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What Is Cloud Management? The Ultimate Guide

Based on the AWS framework, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about how to handle cloud management effectively.

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According to AWS, “Creating a software system is a lot like constructing a building. If the foundation is not solid, structural problems can undermine the integrity and function of the building.”

This is especially true when it comes to the cloud. If an organization doesn’t effectively oversee key areas of its foundation, it’s likely the result is not going to be successful.

When it comes to cloud management, we look at it through the lens of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. This is important for anyone building on AWS, but it applies to anyone building in the cloud in general.

In this article, we’ll cover what cloud management is and why it should be an important part of your organization. We’ll discuss the five pillars of cloud management and talk about how you can use the shared responsibility model and other leading strategies to more effectively accomplish your goals.

Table Of Contents

What Is Cloud Management?

Regardless of whether your business uses public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructure, you need a mechanism in place to provide oversight of how your company utilizes resources.

Cloud environments are scalable and dynamic, so it’s important to create a structured and consistent strategy your team can follow to deliver your products and services while also meeting business targets and goals.

In many organizations, the cloud management function is handled by the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE), which oversees the different moving parts of the cloud infrastructure through a governance and education vantage point.

Cloud management involves:

  • Delivery and management of cloud infrastructure
  • Access control to cloud services
  • Process automation
  • Cost monitoring and utilization
  • Resource deployment and utilization
  • Lifecycle management
  • Data integration
  • Disaster recovery
  • Security

The Importance Of Cloud Management For DevOps And IT Teams

Cloud management supports the entire organization, but in particular the DevOps and IT teams.

There comes a point in every organization’s growth trajectory where the cloud requires more than one team to manage it. This is the natural evolution to support the mission of cloud engineering.

Through cloud management, which is an engineering activity that involves software development, organizations can effectively oversee the impact of each of the five pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

The benefits of cloud management for DevOps and IT teams include:

  • Strategic resource allocation - To avoid resource sprawl and scope creep, cloud management ensures organizations can effectively forecast their resource needs to manage capacity.
  • Optimized processes - With cloud management, organizations can create workflows for routine tasks and automate certain tasks to reduce manual intervention. This greatly improves efficiency and accuracy.
  • Reduced costs - Organizations can more accurately forecast their spend by understanding their usage. Platforms like CloudZero, can help DevOps connect cloud spend to specific projects, teams, features, products, and customers — helping businesses to understand and optimize their costs.

The 5 Pillars Of Cloud Management

Cloud computing management is a broad functional area, encompassing several aspects of the cloud. While cloud management will look different for each organization based on their needs, there are certain aspects that all cloud management initiatives should cover.

We believe the pillars of cloud management are directly correlated with the five pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework:

  • Operational excellence
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Performance efficiency
  • Cost optimization

When looking at cloud management, it’s important to use the shared responsibility model. Your organization is not responsible for each aspect of the five pillars — but neither is the cloud vendor.

You can achieve the maximum ROI when you embrace the shared responsibility model and understand where your provider’s responsibility ends and your responsibility begins. In some pillars, you are responsible for the majority of activities, while in others the majority is on your provider.

The more decisions you can make that result in the least amount of responsibility for your organization, the faster you will be able to grow. This way, you can keep up with the never-ending changes in your environment while taking advantage of as many engineering architecture benefits as possible.

1. Operational excellence

Using the shared responsibility model, it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure you have strong operational practices to manage change — which is inevitably a constant when it comes to the cloud and your environment.

You need to track how you go about deploying, provisioning, and operating systems as they change so that system uptime is not affected.

To achieve the best results, choose services from your cloud provider that shift the operational burden on them.

For example, with virtual machines, the majority of the operational burden is on you. However, with serverless technology, there is nothing to patch or maintain on your end. Because the provider is taking on most of this work, you’re one step closer to achieving operational excellence.

2. Security

When it comes to the security of your environment, both you and the cloud provider share this responsibility.

Your cloud provider is responsible for physically securing the cloud infrastructure that supports your applications. You are responsible for protecting your applications against hacking. This is a shift from a traditional IT security approach to an application security approach.

Organizations should also consider security from a trust standpoint. How can you maintain trust in your systems? How can you protect your data and your customers’ data?

Your focus here should be on identity and access control, cloud infrastructure entitlement management, role-based access control, and the principle of least privilege access management.

3. Reliability

Preventing and mitigating failures of any kind is key in this aspect of cloud solutions management. How you manage failure, how you react to failure, and how quickly you react will affect your chances of success.

Organizations are responsible for their own disaster recovery planning, business continuity planning, and capacity planning, in addition to looking at how their systems will scale under specific loads.

4. Performance efficiency

The cloud has really evolved in this area. You no longer need to monitor lower-level details of your cloud environment’s performance because those are the responsibility of your provider.

