorrectly interchanged.

Automation is when processes are programmed for repeatable tasks, while orchestration joins dissimilar automated processes together using workflows and provides some integrity for data flowing across those processes. Automation is generally the bailiwick of the cloud providers, as it is increasingly being built into most IaaS stacks, Treadway says.


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