What is a cloud management platform?
A cloud management platform is a suite of integrated software tools that an enterprise can use to monitor and control cloud environments. While an organization can use a cloud management platform exclusively for a private cloud or public cloud deployment, these tool sets commonly target hybrid and multi-cloud models to help centralize control of various cloud-based infrastructures.
The exact feature set of a cloud management platform (CMP) varies by vendor. Some offer a broad set of tools, while others target more niche industries or vertical markets. In addition, some vendors deliver cloud management platforms as on-premises applications, while others deliver them as software as a service (SaaS). In general, cloud management refers to administrating control over public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud deployments.
Capabilities of a cloud management platform
According to the Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSCC) -- a cloud end-user advocacy group that's maintained by the Object Management Group Cloud Working Group -- a cloud management platform, in general, includes the following main capabilities supported with a high degree of automation:
- General services provide user service catalogs with self-service capabilities, as well as reporting and analytics features to gain insight into cloud service consumption patterns in the enterprise.
- Service management enables an IT team to monitor cloud-based services to help with capacity planning, workload deployment, lifecycle management and ensuring all availability and performance requirements are met.
- Resource management provides tools to manage cloud computing resources, such as virtual machines (VMs), storage and networks. These tools offer capabilities such as resource discovery, tagging, provisioning, automation and orchestration. In addition, the cloud management platform might include capabilities to migrate resources between environments, such as private and public clouds.
- Financial management offers capabilities to automatically track and allocate cloud computing spending to specific users or business departments. In general, these financial management features also enable an administrator to generate chargeback reports and forecast future cloud costs.
- Governance and security enable an administrator to enforce policy-based control of cloud resources and offer security features, such as encryption and identity and access management.
Integration is another critical feature to look for in cloud management platforms. The platform, for example, needs to support access to IT systems that are both internal and external to the enterprise, including Windows servers, hypervisor-based VMs and multiple public clouds such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. This feature enables a cloud management platform to centralize the control of multiple and disparate cloud infrastructure types.
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Benefits of a cloud management platform
The varied capabilities of a cloud management platform can bring numerous benefits to the organization, including the following:
- Reduces infrastructure complexity. Blending traditional IT and cloud services can create a complex infrastructure that's difficult to see and control. A good CMP can discover and integrate the varied elements of cloud and local infrastructure, and then use service catalogs and templates to automatically create well-defined operating environments for demanding enterprise applications, including databases and middleware.
- Improves service quality. Complex IT environments require comprehensive monitoring to ensure service and workload health. A good CMP can support varied instrumentation to collect metrics, perform analytics and generate alerts and reports that can streamline infrastructure performance, handle automatic scaling and even prevent service disruptions and aid in troubleshooting. All of this service intelligence can enhance the quality of service for cloud and mixed infrastructures.
- Accelerate cloud migration. Business and technology leaders choose to adopt cloud platforms for some workloads and tasks, but the path to cloud migration can be confusing. A good CMP can help to automatically discover, assess, plan, deploy and monitor cloud migration initiatives -- such as moving a workload from a data center to a cloud. This can also alleviate the need for cloud specialists, allowing less technical staff to plan and execute cloud migrations for the business.
- Easy to use. Although cloud management software can be complex, a good CMP abstracts this complexity from users and enables sophisticated tasks to be completed through comparatively simple and straightforward decisions. For example, a CMP will often provide a service- or menu-driven catalog where a user might select desired actions or outcomes -- a service delivery catalog. Simplifying the CMP speeds up adoption, increases productivity, reduces mistakes and helps to ensure consistent cloud outcomes.
- Supports the business. Businesses are obligated to meet governance and regulatory requirements imposed by legislation, as well as relevant industry practices. As a consequence, CMPs must integrate into business workflows such as change management and other infrastructure control such as security. Similarly, a CMP must provide accurate and timely reporting to help the business meet budgets and maintain cloud environments while minimizing cost overruns and resource sprawl.
Examples of cloud management platforms
A cloud management platform can be native or specific to a certain cloud provider or platform, or available from a third-party vendor. In general, a management platform that supports multi-cloud deployments will be from a third party.
Popular tools include the following:
- Abiquo is a cloud management platform that enables organizations to use existing virtualization technologies and public cloud to deliver cloud computing with improved agility, simplicity, elasticity, efficiency and self-service provisioning.
- Apptio Cloudability is a cloud cost management and optimization tool that enables IT, finance and business teams to manage their costs and communicate the business value of the cloud.
- BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management is a complete platform for establishing a cloud environment, including a service catalog to define service offerings, a self-service console for procuring resources and cloud management capabilities.
