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Top enterprise hybrid cloud management tools to review

Here's an overview of the types of hybrid cloud management tools available, along with tips on what to look for in each tool category.

Modern hybrid cloud frameworks extend public cloud services into private infrastructure. While these capabilities make it easier to build a hybrid cloud, the bigger challenge is to assemble a tool set that enables you to manage a hybrid cloud effectively over the long term.

Regardless of how you design your hybrid cloud environment, you'll likely need a variety of tools to handle administration, performance optimization, cost management and security.

Why hybrid cloud management matters

In recent years, public cloud vendors have rolled out, or are in the process of rolling out, a new generation of frameworks for the creation of hybrid clouds -- most notably, Azure Stack, Azure Arc, AWS Outposts and Google Anthos. At the same time, more conventional software platforms for hybrid cloud, such as VMware Cloud Foundation, continue to thrive. Also, Kubernetes can be useful as an element of hybrid cloud management.

These platforms provide a centralized way to deploy and administer workloads across a cloud environment that mixes private infrastructure with public cloud resources. The integration between the two is a significant improvement over earlier hybrid cloud architectures, which looked more like a private cloud and a public cloud running side by side.

Since the creation of a hybrid environment has become easier, it might be tempting to think that management of hybrid clouds, too, is no longer a major challenge. Modern hybrid cloud platforms simplify and centralize the deployment of public cloud services on private infrastructure, but they don't address all aspects of hybrid cloud management. Their native management tooling has limited scope, and even the needs they address, such as log management, may require additional functionality beyond what is available from the built-in tools.

The evolution of hybrid cloud management tools

Several years ago, hybrid management was about established infrastructure providers, such as Cisco and Dell, and startups, seeking to provide limited capabilities with a single cloud provider and on-premises resources. This field of vision has greatly expanded as more enterprises embrace cloud platforms and services and the vast types of workloads that cloud has created.

This scope essentially has created different tiers of hybrid cloud management. Some cover individual areas, such as monitoring, costs and security. At the highest level, cloud providers manage everything for customers. The bottom tier contains the unified environments based on Kubernetes, VMware Cloud Foundation or productized technology stacks from the cloud providers themselves, such as AWS Outposts, Azure Arc, Azure Stack and Google Anthos.

The expansion into tiers of cloud management capabilities also has encouraged market consolidation: VMware/CloudHealth, Flexera/RightScale, Apptio/Cloudability and Snow Software/Embotics.

Hybrid cloud platform comparison: AWS Outposts, Azure Stack and Google Anthos.
Here's how the major cloud providers' hybrid cloud platforms size up, from unified management to edge storage to serverless options.

Types of hybrid cloud management tools

The hybrid cloud management landscape is complex. Tools have overlapping functionality. And, because hybrid cloud architectures come in many forms, not all tools apply to all hybrid cloud configurations.

That said, hybrid cloud management tools generally fall into one of two categories:

  1. native tools that come with hybrid cloud frameworks; and
  2. third-party tools that can integrate with hybrid environments but are not built into them.

Native hybrid cloud management tools. The first category of management tools often consists of public cloud management tools that can extend into hybrid cloud environments. For example, if you use AWS Outposts to build your hybrid cloud architecture, you can use the AWS public cloud's standard management tools, including CloudWatch and CloudTrail, to help monitor your hybrid environment and manage logs. Azure Stack provides a similar experience by integrating with the Azure public cloud's standard monitoring tools. So does Anthos, using Google Cloud Console.

Platforms such as VMware Cloud Foundation and Kubernetes can be tied into some public cloud vendors' services, but they don't extend public cloud management tooling into hybrid environments. Instead, these platforms incorporate basic built-in monitoring and management functionality. The platforms' native management tools typically lack certain types of cost optimization and security monitoring important functionality.

Third-party hybrid cloud monitoring and management tools. Because of these limitations in native hybrid cloud management tools, it's necessary in many situations to add management tools from third-party vendors. These tools provide broader and richer functionality.

However, some third-party management products work only with certain types of hybrid cloud configurations. For example, Open Raven, a data privacy management tool, is currently limited to AWS-based environments.

Physical infrastructure integration and management. Hybrid cloud management isn't just about digital assets; it also extends to the physical hardware that hosts your hybrid cloud. You'll have to keep track of which servers you own, which hardware resources they provide and whether they are adequate to meet your hybrid cloud needs.

Cloud providers have extended their reach down to on premises by bundling hardware with services and links back up to their clouds. These products eliminate the need for an organization to manage the physical infrastructure. Sometimes, there are tradeoffs: With AWS Outposts, you can't use servers you already own; you must acquire them directly from AWS. On other hybrid cloud platforms, however, an organization typically purchases and manages its own hardware.

Evaluation criteria for hybrid cloud management tools

The way an organization builds its hybrid cloud plays a key role in determining which management tools will be effective.

Native cloud monitoring and cloud management tools have a key limitation: Whether you use them in a public cloud or a hybrid environment, they are typically inadequate on their own to fulfill all management needs. For example, Kubernetes' native logging and monitoring features are useful to take a quick peek at recent log data, but they lack the automation features necessary to work well at scale, which must come from additional external tools. Likewise, CloudWatch and CloudTrail help with basic monitoring needs, but they don't provide the sophisticated visualization or customization features required for complex management needs.

For third-party hybrid cloud management tools, your first consideration should be whether it fully supports your hybrid environment. Some logging and monitoring tools may work with the public cloud platform on which your hybrid cloud is partly based, but they may not work well or at all with the abstraction layer, such as Kubernetes or Cloud Foundation, that you run on top of it.

Another important consideration is to choose management tools that work with other parts of your IT infrastructure, not just your hybrid cloud. For instance, log aggregation and analytics tools that work with any type of on-premises environment or public, private or hybrid cloud will aid an organization's efforts to centralize and simplify log management. The same is true of security monitoring and incident management tools that you choose to use with your hybrid cloud environment, as well as cost optimization products.

You can simplify hybrid cloud hardware management to a certain degree by using monitoring products. Nagios, Zabbix and similar tools work with physical hardware, as well as virtual environments, enabling a team to monitor both the physical and virtual layers of your cloud in one product. You'll still need to keep track of physical asset ownership and lifecycles as part of an IT asset management process, which is distinct from the tools you'd use to monitor and manage VMs and other hybrid cloud resources.

Top hybrid cloud management tools

Hybrid cloud management tools represent a complex ecosystem. These products are likely to continue to evolve, as will hybrid cloud platforms themselves.

Besides the hybrid cloud platforms listed above, there are tools to specifically manage workloads in a hybrid cloud setup. Major cloud providers offer their own native tools, such as the following:

  • AWS CloudFormation, Amazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudTrail
  • Azure Automation, Azure Monitor
  • Google Cloud Console

There is also a variety of third-party vendors that offer tools for this purpose, such as the following:

  • Apptio (Cloudability)
  • CloudBolt
  • CloudCheckr
  • CloudSphere (HyperGrid)
  • Flexera (RightScale Cloud Management Platform)
  • IBM (Cloud Pak for Multicloud Management)
  • Micro Focus (Hybrid Cloud Management X)
  • Morpheus Data
  • Scalr
  • Snow Software (Embotics)
  • VMware (CloudHealth)

The most important considerations to bear in mind when choosing management tools for hybrid cloud are to make sure the tools work with all parts of your IT infrastructure and that they cover all aspects of your management needs -- something that the native management tools built into hybrid cloud frameworks usually cannot do.

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