Cloud infrastructure management has changed significantly over the past 10 years.
Originally Cloud infrastructure management was a very hands-on activity, but thankfully this has become more and more seamless through the evolution of standardisation and automation.
Increased standardisation has reduced the overhead of Cloud infrastructure management, however, it has also increased the risk of unplanned cloud expenditure due to the ease of which infrastructure can now be consumed on cloud. To gain the visibility and control that organisations require for Cloud governance, an intuitive cloud portal is required.
Evros Head of Cloud Solutions, Danny McEntee, discusses the challenges involved in managing cloud infrastructure as well as some of the solutions available.
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to managing a business cloud environment?
Ultimately cloud is an IT cost for customers. It is a cost that needs to be carefully controlled due to the elastic nature of the services and the potential for huge over expenditure. This means that IT management and finance teams require visibility and some sort of predictability over the cloud costs – and that is a challenge.
Cloud services can be deployed and managed by multiple teams, across multiple departments and is usually consumed from multiple vendors. This makes it extremely difficult to keep track of all these cloud different costs.
Additionally, there is the technical challenge involved in managing these cloud solutions. Cloud, like many software services nowadays, is consumed primarily through web portals and each vendor has their own flavour, which takes getting used to. You must learn how to navigate your way around it, understand the terms they use and know the commercial and security best practices in each of those portals. It can be a real challenge for organisations.
So, while cloud management is certainly easier in one sense, it can also be very complex to configure and use.
Is cost the biggest challenge?
No not always. If you are using a public cloud provider, such as Azure for example, they have multiple costs models. The pay as you go model provides great flexibility and granularity of costs, but the amount of resources you consume per hour, for example, can sprawl if not properly controlled. If you have lots of different parts of your business with uncontrolled access, it can be very difficult to manage these costs. However, public cloud providers have other cost models that are available to customers, such as reserved instances, which are very suitable to persistent workloads and provide predicable costs. So there are methods and tools available to control cloud costs, you just need to be aware of them and have access to the expertise to know how best to use them.
With a private cloud provider such as Digital Planet for example, cloud costs are much more predictable and very easy to control as they are usually agreed in advance and there is an account management structure in place to protect customers from sprawling costs. With these providers, you usually know in advance what a change or new project is going to cost you in terms of cloud expenditure.
So, cloud cost can be a challenge, but most provides give you the facilities to manage and control them.
Historically, what are the major barriers in supporting software development for business?
We hear a lot about agile development, where you have small iterations of software development. These short iterations of development, will go from the developer, to build, to test and then eventually it will be released into production in a very short space of time.
In order to support that agile development, you need to have the correct platform in place. That is where this concept of Dev/Ops comes from. Good quality Dev/Ops requires a consistent test, staging and production environments for your software before being released to your customers.
Nowadays, many cloud platforms are container-ready. A container is a standard unit of software that packages up code and all its dependencies, so the application runs quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another. This is a very flexible deployment model which allows you to deliver applications in multiple containers, that can run independently on multiple cloud platforms. For example, if you are updating one part of your application, you only need to update the container that it runs from and the rest of the application remains unaffected. This update can be deployed in any container ready environment for dev, test or production.
To achieve a solution like that on-premises, would mean building your own container platform and having the infrastructure available for software development on a consistent basis, fully supported and production ready, which is a barrier for many businesses. It is a barrier because you would have to purchase the infrastructure and the software upfront and then you need to get the skills in your team to deploy and manage it.
This is where cloud comes in its own for Tes/Dev – you have that immediate availability of resources immediately available to you by gaining access to the portal and providing some configuration variables for your project.
What is a cloud portal and what elements can it help you with? Also, what makes a good cloud portal?
It goes back to the definition of ‘cloud’ and what you determine cloud to be.
Let us focus on IaaS for example – what is a good cloud portal for managing infrastructure or virtual machines? Essentially, it’s one that’s easy to use and gives you that clear visibility. It needs to be accessible for nontechnical resources, such as management or finance, so that they can understand the historical, but more importantly, having the ability to predict future costs with as much certainty as possible.
For infrastructure consumers, usually they want to be involved as little as possible, they just want it to perform consistently. These types of users want their cloud portal to make the process of deploying, managing and consuming infrastructure as seamless as possible and take the risk out of their tasks. These don’t want to have to go through the process of logging a ticket with IT service desk to spin up new infrastructure, wait weeks or months for it to become available to them and then deploy their code. They just want it to work.
What is CloudStore?
