Aim for the Sky with Application and Cloud Management
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a steady shift of computing to the cloud. This year, there has been an unprecedented amount of growth in the cloud. As companies look to rein in costs, leverage emerging computing platforms, and adjust to new working arrangements, the cloud has offered the flexibility and scale to support this shift. However, getting there is only half the battle. How do you securely manage your data and applications once you have made the change? Before we dive into cloud management, let’s spend some time defining commonly utilized cloud services.
What is the Cloud?
The term cloud most often refers to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). At a very high level, these services build upon the preceding service with IaaS as the base, then layered by PaaS and SaaS at the top.
With IaaS, a cloud service provider typically owns and manages the infrastructure. This includes the servers, networking and storage. Your company is responsible for purchasing, installing, configuring and managing software owned such as operating systems, middleware and applications.
There are three main types of IaaS; public, private and hybrid.
1. Public Cloud
When most discuss the cloud, they are speaking of public clouds. Public cloud is the most prevalent type of cloud computing service available. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are the most popular public cloud service providers. These services are open to the public, and companies can purchase their storage and computing capacity on-demand.
2. Private Cloud
Private cloud infrastructure is operated solely for a single company. They usually connect within a private network and are accessed remotely using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a dedicated circuit or tunnel from corporate locations. These platforms offer wide flexibility in computing power and storage capacity. Organizations that have specialized computing needs or want to have total control of their data often leverage these services. As a result, these services are typically more expensive than their public counterparts. It should be noted that some companies choose to build and run their own private clouds.
3. Hybrid Cloud
Hybrid cloud environments are a combination of public and private cloud services. Companies may choose to use private cloud servers for privacy reasons while leveraging the lower costs of public cloud servers for less sensitive compute needs. When the environments are interconnected, this is a hybrid cloud environment.
This computing model was made for companies that want to focus on developing applications, for either internal or external consumption, without the challenges of managing the underlying infrastructure.
Like IaaS, PaaS includes infrastructure but adds middleware, development tools, business intelligence (BI) services, Database Management Systems (DBMS), and more. PaaS is designed to support the complete web-based application lifecycle: building, testing, deploying, managing, and updating.
PaaS allows you to avoid the expenses and complexities of buying and managing software licenses, the underlying application infrastructure and middleware, container orchestrators such as Kubernetes or Docker Swarm, or the development tools and other required resources. You manage the applications and services you develop, and the cloud service provider typically manages everything else.
Major PaaS providers include Microsoft Azure, AWS, GCP, IBM and Oracle.
SaaS allows users to connect to and use cloud-based applications over the internet. All of the underlying infrastructure, middleware, application software, and application data is located in the cloud service provider’s data center. The cloud service provider manages the hardware and software.
They are responsible for maintaining the availability and the security of the application and the data housed by the application. SaaS is typically favored by companies that need to quickly ramp up the productivity of an application such as email, calendar, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
Examples include Gmail, Salesforce, Microsoft 365, and many more.
Taming the Beast
The proliferation of cloud technologies in the business environment has changed how CIOs and IT managers must approach the management of IT costs, compliance, security, and asset management. According to an IBM survey , 85 percent of companies utilizing cloud services have multiple providers. Every provider has strengths and weaknesses, but this lack of standardization places most traditional IT organizations in unfamiliar territory.
What about the management of the platforms themselves?
Many companies turn to Managed Service Providers (MSP), who specialize in cloud management, or leverage Cloud Management Platform (CMP) tools.
There are a range of cloud management tools available. Cloud management tools can be used to perform various functions, including asset inventory management, self-healing and workflow automation, security and compliance activities, monitoring and metering, access control, provisioning and orchestration, cost optimization, and more.
Cloud management tools are purpose-built to extract massive volumes of data from your application stack using automatically generated computer logs. Log files contain information about every event that happens in your cloud environment, and analysis of those files can yield information about errors, security vulnerabilities and compliance.
Organizations without cloud management tools can spend hundreds of working hours each month collecting, normalizing, and analyzing data to understand cloud-based infrastructure and applications’ performance and compliance status. With a cloud management platform, your IT department can log aggregate and performance data from multiple cloud service providers into a single platform, monitor in real-time, and even generate customized reports.
All cloud platforms have their own flavor of security approaches and tools. This complexity creates challenges for IT departments as they strive to enforce a single set of policies across disparate clouds. It is important to select a cloud management tool that integrates seamlessly with security tools on all platforms in use. This will ensure policy enforcement and consistent security are applied as desired. Most cloud management tools have the ability to aggregate security events, much like a traditional Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), to identify threats across all clouds in use.
Effective cybersecurity should be a top consideration for businesses operating in multiple clouds. The increasing use of cloud services has caused a rise in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that can impact the performance of cloud-based applications. A multi-cloud approach can lessen this impact by providing a greater level of resiliency. If one cloud provider is hit with an attack, IT departments can instantly shift the workload to another cloud environment using a cloud management tool.
Understanding & Optimizing Cloud Costs
With all the cloud options available to companies and the ease of consumption, it is critically important to keep track of your spending. There is a dizzying array of performance levels, storage tiers and service levels available that affect costs. Most providers provide optimization tools or services that should be used alongside your cloud management tool to ensure you are using the appropriate technology mix. For example, if you have a database with low transaction volume, but you are paying for a much higher tier of service, cost optimization can catch this and assist with the decision to move to a more appropriate tier.
Companies should also have policies and procedures in place that cover the evaluation criterion for selecting cloud service providers. The type of services authorized and who is authorized to purchase them should be detailed as well. Annual reviews of pricing structures and spend between providers should also be performed.
As spending is evaluated, it may be discovered that the breakpoint has been reached on public cloud cost optimization. If this is the case, consider moving the application or service into a private cloud or SaaS environment.
With a cloud management tool in place, these decisions can be quickly determined and implemented without the large project expenditures seen with on-premises migrations.
Are you thinking about implementing a cloud management tool for your company? Often, companies turn to Managed Service Providers like Edge Networks who specialize in cloud management. Learn more about how Edge Networks can simplify your workflow by helping you migrate to the cloud, or contact us today to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation.