CMP’s – Cloud Management Platforms:

For an Enterprise to succeed in the cloud, any cloud be it; Public, Private or Hybrid there has to be Governance, without governance, the wild west prevails, anyone with a credit card and an expense account can spin up Infrastructure, platform, software, in a variety of guises usually referred to as ‘Shadow IT’, but often just as bad within the IT department, as outside of it.

The cavalry is there in the guise of a CMP – Cloud Management Platform, but what does that really mean? And of the Plethora of tools out there what do I need, which should I choose. Barely a week goes by without my getting an email from this or that CMP Vendor touting their latest and greatest offering, or the newest (and best) tool from yet another company. In the last few weeks I have spoken to three new vendors in the space.

When I saw the early players in the CMP space a couple of years ago I was really excited by the possibilities. I’m now as confused, and perplexed as anyone else. There will have to be a shakeout in this space, and IMHO the sooner it comes the better!

CMP’s have emerged from three areas, all with different roots, all with a different approach, and all with confusing overlap.

A CMP has to offer an ability to control an agnostic cloud, across a variety of disciplines.

  1. Self Service & Automated Provisioning
  2. Business Operations – Financial Charge/Showbacks, Usage etc.
  3. Governance – Compliance and Security, Licensing, Standards
  4. Platform Management – Bare Metal, Hypervisors, Containers, Storage, Network
  5. Work Flow
  6. Orchestration – taking all the above and integrating it
  7. Operational Monitoring

In addition a number of products are moving into the DevOps area, providing:

  1. Continuous Development
  2. Continuous Deployment
  3. Continuous Integration
  4. Configuration Management
  5. Automatic Source Control
  6. Container Management

CMP’s generally fall into the following buckets:

The Brokers: this paradigm came out of an early desire to abstract applications from Cloud Providers, the idea was to be able to describe, an application as a blueprint consisting of Many Layers, that could be deployed natively to any cloud by the broker, the idea of abstracting was that cloud would be a commodity, and choosing a cloud wasn’t needed if the process was agnostic, agents tied to the broker would convert the blueprint to the specifics of each cloud, and workloads could easily be deployed in any cloud and portable across clouds. While great in theory, and a number of products can do this the practical use is not as simple as it first looks, some Vendors (e.g. CliQr) even took this to the level of being able to benchmark workloads within and across clouds to project best price performance. As a general rule these Vendors play very well in the Public Cloud space, and less well in the On Premise, primarily because they have to bridge the two environments, either being offered as a “public” SaaS/PaaS product that has to penetrate into enterprise, or an on premise product that has to get out! The major Players in this space are CliQr, CloudBolt, Cloudyn, RightScale.

The Infrastructure Managers: All the large Players in Traditional Infrastructure management have realized that they need to be in this space; IBM, BMC, CSC have all added functionality to their infrastructure management suites to support some level of Cloud orchestration, specifically around both the Public Cloud Providers and the major Hypervisors. CSC bought ServiceMesh and offers it’s CMP as CSC Agility, Dell bought Enstratius, rebadged it as Dell Cloud Manager, but have done little with it since. VMware have been on a purchasing binge to produce vRealize Suite – one of the most pervasive suites in the market, providing both complex orchestration around, VMware and some level of Public/Hybrid could, along with a neatly designed “native” DevOps capability with hooks into CI/CD (v7), Operations management dashboards, and Log analytics along with configuration management tools – Expensive, and incredibly complex to architect. All these tools are VERY complex, and require the installation (and Management) of multiple toolsets/modules that have been stitched together rather than designed from the ground up. For the most part these vendors expect you to spend more on Professional Services, than licenses to get their tools operational. That may be an upfront investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of thousands per year in licenses and maintenance.

There is the Open Source Community, Eucalyptus, and some distributions based on OpenNebula. I’m often asked where do CloudStack and Openstack fit? They certainly provide many of these features. Not an easy question to answer, however as many have found these “stacks” are not simple to deploy and use.

A third class of tools are the Development PaaS Frameworks, including CloudFoundry, and the various Commercial releases, Pivotal CF, Stackato, and IBM’s Bluemix (which falls into a whole other level of toolsets). The commercial releases have lots of overlap particularly when it comes to Self Service automation, and DevOps capabilities.

There then comes the Configuration tools Salt, Ansible, Chef and Puppet, which also have overlap, and the Continuous Integration, Continuous Development tools.

We can add to the mix, The Container Management Systems, Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, AWS EC2 Container Service, and others such as Shipyard and Rancher – not to mention those coming out of stealth mode.

The answer seems to be that there is no one tool set that fits all sizes, and most Enterprises will need a mix of these tools.

I would not want to be selling into this market right now, and in advising companies on purchase, my best advice is to make a list of what you want a CMP to do, understand how you want to use it, determine if it can utilize the endpoints you need, then evaluate it against those criteria. Make a list of requirements, from all aspects of the business, build out, wants in DevOps, Self Service, Compliance and Governance, then check the tools, try them out, and be prepared to purchase more than one and integrate them, but also plan on spending some $ on Professional Services to get a solid implementation, and a system that is useful!