CloudStore is an online platform that Evros have developed to provide customers with a single place where they can manage the services, that they consume from us. So far, the portal has the functionality to manage Cloud infrastructure services including across Digital Planet, Azure and VMware on-premises:
- Cloud Virtual Machines
- Cloud Backups
- Cloud Networking,
- Cloud Billing and Reporting
The portal is also fully integrated into our 24×7 Network Operations Center and service management tooling. This provides customers with the ability to interact with services such as:
- Service Desk Ticketing
- Remote Monitoring and Management
- Microsoft Patch Management
- Technical & Commercial Customer Documentation
- Service Catalog and Service Management Collateral
So, a customer might have a managed service contract and want to raise a ticket with our services desk or perhaps they have a cloud service and want to spin up a new VM or audit their cloud backups. They might have a security service and want to see any alerts as well as have visibility on any work being done. So, any service that a customer has with Evros, CloudStore is the place where they can go and interact with that.
Is CloudStore a two-way system?
Absolutely, the systems that CloudStore is integrated with are the core of our business, they are the tools and systems that we use to run our business. For example, let’s take Autotask which is our PSA ticketing system – if a customer wanted to raise a query or request support from one of our teams, they would log it through the CloudStore portal and likewise they would get the feedback from our teams through that very same interface.
What features does CloudStore include – what’s unique about it?
I believe the integration into our 24×7 Network Operations Center is the real unique element of CloudStore. There are many cloud portals available to purchase that are designed for managing your cloud infrastructure, including costs and a lot of technical elements such as your backups and DR. However, you will struggle to find a similar solution, that allows you to manage your Virtual Machines, Networking, Disaster Recovery, Cloud backups and Operating System patching – that is also integrated with a 24×7 NOC managed services. CloudStore allows you to interact with our teams through the portal – not just the technology.
The other unique thing about CloudStore, compared with other similar solution on the market, is the cost. If a customer were to procure and implement a similar off the shelf technology, they could be looking at a five to six figure investment in licensing and support as well as a multi-week deployment effort. With the Evros Cloudstore, all a customer needs to do to get access to the product, is procure a service from Evros. The solutions comes included as part of the Evros Cloud and Managed Service offerings at no additional cost to the customer.
Is CloudStore the only way to interact with Evros services?
Our heritage at Evros in cloud and managed services, is centred around doing as much as we can for the customer and making their jobs as simple as possible when it comes to managing IT.
Our primary development approach for CloudStore, is to require from our customers, the minimum amount of effort to manage and consume our services. So, if you don’t know how to do something or if you prefer to pick up the phone rather than go through the portal – that option will always be there – that’s the way we have always run our business.
CloudStore simply provides you with the benefits of having a single heads-up display across your entire IT infrastructure estate as well as a simple way to track the interactions with our teams, especially if our customer
Is CloudStore secure?
Security is of paramount importance when it comes to cloud, with CloudStore being a fundamental part of our Cloud strategy.
We’re fortunate at Evros to have a dedicated SOC who assists and supports our cloud developers to make sure we have the best security practices in place, as well as the best tools and technologies to make sure we maintain that high level of security.
Also, we are highly experienced in network security management – That is what we do day-to-day for our customers – so obviously we apply that same methodology to our own systems.
Would you be using CloudStore if you were using Azure?
We’re not trying to replace the Azure portal, we’re very much trying to complement it.
The Azure portal has an enormous amount of capability and complexity in there and there’s no way we would try to replicate that. What we’re doing is bringing the key pieces of information for each perspective back to one place so that it’s easy for the customer to get a clear overview.
If there’s something complex that needs to be achieved by our customers they would go to the Azure portal but when they make that change it will be reflected back in CloudStore – so it’s a single place for customers to go and get their information.
Can CloudStore be used with any cloud set up?
Yes, whether you’re set up is based on-premises, or in Digital Planet, in Azure of a mixture of these, you can use CloudStore to manage your environment.
We’ve been doing Cloud infrastructure management for 10 years and have a huge amount of expertise in this area.
We also have plans to develop it even further so, as we add more services within the Evros NOC and within our cloud services, the front-end wall of those will be CloudStore.
And because CloudStore has been developed in-house, we can determine the direction it goes in and what that ultimately means is that the customer determines the direction it goes in as we will implement changes based on customer feedback.
Find out more
If you would like to get in touch with us to learn more about CloudStore or book a demo, just get in touch.
And find out more about all of our self-service IT management tools in our Digital Hub.