However, you should be concerned with your customers’ experience. After all, uptime or downtime won’t matter if customers are unsatisfied with their experience on your platform overall.

5. Cost optimization

Cloud cost optimization is the one area of cloud management that is fully the responsibility of the organization. Your cloud provider is not motivated to reduce your costs in any way — and costs can easily spiral out of control. As a result, you have to implement best practices here yourself.

The best course of action is to connect the dots for costs between finance, engineering, product, and the leadership team so that they have specific costs for metrics that relate to their area of the business.

Differentiating between cloud cost optimization and cloud cost intelligence

While one of the best practices for managing cloud resources is to look cost, it’s important to unearth the metrics that matter to your organization. Instead of focusing on cloud “cost optimization,” we see an industry trend moving towards a “cost intelligence” approach.

What does this mean? It’s all about tying back cloud costs to key business objectives. Instead of only understanding how much your organization spends on the cloud — or even how much it spends by department — it’s important to understand how those costs are tied to your business goals and growth metrics.

With a cloud cost intelligence approach, teams can see the cost impact of their work and understand how changes affect the organization’s cloud spend. For engineering teams, engineers can see how code or deployment changes affect cost. For finance, teams can understand important cost metrics like unit cost and cost per customer.

With this insight, organizations can make informed engineering, product, and business decisions that ensure profitability. CloudZero is a cloud cost intelligence platform that enables organizations to unearth the cost metrics that matter to them.

Effective Cloud Management Strategies For Leading Organizations

How can your organization effectively oversee the pillars of cloud management in your business?

We recommend the following best practices and proven cloud management techniques to ensure you meet your business goals:

  • Focus on the shared responsibility model. Know what you need to oversee and what your cloud provider needs to oversee so that you can manage the things that are under your control.
  • Start with the cost optimization goal. You cannot tackle all five pillars effectively at once. In our experience, the cost optimization goal affects each of the other four pillars, so it’s best to start in this area and then work your way forward.
  • Pay attention to your bill. Every experienced cloud architect knows that if they want to learn something about their environment, the first place they should look is the cloud provider bill. This document clearly indicates what’s happening in your environment and is essentially a detailed inventory of your cloud systems. This is one of those cloud management techniques that seems obvious but is usually undervalued.
  • Use a best-of-breed solution. There is no one cloud management solution on the market today that can help you oversee all five pillars. We suggest using multiple software solutions that are each geared toward streamlining specific areas, instead of one solution that is mediocre in multiple areas.
  • Find the needle in the haystack. Expect your environments to change faster than you can keep up. You need tools to help monitor the changes and call attention to abnormalities. In addition to monitoring, solutions need to rapidly bring things to your attention.

Tools That Support A Strong Cloud Management Strategy

To ensure you are effectively managing your cloud resources, use the right tools for the task at hand.

However, not every cloud management system is created equal, so it’s important to do your research to understand the features and benefits of your options and select the one that most closely meets your needs.

Keep in mind that it is rare for an organization to find a single solution that will effectively oversee their entire cloud management initiative.

Going with a best-of-breed solution for each of the five pillars of cloud management will provide the highest ROI. There will be some overlap in solutions for certain pillars, but each one has a distinct set of requirements that are best met by a solution that is built for that task.

Categories of cloud management tools available include:

  • Free or embedded solutions - This is an appropriate starting point for many organizations and will cover the essential tasks of cloud system management. However, it’s vital to note that these solutions often require a lot of heavy lifting, custom configuration, and coding, and organizations need to be quite technical to evolve these solutions to meet their needs. This option is not scalable and can be overwhelming to maintain and grow.
  • Open-source solutions - Solutions like Cloud Custodian are a step up. However, be sure to carefully manage your headcount when you are using these kinds of solutions, as you may end up dedicating more resources to managing them than you initially set out to. It’s often cheaper to purchase a better solution that requires less management than to build your own and dedicate resources to oversee it.
  • Third-party solutions - For many organizations, this is the most cost-effective option. It’s important to consider at what point it makes sense to buy a tool versus building it yourself. We suggest you always think back to why you chose the cloud in the first place: You want to build and maintain things that deliver value to your customers — while also ensuring profitability and growth for your company. If the software doesn’t help you achieve this goal, it may be a good fit.

Take Control Of Your Cloud Management Efforts

Cloud management ensures your organization can clearly oversee your cloud environment and systems.

Be sure to use the shared responsibility model when considering the five pillars of cloud management, and keep in mind that it is more effective to use best-of-breed solutions for the task at hand.

When it comes to cost optimization and cloud cost intelligence, CloudZero can ensure each of your teams have the cost metrics they need to make informed decisions that ensure profitability for your company. To see how it works, Request a demo today.

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