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Cloud Configuration Management is Critical for Leveraging Cloud Advantages

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Cloud Configuration Management is Critical for Leveraging Cloud Advantages

by Sasha Gilenson

blog cloudFacing greater demands and a faster pace of change, enterprise IT organizations are confronting more complexity and higher volume of configurations. Enterprises around the world are investing billions of dollars in migrating to the cloud and in cloud computing technology, hoping to improve their execution capability, drive productivity, improve profitability and attain sustained competitive advantage. Many are heralding the cloud as the silver bullet for IT efficiency and performance, eschewing configuration management for cloud-based operations.

Despite the hopes that have been pinned on cloud and how it will give IT a means for efficiently meeting the increasing demands put on the IT infrastructure. To realize the benefits of the cloud, IT still needs to invest in cloud configuration management and make it a critical part of cloud-based operations.

Vendors Herald Cloud to be a new Platform for Efficient IT Operations

Vendors today are telling different stories when it comes to the advantages of cloud computing and its underlying infrastructure. 

Some laud the possibilities of Virtualization, saying how virtualization allows organizations to dynamically allocate computing resources and maintain a standardized set of "golden images". These images can be used to quickly deploy new virtual machines. With "golden images", vendors say that IT operations becomes very efficient, with no more detailed configuration management required.

Other vendors accept that these "golden images" are a fast way to deploy a new machine, but the images can quickly diverge from their pristine initial condition once they're in use. Furthermore, they don't always work if you're using more than one vendor's hypervisor or using public infrastructure-as-a-service platforms. Rather, these vendors are recommending Deployment Automation practices, to rapidly and confidently deploy applications without errors and improve business responsiveness. By using scripts and templates to complement the cloud platform, deployment automation has been adopted for streamlining IT operations, and, as some vendors claim, eliminate the need for configuration management in the cloud.

Cloud Configuration Management and IT Operations Became More Complicated

The automation deployment infrastructure is still another software system that itself must be installed and maintained. There is a mistaken assumption about script-driven deployment that you don't need to check scripts. Like any other software system, scripts could be quite sophisticated, with varying task execution based on parameters. The actual results of the scripts execution, i.e. the actual configuration needs to be analyzed and controlled together with the scripts themselves. When errors occur in the automated scenario, they happen on a much larger scale, and hence additional processes and tools are required to recover from them. Cloud configuration management is also affected as there is no control of artifacts or monitoring across environments, making partial deployment rollback extremely difficult. When deployment errors occur, an inability to easily investigate them and recover can lead to failed launches, with costly downtime delays.

Cloud Configuration Management Solution Got to Deliver Visibility & Control of Actual Cloud Configuration

Lack of visibility has meant little or no confidence for organizations to manage the goings-on in their cloud infrastructures. This means many organizations have limited their cloud operations to development and test environment or non-critical applications. 

Despite the benefits of independent environment deployment, sometimes things don't always work. Then IT needs to know the baseline configuration for the cloud environment and its' evolution in order to understand what was done, and without an effective cloud configuration management solution in place, things become risky.

The ability to shift peak workloads to on-demand cloud platform with pay-as-you-go models is appealing. Yet at the same time the home environment is still developing, so keeping the cloud environment in synch with the home environment is a major requirement to realizing this cloud benefit. Yet this still demands rigorous attention to management of detailed cloud configurations in order to ensure that the configuration for what is deployed to the cloud is exactly the same as in the home environment. 

Furthermore, just as it is difficult to sequence application release activities for a single application, in a simple data center environment, this becomes even more complex with some activity deployed to the cloud (especially with different infrastructures like one on an Amazon-based platform, while the home environment is using VMWare). Multiply this by the volume of changes and frequency, applications tiers and environments along with distributed, heterogeneous infrastructure (including physical, virtual and cloud servers) and you get a problem that quickly becomes complex, error prone and unmanageable.

Cloud Configuration Management Solution is Key for Realizing Cloud Benefits

What's needed is a new generation of cloud configuration management solutions that can provide users with a contiguous view of hybrid business system environments across physical, virtual and cloud layers. Greater insight into cloud configurations is doubly effective if it can be matched with a unified view of traditional data center infrastructures.

To leverage the best features of Cloud, organizations still need the same visibility as applied to the home environment. Copying to the cloud or changing architecture to leverage the elasticity of the cloud (while this adds more complexity) still needs to allow for visibility to see the actual cloud configuration even after migration to the cloud. Even in the cloud, you still need detailed configuration information of your business system, to understand all the layers from application to software infrastructure, hypervisor and cloud platform - including the critical configuration parameters in the cloud.

Cloud configuration management solutions also got to be able gather the essential cloud configuration information on an ongoing basis for leveraging the cloud's potential. Without automated tools focused on the task of monitoring cloud configuration parameters, this becomes a huge undertaking, with literally thousands of configuration parameters per technology – some critical and some less – to keep track of.

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Learn about Evolven's Cloud Configuration Management solution at our Cloud Configuration Management Solution page

About the Author
Sasha Gilenson
Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

Sasha holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Latvian University and MBA from London Business School.