What Is CloudOps?
CloudOps (cloud operations) is the provisioning, management, optimization and securing of cloud-based applications and services so they meet the needs of the business most efficiently and effectively.
The functions of CloudOps overlap with areas such as ITSM (IT service management) and AIOps (the use of artificial intelligence in managing IT infrastructure). It differs from them in the cloud-specific skills it requires, and its focus is not on technical metrics but on the business benefits of cloud spending.
Unlike traditional data center support staff, CloudOps teams get direct pressure from the business if applications or services aren’t working right, says Roy Illsley, chief analyst, IT ecosystem and operations, at market researcher Omdia. For example, if response time drops from microseconds to milliseconds, “you’re losing 10% of your audience or you’re losing X millions of dollars,” he says. “In the CloudOps space, you’re the face of the business.”
How Does CloudOps Work?
CloudOps encompasses a wide range of functions—from identifying and inventorying cloud assets to application and service provisioning, cost tracking, automated remediation of performance and security issues, help choosing which cloud platforms are best for various applications and services, and migrating workloads to the cloud.
These functions are enabled by tools that provide a single or several capabilities as well as broad platforms claiming to enable comprehensive CloudOps. Many can be deployed in-house or provided as software as a service (SaaS) and provide varying levels of integration with existing system management solutions. In addition to third-party tools, major hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google offer their own cloud management tools.
What Are the Benefits of CloudOps?
If done well, CloudOps optimizes performance and capacity, manages resources regardless of the platform or location, ensures service-level agreements or high availability needs are met, enhances recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs), maintains compliance and configuration rules, automates service for easy self-service provisioning, ensures change management, provides chargeback so that the right users are charged for their cloud spend, and provides proper disaster recovery plan and mitigation, says Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tracy Woo.
When used to automate functions such as the release of code into production and the provisioning of test environments, CloudOps can ease the implementation of DevOps, which speeds the delivery of software to market by combining work formerly split between development and operations staffs.
The infrastructure inventory and tracking that some CloudOps tools provide can also aid in DevSecOps, which combines development, security and operations functions to automatically find and remediate misconfigured assets that can pose security risks.
What Are the Drawbacks of CloudOps?
Because CloudOps changes the work IT staffs do and how they do it, it can raise organizational and staffing challenges.
CloudOps teams need close relationships with, and understand the offerings of, various cloud providers in areas such as backup and recovery and how to mitigate problems with their service, as well as skills in newer technologies such as containers and Kubernetes, says Illsley. Acquiring such skills may require retraining, paying external providers for help or hiring additional staff, says Woo.
If businesses try to manage cost and security—typically two of the highest CloudOps priorities—manually with spreadsheets or with flawed processes, they can experience cost overruns and/or be exposed to security vulnerabilities, says Woo.
Both Woo and Illsley warn of the dangers of sidelining the support staff still dedicated to managing legacy, on-premises environments. “[I]f you’re not careful, you’ll have two teams working in the same department, with the CloudOps team getting all the plaudits and getting paid more” while the team managing older systems is seen as mere “plumbers” for the IT infrastructure, says Illsley. This can cause contention and the loss of experienced employees who are hard to replace.
CloudOps also changes the role of operations staff from being the provider of deployment environments to “a policeman” ensuring the cloud environments into which developers release their code are available, scalable, cost-effective and secure, says Illsley. Navigating this shift may require education, training and change management to prevent dissension, delays in code release, or cost and security risks.
Above are nine benefits and three drawbacks to employing CloudOps, according to Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tracy Woo.
CloudOps Strategy Tips
Here are nine benefits and three drawbacks to employing CloudOps, according to Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tracy Woo. When implementing CloudOps, Woo recommends:
- Creating processes for continuous learning and improvement, with fast feedback from the user experience to the CloudOps strategy.
- Breaking down functional siloes and treating platforms and services like products, focusing on their outcomes and user experiences with them.
- Continuously improving services for users with comprehensive and contextual measurements.
- Sharing best practices across agile teams and shared services.
- Including all stakeholders in the creation and implementation of the CloudOps strategy to ensure buy-in and that no business-critical processes are ignored.
- Putting an added focus on security through zero-trust strategy, end-to-end encryption and automated security monitoring.
When creating CloudOps teams in addition to legacy IT management teams, “be sure to explain the role of each team, how it will evolve and what the future is for its members,” says Illsley. Give members of the legacy team the option of being retrained in cloud technologies, he suggests, to avoid losing their skills and knowledge of the business and its regulatory, security and other needs.
Examples of CloudOps
VMware scored very high in a September 2020 Omdia report for its effectiveness in managing storage and network assets; cost and capacity management; and the optimization, governance and securing of public clouds. Its Tanzu solution for cloud-native environments ships with more than 220 out-of-the-box integrations with commonly used cloud-native technologies. Omdia also cited VMware’s automation capabilities.
Micro Focus is strongest because of its unified self-service catalog, provisioning of working environments, orchestration and governance capabilities, according to a November 2020 Forrester report. The report says customers praise Micro Focus for its discovery and aggregation methods, service orchestration, administrator and user dashboards, and template and workflow designers, as well as its customer support.
Omdia rates IBM high for monitoring, lifecycle management, automation, and backup and resiliency, as well as its ability to manage cloud-native environments such as the Kubernetes orchestration environment. It praised IBM’s comprehensive monitoring of metrics such as CPU, memory, storage, network and I/O as well as hypervisors, operating systems and the container orchestration layer.
Google’s cloud management tools are strongest in operational management and lifecycle management but less so in public cloud management, says Omdia. Google uses artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to provide natural language integration with ITSM platforms. Google’s DevOps capabilities make it easier to find and remediate deployment issues such as runtime dependencies earlier in the deployment process.
Oracle’s greatest strengths lie in lifecycle and automation, marketplace and applications, and security management. AI/ML automation is a “key strength,” says Omdia, including its use in “tuning databases to ensure optimum performance, patching and updating databases.” Omdia also cited Oracle’s security solutions tailored for areas such as database, configuration, and compliance, identity and access management.
Microsoft is strongest, says Illsley, in financial management and public and private cloud management. Its Cost Management module “provides a view of organizational cost and usage patterns by using inbuilt analytics” for Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform as well as third parties. It also provides predictive analytics and recommendations for, among other areas, cost reduction, says the report.
Cisco Systems’ AppDynamics serves enterprises monitoring large, distributed and complex application and infrastructure environments, according to an April 2021 Gartner report, and plans to expand support for Kubernetes, OpenTelemetry and cloud providers beyond Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as for monitoring platform as a service (PaaS) and database as a service (DBaaS). Among its strengths, according to Gartner, are its ability to map the user experience to infrastructure issues and to link technology metrics to business KPIs using machine learning.
CloudOps will become increasingly important to minimize cost and risk, and maximize agility, as more applications and services move to the cloud. It will also become more complex as organizations use more cloud platforms and move applications and services to the edge of the network.
Expect CloudOps to increasingly overlap and merge with related disciplines such as AIOps, DevOps and DevSecOps. As it does, and as adoption of 5G wireless and sensors on the internet of things increases, expect CloudOps vendors to consolidate and partner to extend their capabilities.
To make CloudOps effective, organizations need to not only carefully choose from among a wide range of CloudOps tools but involve business and technology stakeholders to best connect CloudOps metrics to business outcomes. They also need to give legacy support staff the opportunity to learn CloudOps to avoid losing experienced and hard-to-replace staff.