A cloud management platform is a suite of software tools businesses can use to obtain total visibility over their cloud accounts. With total visibility, businesses can better monitor and analyze resource utilization to better control their cloud environments, optimize costs and performance, and enhance security.
Cloud management platforms come in many shapes and sizes. Whereas some can be on-premises applications, others are delivered as Software-as-a-Service products. Those offered by cloud service providers (CSPs—Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc.) are typically only suitable for their services—or a combination of their services and an on-premises IT infrastructure—while “third-party” platforms offer a broad set of cloud management tools compatible with the service of multiple CSPs.
Within each type of cloud management platform, it is likely you will find many different feature sets. Some suites of tools are packed with every capability imaginable; whereas others support cloud management in niche industries where such a broad range of tools is unnecessary. The reason for this is that platform vendors often start with their own design philosophy, and this philosophy evolves over time as the market changes and as their customers request specific capabilities.
The 6 Key Capabilities of a Cloud Management Platform
Your choice of cloud management platform will be ultimately be influenced by your technical requirements and operational objectives. However, whichever cloud management platform you choose to manage your cloud accounts, it should have the following 5 key capabilities:
- The platform should provide single-pane visibility over all your cloud accounts, and have reporting and analytics capabilities to support insights into cloud service usage patterns.
- It should enable administrators to monitor cloud-based services in order to assist with capacity planning, forecasting, and budgeting, workload deployments, performance and security.
- It should provide suitable tools for asset discovery, rightsizing, orchestration, and automation, and preferably support the migration of assets between public and private environments.
- Your chosen cloud management platform should offer the capability of automatically tracking cloud spend to specific users in order to generate chargeback and cost allocation reports.
- Administrators should be able to enforce policy-based controls on asset cost, asset performance, identity management, and other areas of operational governance.
- Your platform should utilize proactive policies to continuously monitor your cloud environment for vulnerabilities, as well as identify and alert you on technical, operational, and financial risks.
According to Gartner, more advanced cloud management platforms should be capable of integrating with external management systems, supporting the configuration of storage and network resources, allowing for enhanced resource management via service governors, and providing advanced monitoring for improved “guest” performance and availability. Ultimately, whether or not you need this level of capability will depend on your operational objectives and the existing tools you have to achieve them.
Evaluating a Cloud Management Platform
The evaluation of a cloud management platform should be conducted within the context of your current and target operating environments, and with a clear view of your technical requirements and operational objectives. Ideally you should be able to take advantage of a free trial of the platform in order to evaluate it in your own environment and have the opportunity to request specific capabilities if needed (most vendors will accommodate these requests when it is possible to do so).
It is also important to note that, in the same way as the cloud continues to evolve, cloud management platforms are also evolving. Consequently, it is recommended you evaluate products from vendors pursuing stronger, forward-looking strategies, who also have the market presence to deliver on their strategies. This will be of benefit to you in years to come when technologies we may not have yet considered are driving the growth of the cloud, and increasing the complexity of cloud management.