What Makes Good Cloud Management?

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Cloud providers now offer cloud hosting, cloud management, Software as a Service (SaaS) and a whole host of other services (including the weird new Cloud Brokering). Some in the cloud industry are concerned that the supply is overwhelming for consumers, who can’t see the wood for the trees. Of course, this kind of ultra-competitive environment forces companies to pursue unique new avenues to hold market traction. So what is it that the best cloud management companies are offering that others aren’t?

The principal dividing factor is adherence – or non-adherence – to established academic cloud theories. These run back to the inception of the internet in the mid-50s, and are still deeply relevant today. If you go to a cloud convention, you’ll likely hear speakers talk about the theories we’re about to discuss. That’s because the best cloud providers – established ones like IBM and Amazon – stick closely to the well-researched area.

There’s a principle in cloud computing known as The Principle of Illusion of Infinite Supply. The idea is that a user – any given user – should never run up against a lack of computational resources. Any delay in computation must be entirely client-focused, and even then optimized to the hilt.

The Illusion of Infinite Supply principle is coming under fire. As more and more clients use the same servers, it’s becoming ever more important to focus on the illusion than on the supply. That is, flexible virtualization is used to give the user the impression they’re accessing infinite computation, rather than trying to provide infinite computation as a matter of course. Careful optimization of computation, network and memory management systems – basically the core of cloud management – is required to make every penny of hardware work to the maximum it can, when it’s needed.

This is not unfounded speculation. Mary Johnston Turner, an analyst at IDC, published a survey of 250 companies using external cloud management. Among them, service-level performance guarantees were the second most important factor that determined if they were satisfied with their choice of cloud management provider. Maintaining the illusion of infinite supply carefully is one of the most important factors in the success or failure of any cloud provider.

Security is another primary focus for cloud management companies. Aside from compliance with industry standards, cloud management companies must ensure that the User Experience (UX) is fluid and unencumbered. Passwords are a given, but the server-side authorization needs to be snappy. Basically, any cloud management company not offering OAuth as a matter of course should be ditched.

Finally, there’s user support. The cheaper cloud management providers will provide extensive documentation of how to integrate your services with their cloud, but the support will likely stop there. Better – probably more pricey – providers will supply user forums, direct telephone numbers, and even online chat services to ensure you’re set up and happy. Do not neglect the importance of human communication simply because the cloud is so easy to automate.

There are great cloud management providers, and there are lackluster ones. The problem for consumers is that there are so many. Hopefully, this article will give you some inkling as to how to bet on the right horse. If you have any more advice for those seeking cloud providers, please drop a comment in the section below.