Cloud management platforms: What to consider when purchasing

 In Cloud, Hybrid

One of the most frequent requests I hear from customers is for cloud management platforms (CMPs).

It’s no wonder. More than 80 percent of enterprise businesses and 64 percent of SMBs are engaged in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies, and the IT professionals responsible for managing these increasingly complex environments are looking for tools to assist them.

Enterprises that have multi-cloud or hybrid cloud

Cloud management platforms can help IT teams address challenges such as provisioning of cloud resources, management of their cloud estate, and reporting the costs of consumption. Without a capable CMP, users often bypass traditional IT/legacy processes, resulting in rogue IT and uncontrolled assets and costs.

But what should you consider when choosing a CMP? It starts with understanding the current CMP landscape right now. With that context in mind, we’ll cover the questions you need to ask to narrow down your options.

What is a cloud management platform?

CMPs provide management capabilities for private, public, and hybrid clouds. Minimally, CMPs should provide a user self-service interface, a chargeback or show-back mechanism to report usage, resource management capabilities, and governance capabilities.

More advanced solutions offer integration with tools or the direct ability to provision resources, integration with a service catalog, workflow/approval processes, policy or rules-based control of resource placement, as well as integration with existing identity and access management (IAM) and security systems.

What does the cloud management platform space look like?

The Gartner hype cycle is a good place to start when assessing the state of CMPs. Below is an example of a Gartner Hype cycle for security, which includes CMP.

Gartner Hype Cycle for security

Right now, CMPs are in the trough of disillusionment, which means the reality of functionality hasn’t lived up to the expectations. However, as something progresses along the hype cycle, functionality increases while expectations are refined and eventually the two converge. Even though CMPs are currently in the trough, you can still find one that meets all of your needs. The key, like with any other product or system, is to define those needs, identify potential solutions, uncover any gaps associated with those solutions, and figure out how or if to remediate them.

How to choose the CMP that’s right for you

The CMP space is crowded with a number of companies offering a range of features. Some of the more popular vendors and products include (in no particular order):

When choosing a product, consider rankings, but only as a minor factor. Just because a lot of people/companies are using a product, doesn’t mean it’s the right product for your business.

The key, as mentioned before, is to define your requirements before evaluating products.

  • What cloud(s) do you plan to manage with the platform?
  • Are you managing an on-prem cloud?
  • One or more public clouds?
  • Can it handle true hybrid deployments?
  • What capabilities are important to you?
  • Are you leveraging only IaaS?
  • Do you need to consider container capabilities for your CMP?
  • What are your security requirements?
  • Do you have an existing configuration management database (CMDB) you need to integrate?

Don’t forget to go beyond functionality in your considerations.

  • Do you require an on-premises deployment for your CMP, or is your organization OK with a SaaS implementation?
  • Is agentless deployment a priority?
  • What is the payment model for the CMP (license or subscription)?
  • What is the metric for the payment?
  • What is the maturity of the product and the vendor?
  • Do you require additional customization or professional services to make the CMP meet your organization’s requirements?
  • What support do you need from your CMP provider?

Perhaps one of the more important questions you can ask is, does your CMP have a roadmap that aligns with your business and technical objectives? As I mentioned earlier, there’s a good possibility that whatever CMP you choose will have some gaps that need to be plugged or worked around. Understanding the roadmap for your chosen CMP ensures you won’t enter a continuous cycle of augmenting the product you’ve implemented. Perhaps of equal importance is your impression of the CMP provider’s ability to deliver on that roadmap.

Choosing a cloud management platform

The CMP world isn’t perfect. But you can still achieve your objectives for cloud management in this imperfect and constantly evolving world.

You may need to apply additional effort, from adding missing functionality or stitching some components together, but it’s not reinventing the wheel, or in this case, the platform. Today, most tools, which include but aren’t limited to cloud provider platforms and service catalogs, expose their services via API, so further customization can be as simple as calling these APIs to fill in what’s missing.

Have further questions about choosing the right CMP, or want to talk through your organization’s particular needs? Contact your SHI account executive today.

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