Give Me the Cloud, but I Want More Than That

As you know by now I spend a lot of time talking about the Cloud with customers and at various industry events. In the last few months a trend has started to emerge. More and more customers are looking to find ways to leverage the cloud in various ways in their enterprise, but when talking with CxO’s, IT leaders, etc., it’s becoming clear, you don’t just want the cloud, you want a ‘managed’ cloud.

What does that mean, ‘managed’ Cloud? I am sure there will be a different definition for different people, but this is what I am hearing from my conversations. You want the flexibility of the cloud – instant access to compute or storage resources – but you want more than just simple Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). You want a provider that can offer you cloud flexibility, but now you want that provider to take on things like virtual machine (VM) monitoring, alarming, patching, etc.

This changes the game a little from what I consider to be the true definition of ‘Cloud’ where you expect to receive resources with little to no interaction or insight from the service provider on what you are doing with the environment. But that attitude is changing as more companies realize that managing the Cloud can be just as cumbersome as managing your internal environment.

It’s not the ease of management that provokes a move to the cloud in the first place – it’s speed and availability of resources.

Now that more and more companies are moving into what I will call the ‘pre-teen’ stage of their use of cloud services they are starting to realize the challenges with managing their use and consumption of cloud resources. That toddler was fun to play with, but now that they are all ‘grown up’ the real challenges arise!

This is where the idea of the managed Cloud starts to make sense.

Imagine a scenario where you could leverage cloud resources just as you do today, spin up a VM and it’s available in minutes, but now that VM has some additional tools installed that allow the service provider to ‘see’ how that VM is performing on a daily basis. These tools also allow you to see how your Cloud is running. Slow VM – now you can investigate that issue a little further. What about a CPU running at 98%? Alarms are triggered and notifications are sent to the service provider and to you – and it’s a collaborative effort for resolution, vs. a ‘you are on your own’ situation as it is in most cases today. Take that one more step to patching – in a managed cloud environment patching would be part of the service.

Clearly when you move to this level of service it also changes the pricing options and models. Pricing should change along with the level of service. Don’t expect to see .05/hr VM’s here. With more services, comes more cost. But remember you are trying to move away from you being responsible for your Cloud environment in the manner you are today. If the service provider can take that Cloud you are using today and lay on a layer of management, now you can focus even more of your efforts on how you use the Cloud and more importantly, focus on your application development efforts. I have always said, it’s not the infrastructure that drives revenue to your business, it’s the applications you are delivering to end users.

Imagine a world where you have your ‘non-managed’ VM’s running in the cloud for test/dev and then when you are ready to promote that new application to production you spin up a new ‘managed’ cloud environment so that the environment is now in a steady state and all you have to focus on is the ongoing application maintenance, not the maintenance of the application and the underlying infrastructure.

You might even consider moving that application to a service provider’s PaaS environment and skip the idea of spinning up a ‘managed’ Cloud altogether! But that’s a topic for another day.

If the idea of the managed Cloud makes sense to you, let me know your thoughts below. What would help you to make the move to a managed Cloud environment? What features would you expect to see? I look forward to your thoughts.
The Networking Exchange Blog Team About NEB Team