Good cloud management means having an operating model that can support the rapid evolution of processes and products, with increasing outsourcing to the cloud. The benefits of good cloud management are many and impact the organisation at different levels.

'Cloud management' refers to the practices and approaches to govern and control an IT infrastructure hosted on a public, private or hybrid cloud, whether single or multi-cloud. The objective is to securely and reliably monitor and manage virtualised PaaS services, applications and infrastructure components.

A structured operating model is a direct consequence of a good Cloud Management strategy.  It can regulate the dynamics of internal collaboration between teams and allows you to identify the competencies of your IT department and undertake training activities to improve them. Training is therefore a crucial element in the context of cloud management. Without a highly competent IT team, any Cloud Management strategy risks failure. 

However, today IT users can rely on a number of tools to support them in their operational management activities. These tools, more or less integrated with their Cloud Provider, generally use the platform's APIs to offer automation, monitoring and security management functionalities in the cloud.

The indirect benefit of these tools is that they mask the complexities specific to the cloud provider to the end user, making the activities required for effective utilisation more intuitive and understandable. These activities include provisioning and orchestrating resources, as well as automating releases. Each activity often involves dependencies and prerequisites that, if not managed correctly, could cause a decrease in expected service levels.


How does Cloud management work?

Cloud management can be achieved using a combination of tools provided by the cloud provider, third-party management platforms or a combination of both, depending on the organisation's specific needs. The main objective is to simplify operations, optimise the use of resources, improve security and ensure the proper functioning of the cloud infrastructure and services. 

The process starts with provisioning the required cloud resources, such as virtual machines, storage, network components and other services. This can be done via the GUI, from the command line (CLI) or via the API at the code level. 

Once the provisioning of resources has taken place, it is necessary to provide for the continuous monitoring and optimisation of these resources so that the newly activated services operate at their best. This includes monitoring resource utilisation, performance-related software metrics and operational parameters. From a Continuous Monitoring point of view, cloud management tools provide detailed information on resource utilisation, helping to identify under-utilised or oversized resources. 

Cloud management practices are by definition iterative, i.e. they involve continuous monitoring, analysis and improvement. This includes regular review and optimisation of the cloud architecture so that it is in line with best practices and architectural patterns, configurations, resources, security measures and cloud cost optimisation strategies.

What are the benefits of enterprise cloud management?

Adopting a Cloud Management strategy brings with it several benefits for companies. This is because the discipline imposed by a tool or best practice provides a level of control, which has a positive impact on a number of key areas:

  • Cost optimisation: Having greater visibility of resource utilisation enables companies to identify and eliminate unneeded or under-utilised resources, optimise capacity planning and exploit cost-saving options such as reserved or spot instances.
  • Scalability and flexibility: The ability to rapidly scale up or down the infrastructure based on workload allows companies to respond effectively to changing needs and workload fluctuations by rapidly provisioning and deprovisioning resources.
  • Reliability: Load balancing mechanisms, automatic scalability and fault tolerance ensure that applications and services remain available even during peak usage or hardware failures. In addition, cloud service providers often have geographically distributed data centres, improving the overall reliability and resilience of the infrastructure.
  • Security: Cloud service providers take strong security measures to protect data and applications. They invest heavily in security technologies and have dedicated teams focused on maintaining the security of their infrastructure.
  • Agility and innovation: The rapid adoption of new, pre-packaged technologies within Cloud Providers enables companies to leverage advanced capabilities such as Machine Learning, big data analytics or the Internet of Things (IoT), without having to invest significant time and resources in building from scratch.
  • Simplified operations: Through centralised management interfaces, automation capabilities and monitoring tools, organisations can manage their entire cloud infrastructure from a single console. This simplifies operations, improves efficiency and reduces the complexity associated with managing a distributed IT environment.
  • Business Continuity and DR: By replicating data across geographies, Cloud Providers enable organisations to achieve high data availability and redundancy. In the event of a disaster, organisations can quickly restore their systems and data, minimising downtime and ensuring the continuity of critical operations.

Before going any further, we would like to point out a few articles you might find useful on the subject of Cloud Cost Management: 

The challenges of managing a cloud environment

With the widespread use of the cloud by organisations and the acceleration of innovation in the industry, organisations with a cloud-centric business strategy face more and more challenges. It is crucial to understand these challenges and plan how to address them. We can identify five categories of challenges.

