Enterprises that have recently adopted the cloud face new challenges around how to ensure the same visibility into cloud applications as they have with their on-premises apps. Cloud management platform vendors have addressed this to varying degrees of success through tools that combine monitoring, policy enforcement, cost management and other capabilities.
Over the years, enterprise IT had developed ways of managing environments with the goal of constant availability, relying on software applications that oversee the IT environment, John Webster, senior partner and analyst for Evaluator Group, said. Cloud management is a level up from that, and many legacy vendors and startups compete in this space. Webster, whose research area is hybrid cloud and big data, worked with ITPro Today on this top 10 list of cloud management platform tools, considering which factors would be most important from the perspective of IT operations.
“As enterprise IT operations start to expand our capabilities and resources into the cloud, we now want to manage cloud resources with the same policy, procedure, guidance and expectations that we have over our existing IT environment,” Webster said.
Cloud management platform solutions should include lifecycle management (the ability to track resources devoted to cloud over time) and data protection, along with the ability to orchestrate and automate various processes, he said.
While orchestration and automation of management processes are available across the board, data protection was a surprisingly underserved area by vendors in the cloud management platform space.
“Data protection and disaster recovery is an IT responsibility, a bedrock function, and I think that the vendors in this space have to really start looking at that seriously,” Webster said. Vendors will likely provide these capabilities through extensions to data protection and disaster recovery applications that are already available in the market.
In selecting which cloud management platform vendors to include in this top 10 list, Webster weighed factors including how well they interface with users and how they allow IT management to manage user populations they have.
“As time goes on people will be more and more pressed to do cost accounting, cost management and cost control. I thought that’s the first thing that every vendor would try to come up with, but it turns out that’s not really the case,” he said. “Yet when I talk to cloud enterprise users, that’s one of the things that are top of mind, from public cloud particularly.”
“That’s a big deal because it goes to try to figure out where you’re going to site applications over time and how you’re going to prove to senior IT management and senior executive management that you’re running more or less a tight ship, particularly when it comes to the use of the cloud. So that’s just got to be there.”
Webster acknowledged that cloud cost control is complex for vendors to master because cloud service providers are constantly adding to their portfolios and attaching different pricing models to new services.
“Complexity coupled with the fast pace of change could be a reason that startups choose to emphasize other functionality first as they approach the market,” he said.
In the near future, capabilities around artificial intelligence, support for cloud-native including Kubernetes, and application migration will be key functions in cloud management platform tools.
“AI assistance, or the assistance of artificial intelligence, will become more and more important as time goes on,” Webster said.
Webster notes a dichotomy in the marketplace with vendors that have traditional IT operations management practices and are building out to support cloud management as extensions to what they already have, versus new startups that are essentially starting from scratch.
“Startups are emphasizing various aspects of these platforms that they think will resonate in the marketplace immediately so they can get immediate customer response and start building a customer base,” he said. “It’s interesting to see what they emphasize. Some vendors emphasize cost; others don’t. Some emphasize orchestration and provisioning; other vendors less so.”
In selecting a cloud management platform vendor, Webster recommends that enterprises look at the vendor’s road map to see where they are going and how they are going to price their extensions into the cloud. He said that this space may see a change to support per-module pricing, where customers can pick and choose which capabilities they want, which is different from the pre-configured packages that are sold now.
If customers have a management platform from a large vendor that they are using to control an IT environment, “that’s the first place you’re going to look to see if you can do what you need to do on the basis of that platform not only today, but going forward,” he said.
Here’s our list of the 10 leading cloud management platforms, presented alphabetically (requires registration):