Feature

Third-party cloud management tools do the trick

Harshal Kallyanpur, Special Correspondent

The media and entertainment company Hungama Digital adopted Amazon’s cloud services for hosting and running its content delivery infrastructure in 2008. With the cloud service, came a set of cloud management tools, which, through a console, let Hungama manage its cloud usage. While the console monitored server load and network traffic, it did not monitor cloud usage for a finer set of parameters and generate alerts in case of issues.

So Hungama Digital deployed an open-source third-party cloud management tools Nagios and Cacti  for monitoring and managing its cloud service. With the help of Nagios cloud management tool and some shell scripts written in-house, the company is able to monitor CPU cycle and performance, memory and disk consumption, etc, using a single-cloud management console.

With Cacti cloud management tool, Hungama can track resource requirements for applications at various points of time and thus plan future resource provisioning.

Many other organizations, like Hungama, who have been using public cloud services, are also turning to such third party cloud management tools to better manage the cloud services they subscribe to.

For instance, Vikram Raichura, MD of Viva Infomedia, a provider of information products and services, has been using Netmagic’s cloud computing services since 2009. He explains, “While the proprietary management console met most of our cloud management requirements, Nagios cloud management tool helped us to generate alerts every time an exception occurred. The exceptions could include, for instance, CPU usage reaching threshold levels or even ping loss.”

 

More and more brokers

About the increasing demand for third-party cloud management tools, Sid Deshpande, Senior Research Analyst at Gartner says, “Enterprise customers are asking service providers for more visibility to manage their IT infrastructure.”

Cloud service customers want the flexibility to move applications and data from their one cloud to another in case of termination of a contract or in case the customer moves to another vendor. This becomes an issue with lock-in policies of cloud service providers.

This is also where a cloud service broker’s cloud management tools come in. A cloud service broker provides cloud management tools i.e. applications or components that are developed based on application programming interfaces (APIs) made public by cloud service providers. These applications exploit the APIs to provide cloud management tools that go beyond provisioning, monitoring, and metering.

Gartner categorizes the third party cloud management tools vendors, i.e. cloud service brokers, based on the type of applications they provide. For example, an aggregation broker provides a single interface which brings together multiple cloud services for billing and metering, monitoring, single sign on and value added services. A customization broker provides capabilities on top of existing cloud services through some cloud management tools. A governance broker provides a cloud management tool to track, measure, monitor, and enforce policies across interactions. It can be used for access and authorization management, creating and managing user profiles.

It should be mentioned here that the third party cloud management tools, however, may not replace the proprietary cloud management tools. They will merely provide add-on management functionalities based on the specific customer requirements that the cloud service vendors cannot offer.

 

Vendor specific extensions

Of late, a few traditional products and services vendors have also entered cloud management tools business. For example, Riverbed (through its Whitewater offering) and Citras (through Bluejet) offer cloud storage software appliances or gateways which interface between internal and external cloud storage environments.

Hungama Digital already uses one such cloud management tool. Dipankar Sinha, Project Manager - Infrastructure and Hosting at Hungama.com informs, “We use a web interface provided by Amazon to upload our content on Amazon’s S3 storage. However, the proprietary web interface limits the amount of data that can be transferred. Therefore, to upload data in terabytes, we use third-party cloud management tools such as S3Fox and S3upload.”

 

Degrees of variation

The management requirements of cloud customers across industries could vary. They could get granular for different areas. Customers from different industries may ask for specific management features in the cloud management tools provided by a broker.

Here’s a list of cloud service brokers and what they have to offer:

Cloud service broker (brand) Cloud management tool What it does
3scale 3scale Connect and 3scale Enterprise An API management solution that offers a library that programmers use to gain low-level control over the authentication and handling of requests
Apigee (formerly Sonoa) API Management Provides API management services that include policy enforcement, metering/throttling, mediation/transformation, analytics, developer on-boarding, and performance management
Cacti Cacti A front-end to RRDTool, it uses the necessary information to create and maintain graphs, data sources, and Round Robin Archives in a database. Supports SNMP for creating traffic graphs with Multi Router Traffic Grapher (MRTG)
CloudSwitch CloudSwitch Enterprise Enables enterprise IT organizations to migrate applications to (and from) the public cloud without infrastructure changes
Kaavo Infrastructure and Middleware on Demand (IMOD) Provides n-tier, application-centric management of resources for public and private cloud. Supports tools such as Nagios and Zabbix. IMOD supports Amazon and Rackspace public cloud environments, as well as Eucalyptus
Makara Cloud Application Platform A hosted service, it provides portability across different hypervisors (VMware ESX, VMware Workstation, VirtualBox and Xen) and public cloud environments
Mashery API Management software Delivered via SaaS, its Amazon EC2 and Internap-hosted API technology intermediates via cloud
Nagios Nagios XI Enterprise-class monitoring and alerting solution

 


This was first published in January 2011