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Why Use Cloud Management?: The Business Case

RightScale Product Marketing Manager Nick Kephart defines cloud management as "a framework of tools to solve cloud challenges and increase your ability to enjoy cloud benefits." During a talk at RightScale Compute, he noted that along with the benefits of cloud come challenges from changing organizational processes. Cloud management can help meet those challenges, and setting up a measurement framework for determining its benefits can help you make a business case for cloud management - and once you've proven that, you can sign up to try RightScale for free.

One characteristic of cloud, Kephart said, is that it uses a pooled resource production model (vs. purpose-built single tenant) with a network- and API-accessible delivery model, making it programmatically extensible. It also offers on-demand self-service with elastic resources and metered pay-per-use billing, which is very different from traditional capital expenditure budgeting, with allocation based on forecasting rather than usage. The case for cloud focuses on enabling user self-service, reducing wait times, and increasing throughput.

Unlike traditional in-house data centers, which are capacity-bound and sized to peak loads, the cloud is elastic. Kephart cited a RightScale customer that processes gift cards. Eighty percent of its business, he said, comes in November and December. A traditional data center would make no sense for such a business. Many other businesses have loads that are variable on not just an annual but perhaps a weekly or daily basis, and they can benefit from the cloud's ability to meet elastic loads.

Each of the advantages of cloud comes with corresponding challenges. With pooled multi-tenant resources, one challenge is consistency and reliability, given that other organizations may be sharing the hardware on which your public clouds run. Because public clouds are network-accessible, which generally means traffic traverses the public Internet, organizations need to be concerned about security. Waste and inefficiency may creep in with self-service - if users forget to turn off servers, delete snapshots, or remove IP addresses, the business still gets charged.

That's where cloud management software comes in. It can provide instantaneous elastic scalability driven by automation. It helps enterprises measure utilization, performance, and reliability, and lets them take action to rectify any problems that come up. And it enables organizations to treat security as rigorously as they would in their own data centers.

Software like RightScale provides a multi-cloud abstraction layer above various vendors' APIs that enables organizations to easily use different providers' clouds for the tasks for which each may be best suited. It helps an organization's users easily provision and deprovision servers, and monitor whether they're being used efficiently. And it helps administrators with budgeting and charging back cloud expenditures.

The cloud management toolset, Kephart said, includes several components:

  • Most obvious is a resource manager, and RightScale also offers a deployment manager that lets organizations group resources.
  • To meet governance requirements, businesses need policy management, identity and access management, and usage and cost management.
  • The configuration features should include a service catalog and license management.
  • And automation includes resource monitoring and alerting, as well as automated scaling and deployment optimization.

You can get pieces of this toolset from individual vendors, but then you're faced with the task of integrating them and managing the toolset, which are the types of tasks you're trying to move away from when you move to cloud. The strength of a platform like RightScale is the way it integrates all the tools in a common dashboard, and provides them as a hosted solution, giving organizations the benefit of improved quality of service, speedier innovation, and reduced cost. It enables businesses to focus on their core competencies.

Measuring Cloud Management Value

Kephart walked through the steps one Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company took to determine the business case for cloud management. The first step was to determine cloud success criteria. As quantitatively as possible, the company mapped out what mattered in terms of efficiency, speed, reliability, and other areas.

It also made a list of must-have criteria - in its case the company needed a unified administration console, data portability, and cloud images that were compatible with any cloud provider. And it set a target of 50 percent for reduced development and administration costs and cycle time to perform relevant tasks.

Once it had the goals, the company did some benchmarking. From the perspective of various business tasks - such as porting a Hadoop application from one cloud provider to another - it collected information about development time and other time factors, and calculated development, labor, and overhead costs. It then weighed the results of the sample cases against alternatives that included cloud management software (RightScale), a cloud provider's console, home-grown tools, and manual processes.

RightScale Compute presentation - The Business Case for Cloud Management

To wrap up his presentation, Kephart shared the company's results. You can watch the presentation for the exact numbers, but as you might expect, since we're highlighting this company, the results reflected a huge win for the RightScale Cloud Management approach. To see whether RightScale Cloud Management might be the best fit for your organization, sign up for a free trial.

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