Integrating and managing multiple cloud services

The optimum cloud solution for most organisations is likely to be hybrid – a mix of in-house, third party and managed cloud services based on cost, SLAs and whether the organisation has the in-house skills to manage a particular service. However, this creates the new challenge of managing multiple cloud services from different providers.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Once an organisation moves to the #cloud, it needs to actively manage its portfolio and monitor performance”]

The skills needed to prosper in this new world are much more service orientated than technically driven.  IT teams need to be fully conversant with service level management, strong in IT contract negotiation and development, have a good understanding of risk awareness and their organisation’s appetite for risk and take a sound approach to supplier relationships.  And it can get even more complex. When using multiple providers running cloud based services, the organisation also has to consider inter-supplier relationships, supplier dependencies (on each other as well as the organisation’s dependence on them), inter-supplier SLAs and back-to-back SLA management.

Doing this effectively requires two things: a service management approach, and the right tools to manage multiple cloud providers.

Taking a service management approach

The first step in managing multiple cloud providers is to clarify the objectives for each cloud service. Why are you moving a particular service to cloud? What are the measurable indicators of success? How will this model complement your business strategy and goals?

The next step is to decide on a procurement strategy, which could be a long term or short term partnership with the chosen providers. It is vital to think about how to ensure suppliers commit to a partnership approach with each other. The business needs to challenge its suppliers to work closely together, implement efficiencies and nurture a culture of continual improvement where the expectation is that it will happen and that each and every supplier will participate in the process.

We recommend a service management approach: either a light touch which allows the suppliers to deliver the contracted services while your organisation concentrates on the business improvements, or a more structured approach to ensure supplier management at a more granular level.

Monitoring multiple suppliers from a single pane of glass

Once an organisation starts moving services to cloud, it needs to actively manage its cloud portfolio and monitor performance against the agreed SLAs to ensure it is receiving the contracted service. Organisations whose IT service is now dependent on multiple cloud and other external suppliers will want to know:

  • How well are my service providers performing against contractually agreed SLAs?
  • If they are not performing, where is the problem? This is particularly important where multiple providers are responsible for elements of the IT service
  • Is the aggregated service delivering suitable performance to our user community?

This is leading to a growth in new services (Cloud Monitoring as a Service, or CMaaS) to monitor the performance of multiple suppliers, all of whom will claim ‘it’s not their fault” when a problem arises. These services aim to provide organisations with full visibility of how well both each individual provider and the overall IT service are performing.

An effective monitoring service should pull together service availability and other performance information. It should have the ability to carry out synthetic transactions against defined services and applications, show overall system health, and monitor response times and latency. It should also consolidate events and other performance statistics across the IT supply chain.

Ideally, an organisation would like to be able to carry out this monitoring from a single pane of glass. Fordway has developed a solution with its CMaaS service, taking publicly available information from cloud providers such as Amazon Cloud Watch and using the AWS integration tool plug-in for the company’s toolset, which is based on MS Systems Centre.  The same can be done for other public cloud services such as Azure, Office 365, Service Now and Salesforce.  Network monitoring is also provided and the results integrated into event correlation then displayed on custom HTML5 dashboards which offer policy-based SLA measurement. 

When using multiple providers running cloud based services, the organisation also has to consider inter-supplier relationships, supplier dependencies, inter-supplier SLAs and back-to-back SLA management

Where contractually allowable, agents and gateways can also be placed inside a service provider’s infrastructure to provide more detailed information. The service should provide an overview and enable an organisation to drill down into each of the elements to identify where an issue resides and the potential causes of performance issues. Services such as this can also be used to monitor traditional IT services such as in-house environments, plus hosted and private cloud services where agents can be deployed or gateways installed into the monitored environment.

Cloud management provides a single point of contact

Cloud management might on first thought be perceived as something that is not required for cloud services, as they are all designed to be commodity services, primarily with user self-service through web portals. However, most organisations prefer, and in many cases need, a human voice and face plus organisation specific information from their services. Additionally, there may be several cloud providers who collectively provide your IT service.

Thus we are seeing the introduction of cloud management services which provide service integration, management and monitoring for all cloud services contracted by an organisation. They offer major incident and problem management, with escalation to third parties if required, and may also include asset management of devices and infrastructure.

The features to look for in a third party cloud management service include:

  • Customisable services and reporting
  • Cross supplier service consolidation and reporting against defined service levels
  • Independent review and reporting on third party supplier performance
  • Service on-boarding and service management for multiple partners
  • Ability to work with other organisations e.g. network providers for WAN links
  • 24 x 7 monitoring and support.

[easy-tweet tweet=”A service management approach will make it straightforward to manage multiple #cloud suppliers”]

Cloud offers significant advantages but it also brings new challenges to IT teams. A service management approach and choice of the right tools will make it straightforward to manage multiple suppliers while focusing the majority of IT resources on business priorities.

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