Not too long ago, no one needed cloud management software. Web applications were small and functionally very basic. They could run on a few servers, as long as you didn’t fret when loads peaked and responsiveness dropped. Everyone involved with the apps could fit in a small conference room and communicate well enough to ensure that rules were never broken.
Those days are long gone. Development teams deliver mountains of data in visually rich, click-happy environments. Microservice architectures make it possible to solve more problems and answer more clicks, all while scaling quickly as loads shift. The only side-effect is that there are now dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of machines to juggle to keep it all flowing.
Cloud management software simplifies this challenge by tracking machines and organizing developers. The right people on the right teams can deploy their code — and only their code — without hassle because the cloud management tools are watching the continuous integration pipeline and enforcing security and policy rules.
Cloud vendors offer a well-designed collection of web apps for using their machines. The basic web interfaces are fine if you just want to spin up an instance and start up some code. Small teams that stick to just one cloud can probably get by with those stock versions for managing their stacks. But when teams get bigger to the point where not everyone involves knows everyone else by name, just relying on a stock admin interface is harder.
Cloud management software really shines when you embrace multiple clouds. Perhaps you want to establish a hybrid environment that leverages stock machines in your own data center as well. Or you want to spread the load over multiple clouds from multiple vendors for security and safety. Perhaps you want to be able to move your code to the cheapest machines so you can keep costs in line. Cloud management software is designed to help with all these goals.
Following is an alphabetical list of the best cloud management options available today. They are designed to help with all the clerical challenges of running your code in the cloud, so you can unlock the power of a big collection of machines that are, in turn, unlocking the power of data for your enterprise.
Apptio built its Cloudability platform to help development, accounting, and operations teams work together. Teams are given budgets and Cloudability tracks how closely the resources are allocated to each of them. The dashboards focus on resource consumption to help manage reserved instance purchasing and workload management. The tool is integrated with other workflow tools such as Jira, Datadog, and PagerDuty to ensure that all decisions can be supported by Cloudability data.
The central dashboard from CloudBolt brings together control for access, costs, and deployment for hybrid clouds and Kubernetes clusters. One major theme is emphasizing “self-service” for the developers and IT staff, enabling them to check out, configure, and start instances without waiting for multistep approval. The tool tracks consumption while enforcing rules. Managers can track both the actions of the machines and the costs through a collection of reports and dashboards.
The CMx platform from CloudCheckr optimizes security and resource allocation for the major clouds. It follows all instances, tracking their loads while looking for anomalies and opportunities to save money. Sometimes it can fix the issues automatically with scripts designed to right-size instances or plug common configuration errors. Long-term needs can help predict future demand, opening up opportunities for what CloudCheckr calls “purchase arbitrage,” essentially playing the clouds off one another in pricing reserved instances. The tool is also integrated with billing software thereby simplifying the billing process for organizations that need to allocate costs to customers.
The CloudSphere platform, which came out of a merger with HyperGrid, offers interactive visualizations of all cyber assets it catalogs and tracks, often after discovering them automatically. This includes raw instances and the applications running on them. The reporting system is married with a governance layer that helps mitigate “access sprawl” with a feature-rich collection of options for tracking and enabling users via their role. This “security posture” can reduce the potential for leaks and mistakes.
Embotics Snow Commander
The Snow Commander platform wants to minimize costs by ensuring all resources are deployed to right-sized hardware. While much of the tooling is designed to simplify routine deployments with automated approval, the on-demand portal also enables developers to create instances that come with a dynamic estimate of just what that machine will cost over time. Right-sizing the machines is a big goal, and the tool generates reports of overprovisioned machines that can be pruned. The product effectively merges cost containment with cloud governance to allow a group to manage their burgeoning collection of clusters, pods, and instances.
Flexera’s main product, Flexera One, is a big suite of tools that merges cost management with cloud inventory tracking and asset management. The tool automatically maps your collection of cloud machines, while identifying high-cost overlaps that can lead to savings. The reporting offers a colorful collection of charts designed to flag expensive software packages or underused computing resources. Users report finding unknown databases and unused licenses in their collection of cloud instances and containers followed by the tool.
Both private and public cloud machines fit under one big umbrella in Morpheus, which controls access, deployment, and sizing from a single console designed to orchestrate indidivual instances or Kubernetes clusters running locally on your own hypervisor or any of the major public clouds. Repetitive tasks can be automated or triggered by continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) build pipelines to simplify much of the management around deployment and scaling. Some of this automation is, itself, automated. If Morpheus provisions an instance, it automatically continues to check up on it to see that it’s running. There are also deeper integrations with other cloud management tools such as Terraform or Ansible.
Scalr’s approach to cloud management is tightly integrated with build pipelines to simplify turning code into deployed apps. Its tools join the major version control systems with the major clouds with a management model designed to simplify reusing modules and deployment policies. The policy framework is built to be open and vendor-neutral to act as a backup or set of guardrails to prevent common configuration issues. The security layer separates basic tasks from access to cloud keys to prevent leaks.
ServiceNow offers a collection of integrated tools for managing data services, IT operations, and IT assets. The tools work both as automated and semi-automated trackers for all the various cloud machines, as well as a ticketing system for tracking tasks. ServiceNow’s AIOps tool can offer predictions for performance that can help flag and alleviate bottlenecks and other pain points. Those with complex workflows can also deploy custom apps that leverage the Now platform.
SUSE may be known for creating a popular open source distribution of Linux, but lately it has been pushing Rancher, a tool for juggling all the Kubernetes pods running containers. Rancher consolidates the chores of keeping the pods running and regularly tracks and reports on their health. The tool is available as open source or as a hosted version that offers plenty of support and training for a price.
Anyone who prefers to create text-based instructions for configuring your cloud will enjoy Terraform’s approach, which it calls “infrastructure as code.” The architecture is designed and updated just like code and then Terraform turns these instructions into running machines. The same editors, workflows, and change management processes that power app development also work for deployment. The core is open source but Terraform also offers an Enterprise version that runs in its cloud.
Some cloud management tools focus on raw instances, but Turbonomic, now owned by IBM, aims at the application or API level, which can be useful if several APIs or applications are running on the same machine. The system can watch over containers, Kubernetes pods, storage layers, and more, both in the cloud or in local hardware. The analytics track resources, their performance, and, perhaps more importantly, the relationships between them — essential for flagging bottlenecks or failing APIs. The UI and reporting framework in Version 8 offer a new vision to track just how the various APIs and applications are performing.
VMware offers a wide variety of tools for juggling containers and virtual images running across multiple clouds. One tool, vRealize Cloud Management, handles much of the deployment and configuration challenges. It coordinates with some of the VMware foundations running on the major clouds, as well as other tools like Tanzu, which is designed to optimize container deployment. Financial, security, and operations management live under the brand name CloudHealth, a constellation of products for tracking cloud instances. The tools target both the four major clouds (OCI, GCP, AWS, and Azure) as well as hybrid clouds created from combinations of these and your own assets on premises.