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How Virtualization Complicates Managing a Hybrid Cloud

A significant challenge in managing hybrid clouds in cloud computing is the need to coordinate the management of both virtual and physical environments. Virtualization is the process of separating resources and services from the underlying physical delivery environment.

Many virtual systems can be created within one physical system. Although virtualization is not a prerequisite for cloud computing, this technology is in common practice at its foundation and is at the core of cloud service efficiency. Although virtualization is the technology supporting many of the benefits of cloud computing, it also increases the complexity of managing cloud environments.

The following two issues add management complexity in hybrid cloud environments.

Lack of control over cloud resource management

SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) , BPaaS (Business Process as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers manage physical cloud resources and deliver cloud services to users through a virtual image. In hybrid environments, cloud users may need to manage the delivery of these virtual environments without the ability to control the performance and manageability of the resources.

Assume you have implemented a SaaS application to manage your customer sales interactions. You are able to provide these SaaS services to your sales force of 500 people without adding any new servers to support the application. Your SaaS provider is responsible for managing the physical infrastructure, and you make sure that all members of your sales team have the right level of access to the application.

Your sales team sees an immediate improvement to the quality and timeliness of the data they have on customers and prospects. They can easily access information critical to closing deals directly from their mobile devices, leading to productivity improvements. As the IT manager responsible for SaaS implementations, you look pretty good until something goes wrong.

A sales manager can’t access the SaaS application to get the customer information he needs, so he contacts your customer service desk. This is when things get complicated. Figuring out the source of the problem is difficult since you have very little information about your SaaS provider’s cloud infrastructure and how it is managed.

It turns out that your SaaS provider built its solution on a public IaaS platform so there are at least two vendors (and maybe more) that could be the source of the service disruption. Ideally, your SaaS provider will provide you with information about the problem and resolve it quickly, but you are not in control.

Now to make things a little more complex, consider that you need to manage the delivery of multiple cloud services for your company’s users. Your company’s information needs to remain consistent across different applications in your hybrid environment. A service disruption in one cloud service may have an impact on other services as well. You want to ensure that your customers receive the right level of service, but you have limited insight into the performance of each cloud service provider’s infrastructure environment.

Ideally, you or your cloud service broker will see that you have a dashboard to monitor the performance health of the various cloud services from your different vendors. This will help you pinpoint where the problem's coming from, but it is the responsibility of your provider to resolve the issue. The business needs to be assured that policies for security, governance, and scalability are maintained as workloads are managed across hybrid environments.

Lack of control over managing images

Virtual images need to be carefully managed in order to achieve the full benefits of virtualization within a hybrid cloud environment. Each new virtual machine image requires memory, disk, and storage resources. Because it is so easy to create virtual images, many companies find that the number of virtual images they need to manage expands very quickly.

Without proper controls, images can remain after they are no longer needed. When these images are allowed to grow without proper oversight or management, infrastructure and storage costs increase. As a result, a company may find that the cost savings from its virtualization and cloud implementation are less than anticipated. In addition, uncontrolled and unmanaged virtual images can lead to critical gaps in security.

The following three scenarios illustrate how lack of control over managing images can create problems in different situations:

  • Virtual image management in private clouds. Your organization has created a private cloud as part of your hybrid environment. You have a highly distributed software development organization, and there are multiple teams working on several new customer-facing initiatives. These teams have been asked to complete their development projects on a very tight schedule. The private cloud makes it easy for the developers to provision the virtual environments needed to meet their deadlines. However, you go over budget based on unexpected costs to store and manage these environments.

    What was missing in your strategy? You need to implement an automated approach to manage the lifecycle of virtual images. Your approach should include rules that ensure that if an image hasn’t been touched for a period of time, it is either automatically deleted or a warning is sent to the user.

  • Virtual image management by public cloud providers. You provide IaaS to your customers. In order to deliver secure, efficient, and cost-competitive services, you have a sophisticated cloud management system in place. One of the important capabilities of your automated system of controls is the management of virtual images. You need to make sure images are available to a customer while they are under contract for services. However, you keep tight control so that images are deleted when your customer stops paying for the service.

  • Virtual image management by public cloud users. Although your PaaS provider is responsible for the infrastructure and middleware services that your developers need, as a user of public cloud services, you share some of the responsibilities for managing images with your cloud provider. You need to manage virtual resources provisioned in the cloud with the same level of attention as you provide in your internal data center. You will end up paying for extra storage costs if you hold on to virtual images after you no longer need them.

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