Cloud Computing Management Options Starting to Solidify

The general consensus about cloud computing is that it's not quite ready for prime time. Nimsoft CEO Gary Reed describes it as being "where virtualization was two or three years ago" — chiefly in test and dev environments and nonmission-critical environments.

Virtually Speaking: Two companies announced products this week to bridge the cloud to the virtualized data center divide. Cloud is growing up fast.

Reed admitted that cloud computing as been "hyped to death," and thus, "what surprised me when I talked to customers is that it's real and it's coming fast."

Some organizations are still watching and waiting, of course, but many are at least getting their feet wet. Reed told ServerWatch that of the 40 or 50 customer briefings he's conducted in the past month, "one-third [of companies] are actively doing things today, one-third are in some sort of 'test,' and the final third are thinking they'll do it in the future, but are not doing it today." Not surprisingly, he found that most of the large investment firms have real deployment plans in place.

This is far from the "everybody's talking about it, but nobody's doing anything" some analysts have been rumbling off.

A big reason for the wait and see approach is that the management and security tools, which are now in place for virtual environments, are the bellwhether of maturity for any market segment, and they simply haven't been there for cloud computing environments.

The key functionality everybody is waiting on, according to Reed, is the capability to to mange internal and external clouds seamlessly.

This week, that came closer to becoming reality. Two companies, Nimsoft and LineSider Technologies, unveiled products to make managing the cloud easier.

On Monday, LineSider took the wraps off OverDrive 3.0, software for enterprises and managed service providers that automates provisioning and deployment of network services in cloud computing environments.

John Donnelly, LineSider's executive vice president of sales and marketing, described it as a "network services virtualization platform."

It is very much a policy-driven product. Business users define the policies, and OverDrive automates them across the network and data center. This is different than the policies set at command-line level. In most computing environments, every time an application, computer or storage resource changes on a virtual server, manual intervention is needed to provision network services or repair broken security and access models.

Donnelly told ServerWatch, "OverDrive interprets the policy, identifies devices and services that need to be modified in order to satisfy the defined relationship and dynamically pushes configuration updates to the selected devices."

OverDrive, Donnelly explained, consists of three main components that facilitate this: Control Center, which defines, controls and manages all services; Network Virtualization Engine, which transforms policies into actionable service directives; and Device Service Controllers, which manage the device-level configurations across the deployed network.

Nimsoft, meanwhile, on Tuesday announced new features for its Nimsoft Monitoring Solution (NMS) that extend real-time monitoring and historical reporting beyond the data center to hosted, cloud- and SaaS-based resources and applications.

This allows organizations to see the entire IT infrastructure available to them, not just what is physically in their data centers. NMS is purely a monitoring solution. It hooks into management tools and leaves that work to them, Reed pointed out.

New in this version are cloud and SaaS probes that hook into Google Apps for Business, Rackspace Cloud, Amazon Web Services and EC2, Salesforce.com, and other services; Nimsoft Unified Monitoring APIs, which are now available to both customers and third-party developers; Nimsoft Unified Reporter; virtualization probes; and RCA (root cause analysis) and Topology Manager.

If these products are any indication, cloud computing is rapidly approaching maturity.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization space since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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This article was originally published on Oct 21, 2009
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