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Editor's note: This multicloud review of vendor products is the concluding part of a two-part series examining multicloud environments. The first part discussed some of the challenges enterprises face when migrating their applications to multiple providers.
Thanks to the inherent benefits found in a multicloud architecture strategy, interest in multicloud management tools is at an all-time high. The current market includes dozens of open source and proprietary options, all vying to become the industry leader.
Some tool sets focus on only a portion of the overall multicloud management landscape -- or cater to only one cloud provider in a single public-cloud-to-private-cloud scenario. Others offer a full suite of tools that cover the entire management spectrum and a wide range of service providers. In this multicloud review, we're going to take a look at four products -- from Cisco, RightScale Inc., Scalr and VMware -- often considered to be trailblazers in the multicloud management segment. We will discuss each product's overall approach to handling hybrid and multicloud environments and cite some of the differentiating factors among the four.
VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture
VMware is the newest major player in the multicloud management market; it also has the most to gain or lose. The organization is struggling to find its way in a quickly commodifying virtualization market. To that end, VMware is looking to piggyback its NSX technology by expanding its capabilities to function as a single unit across private and public clouds. Its recently announced partnership with Amazon Web Services, in fact, gives the company a great platform for selling public cloud services to enterprise customers. In a nutshell, NSX gives network administrators the ability to create a virtualized network overlay that runs on top of the underlying network. And because this abstract layer is simply software, it can be configured as the network administrator sees fit.
Historically, NSX was used only within private data centers and enterprise organizations. But in late August, VMware announced its Cross-Cloud Architecture, which will bring these network overlay capabilities into several popular public clouds for those that wish to use it.
Cloud administrators will have the ability to set up NSX within public clouds to extend their virtual network into these areas. This tactic is great, because it creates a virtual mesh of public and private clouds under a single virtual network that is configured and managed the same, no matter where the resources are. And if you are already familiar with how NSX is configured and managed, moving to a multicloud architecture will be a breeze.
On the other hand, many criticize the fact that network abstraction adds yet another layer of complexity in terms of troubleshooting underlying infrastructure problems. And there is no certainty Cross-Cloud will work as advertised; since it's not widely available yet, it's far from proven technology. But considering so many public and private clouds are operating vSphere environments, VMware is likely to do well in this segment.
RightScale Universal Cloud Management Platform
Easily the most robust multicloud management software on our list today is RightScale. The RightScale multicloud platform works in over a half dozen of the biggest public infrastructure-as-a-service providers around today, and it supports a huge portfolio of hypervisors.
RightScale uses a software-as-a-service-based architecture model that manages public and private clouds from within its own cloud. Because of this, you manage your hybrid and multicloud environment from its single cloud portal. This is where administrators can broker and provision all cloud services, as well as push configuration and policies out to their multicloud environment. The software itself uses a combination of cloud-based APIs and network abstraction to create a single, unified network from multiple public and private clouds.
If you're looking for an open source multicloud management platform with an active community, Scalr is a great choice. While the code can be freely available to set up on your own, many enterprises seeking to deploy Scalr will pay for the hosted or enterprise version to gain added features and support. Like the others, Scalr is a multicloud management product that can standardize cloud deployments within a variety of service provider networks. But where Scalr really shines is with its high modularity.
Administrators can pick and choose the open source integration, management and monitoring tools they need from a bustling open source ecosystem. As its name implies, Scalr works best in situations where an organization requires the need to rapidly scale cloud resources up or down at a moment's notice. Scalr offers highly detailed budgeting, application sprawl prevention and other tools to help determine the resources required at any given moment.
At Cisco Live 2014, Cisco announced Intercloud, the vendor's multicloud architecture. At the time, Intercloud was pitched as a way to build a mesh of service providers that all ran the Intercloud platform. This would allow customers to pick and choose the providers they wanted and to freely move from cloud to cloud in a proprietary multicloud ecosystem.
But building a large enough ecosystem proved to be more difficult than Cisco envisioned. Right around the time Chuck Robbins took over as CEO, Cisco began shifting its focus. Instead of creating a sanctioned cloud environment, Cisco began to lay a groundwork that included tools aimed at allowing cloud customers to better manage their hybrid environments.
True to Cisco's form, the company began buying up small, but innovative, cloud management companies to underpin its strategy. What we have today is Cisco CloudCenter. CloudCenter is largely the combination of capabilities Cisco acquired with its March 2016 purchase of CliQr Technologies Inc. -- as well as a few other smaller acquisitions -- along with Cisco's own in-house architectures. The combination of CliQr and Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure automation creates a compelling contender in the multicloud management segment. Organizations that already use Cisco's hardware and software in their private data centers will be immediately drawn to CloudCenter.
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