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Some top cloud tools to bash up the bus factor

The path to simplicity

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Cloud Few business owners are willing to tolerate a low bus factor on critical endeavours. If your IT infrastructure is based on ten-year-old rebuilt hardware and a heavily customised version of Linux only one or two people truly understand, you’re in trouble.

The simplest means by which the bus factor can be managed is to make the right tools available and ensure that they are used. On paper, VMWare’s vSphere suiteis an expensive alternative to ESXi and some script-fu.

This is false economy. The vSphere suite offers more than lowering the maintenance burden of your systems administrators. It offers business continuity. The proper management tools combined with the proper equipment ensure that any halfway-competent administrator can take over those particular systems.

Simplicity is key and cloud computing exemplifies this. For each service, dozens of providers exist. Each brings their own native toolkit to the table; unique APIs that reduce the long term script-fu. Disparate and incompatible management tools use different terms for similar concepts. Some clouds services offer raw virtual machine access, others offer a platform unto which you can develop your application.

The road to simplicity

One road to simplicity is finding tools that span multiple vendors. For managing the local cloud, open source OpenQRM is a great multi-hypervisor management product. IBM, HP, CA and others have been extending their management stacks to offer similar support. They have the added advantage of being excellent at supporting the underlying hardware as well.

"The hosted cloud still has something of the Wild West about it"

Rightscale, Kaavo, and Zeus are top of mind for offering cross-vendor products for the hosted cloud.

Big names are not left out either; hosted cloud vendors are working to integrate their services with management tools stretching from VMWare’s vCenter to OpenQRM.

If you are comfortable with taking care of provisioning virtual machines on your own – or have existing tools that suit you – consider Rackspace’s recent acquisition Cloudkick. Cloudkick doesn’t offer much in the way of provisioning tools, but it is a fantastic monitoring application covering a diversity of hosted providers. If VMWare is your poison, Cloudkick also offers the ability to monitor virtual machines on your local cloud.

overtaking a bus

Hold the Bus!

The other path to simplicity is that of sourcing your compute resources from a single vendor. The choices are manifold; the hosted cloud still has something of the Wild West about it.

The local computing big shots are all making their cloud plays. The advantage on offer is that of a single provider for all services whether local or hosted. Established internet giants tout their experience at supporting large-scale cloud deployments. The requirements of their own services dwarf all but a handful of other organisations around the world.

The traditional players are only part of the tale; dozens of contenders exist, with more coming out of stealth mode every year. Rackspace is one such example. It is going head-to-head with the established giants on the strength of a commitment to simple yet powerful management tools.

On the other side of the spectrum lies Greenqloud’s play. It is offering compatibility with the big players – your existing management tools will work here – while competing on price and “green” credentials.

Intel’s entrance into this field is of particular interest. Intel has resources that surpass even those of many established players. It has a great deal of cloud experience; its own internal IT systems are enormous. Its target isn’t the developer nor is it the enterprise IT department. The target is small and medium enterprises. A strong focus on powerful – and simple – management tools will emerge as a core component of Intel’s strategy.

Whether you are managing an internal cloud, wrangling hosted services or shuffling workloads between them, reliable management tools are as important to your IT strategy as the people who implement them. Or the vendors that supply them. ®

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