  1. Interoperability: Today's IT systems are in increasingly distributed environments, which include a combination of on-premise, public and private cloud, hybrid or even multi-cloud infrastructures. This requires teams to be able to easily manage a number of heterogeneous systems.
  2. Uncontrolled growth: Allowing teams to operate in self-service mode can increase productivity and speed of development, but it can also become difficult to manage. An organisation risks losing control of cloud resources, allowing them to multiply without supervision or control. This uncontrolled growth can lead to increased costs, security risks and management complications.
  3. Cost estimation: Although cloud environments offer cost management tools, calculating the costs of using them can be complicated. It is necessary to collect details from different accounts, regions and other cloud-based tools and services to calculate the cost of a single service. This can become even more complicated if there are shared resources that need to be paid for by multiple business units.
  4. Architecture over-engineering: Access to virtually infinite resources and a wide range of computational services can push engineering teams to over-engineer applications, losing sight of cost impacts, management complexity and end-user value.
  5. Security and privacy: Security remains a key priority for all organisations and cloud service providers. Many companies struggle to strike a balance between using resources effectively to maximise performance and implementing policies to mitigate risk and reduce the attack surface. (If security is high on your list of priorities, here's a Guide to Cloud Native Security that might help you).

The main cloud management platforms

Each Cloud Provider offers its own vertical, service-specific cloud management tools:

  • The AWS Management Console is a web interface provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) for managing and monitoring AWS services.
  • The Azure Portal is Microsoft Azure's web-based management interface, offering a unified experience for provisioning and monitoring resources, including access to Azure Marketplace.
  • Google Cloud Console is Google Cloud Platform's web-based interface for managing and monitoring GCP resources, with integration with Google Cloud Marketplace and support for IAM and detailed monitoring.

These platforms offer graphical interfaces for resource configuration and access control, enabling users to provide services and deploy third-party solutions.

In addition, there are technology companies such as SparkFabrik that offer Cloud Managed Services, allowing operational activities to be outsourced to specialised and skilled teams on tools such as VMware Tanzu, OpenShift and open source solutions such as Proxmox. This ensures smooth operations in both traditional cloud scenarios and open source solutions.

Best practices for cloud management

Each organisation has the freedom to choose how to approach cloud management according to its business objectives. However, the industry identifies a number of best practices that can help in defining processes and responsibilities within teams. Here are some key points:

  • Define a cloud strategy: It is important to start by defining a clear cloud strategy in line with the organisation's objectives. Identify which workloads or applications are suitable for the cloud and establish guidelines for the adoption, migration and management of cloud resources.
  • Optimise resource allocation: Constantly monitoring and optimising resource allocation is crucial for cost efficiency. Correctly scale instances by matching resources to workload requirements.
  • Implement security controls: Use the security features provided by the cloud service provider, such as firewalls, network security groups and identity and access management (IAM) mechanisms.
  • Automate provisioning and management: Leverage Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) tools, such as AWS CloudFormation or Azure Resource Manager, to define and deploy infrastructure. Use configuration management tools, such as Ansible or Chef, to ensure consistent configuration across resources.
  • Monitor performance and availability: Monitor key metrics such as CPU utilisation, memory usage, network traffic and response times.
  • Backup and disaster recovery: Back up critical data regularly and test the recovery process.
  • Cost optimisation and governance: Implement a FinOps strategy as part of the transformation process to optimise and control costs.
  • Promote collaboration and training: Foster collaboration between teams responsible for cloud management, development and operations. Promote knowledge sharing and provide training on cloud technologies, security best practices and automation tools.

The role of cloud management in digital transformation

The role of cloud management in digital transformation is crucial. Cloud management provides the foundation and capabilities needed to effectively exploit cloud technologies. By deploying specialised teams, working with qualified partners and using the right tools, organisations can maximise the benefits of the cloud

Cloud management makes it possible to optimise resource allocation, ensure data protection, automate processes, monitor performance and control costs. It also fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing between teams, allowing for a more agile and innovative working environment. Ultimately, effective cloud management is essential to the success of an organisation's digital transformation.