- Cisco CloudCenter is a platform that enables businesses to easily and efficiently model, deploy and manage one to many applications, users and clouds.
- CloudBolt helps IT unify orchestration and automate provisioning of its hybrid cloud resources.
- CloudCheckr offers a single pane of glass view to help modern enterprises manage and optimize their public cloud.
- CloudKeeper is an end-to-end finance and DevOps (FinOps) product that offers savings, services and support in a single pane of glass.
- Commander by Snow Software -- formerly Embotics -- combines IT asset management and cloud management on one platform to enable a single administrator to manage complex hybrid IT environments.
- CoreStack is a cloud governance tool designed to help enterprises to rapidly achieve continuous and autonomous cloud governance at scale.
- Dell Apex Console is a self-service IT management tool that admins can use to configure, deploy and monitor services across on-premises, colocation and hybrid cloud environments.
- Densify is an enterprise-class resource management, optimization and control tool for cloud, container and VMware infrastructure.
- Flexera -- formerly RightScale -- is a CMP with capabilities for discovery, provisioning, orchestration and automation across public and private clouds, as well as virtual and bare-metal servers.
- Flexera One is a SaaS-based IT management tool designed for organizations with highly complex hybrid environments from on premises to cloud.
- Fujitsu ServerView Resource Orchestrator is a private cloud framework designed to provide customers with their own infrastructure-as-a-service capability.
- HPE OneSphere is a SaaS-based hybrid cloud management platform that helps build clouds, deploys apps and gains insights for the business.
- IBM Cloud Orchestrator is an automated tool for integrating the cloud with customer data center policies, processes and infrastructures across various IT domains.
- IBM Turbonomic is used to assure application performance while eliminating inefficiencies by dynamically resourcing applications across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
- Kion is an all-in-one cloud enablement software for AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.
- Lumen Cloud Application Manager is a cloud platform that orchestrates and automates the delivery of infrastructure, applications and services across physical servers, AWS, Google Cloud, Lumen Cloud, Lumen Private Cloud on VMware Cloud Foundation, Microsoft Azure and AWS Cloud instances and other public cloud services.
- Mist by Juniper Networks is an enterprise support platform with proactive notifications, automated workflows, AI-driven insight and streamlined help desk processes.
- Morpheus is a self-service engine designed to provide enterprise agility, control and efficiency to manage on-premises private clouds, centralize public cloud access, and handle change with cost analytics, governance policy and automation.
- nOps is a fully automated FinOps platform for cloud waste reduction, container cluster optimization, continuous resource management and orchestration to reduce cost for on-demand resources.
- Rapid7 InsightCloudSec -- formerly DivvyCloud -- is management software that offers continuous security and compliance for Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba and Kubernetes.
- Scalr supports self-service to handle multiple platforms while managing sprawl, maintaining security, meeting standards and controlling costs.
- Serverless360 is an advanced cloud management platform for Microsoft Azure that's designed to improve operational efficiency with enterprise-grade offerings.
- ServiceNow Cloud Management is a service management approach to enable businesses to deliver enterprise‑class services faster while managing costs, complexity and risks.
- Spot Cloud Analyzer by NetApp actively optimizes AWS, Azure and Google Cloud deployments with service-level agreement-backed availability, fully automated infrastructure management and measurable cost reduction.
- VMware CloudHealth -- aka VMware Aria -- provides insights that help businesses optimize costs, improve governance and strengthen cloud security posture.
- VMware vRealize Suite includes vRealize Operations, which integrates with vRealize Log Insight and vRealize Business for Cloud for planning, managing and scaling software-defined data center and multi-cloud environments. The tools offer unified monitoring, automated performance management, cloud planning and capacity optimization.
- Zesty is cloud management technology that autoscales cloud resources to fit real-time application needs.
Cloud management and strategy
Cloud management platforms can't solve cloud management challenges alone. Tools must complement and support a strong and comprehensive cloud management strategy that combines technologies, human skills, processes and workflows, and business disciplines to meet business needs. FinOps is an evolving business discipline designed to help businesses maintain cost and resource control over public cloud usage, which ideally complements cloud management strategy considerations.
When considering a CMP, business leaders should evaluate the tools against a broader management strategy that does the following:
- enables seamless control across local and cloud environments;
- supports agile management for solid cost control, timely insights and fast response to changing business conditions;
- offers security and compliance enforcement through automated policies; and
- looks for proactive opportunities to improve performance and fix problems before they affect the business.
Learn how public, private and hybrid clouds differ and which workloads are most appropriate for each of these three cloud services.